Analyzing and Reading Critical Theories Essay

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Great Gatsby: As Seen Through Marxist Perspective

A Marxist perspective of F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous novel, The Great Gatsby may be interested in social class representations, together with how characters acquired and retained riches and power. An overall analysis of the novel reveals that it portrays the extremely rich social class that does not work and devotes most of its day to leisure activities primarily. A few less rich minor characters also find mention, along with a smaller share of workers and servants seen at work in the course of the story. In terms of the Marxist theory, the affluent social class denotes the "haves." At the time of the American industrial revolution, capitalists -- the people with capital (i.e., wealth, equipment, or land) -- meant the upper social class. On the other hand, the "have-nots" indicated the lower social class, or workers. In Marx's opinion, a class with economic authority had, by extension, access to political and social authority. Further, according to Marx, the lower working class in an industrialized society would ultimately overtake the dominant capitalist class, abolish the social class system, and form an entirely government-regulated system. In, The Communist Manifesto (1848), co-written by Karl Marx, the affluent, dominant class members are termed as the "haves," while the "have-nots" constitute the working class members. This big separation between the classes, in addition to numerous other Marxist elements are dominant in the Commodification in The Great Gatsby (Marxist Interpretations, para 1).

Analyzing the novel from a Marxist perspective may shed light on challenges posed to the prevalent social state. While no example of blatant disapproval or disparagement of the economic and social system at the time appears in the book, one could infer that Nick Carraway's narrative subtly censures the self-indulgence and extravagance displayed by the rich characters, and on a broader note, the era wherein the story is set. Some critics believe that the character of Gatsby personifies America of that age and his dream is the famed American Dream. Also, his death symbolizes the preordained failure of this lofty ideal. This may directly result in a Marxist assessment of the tale, with the American Dream serving as the basis to examine individual characters' inspiration and fate. However, the approach is associated with one problem -- wealth, in the story, corresponds directly to an inexorable seductiveness. Nick articulates this by using the words 'lovely', 'gorgeous', and 'thrilling'. Nick's impression of Daisy Buchanan's voice represents a fine example of the above seductiveness. Only at the end of the story is it indicated that Daisy's voice is, in fact, 'full of money' -- her affluence is the real reason for her attractiveness. The story's allure exerts a strong influence, cloaking this society's real face, and this has to be because the morally over-indecisive character, Nick narrates the tale. The extent of his uncertainty can be seen from his complicity in the whitewash linked to Gatsby and Myrtle's deaths. One aspect of Jay Gatsby's life that would interest a critic viewing the story from a Marxist standpoint is his roots -- Jay belonged to a family of unsuccessful farmers, and staunchly resolved to elevate his personal economic standing. In Marxist ideology, this does not constitute an achievement, as this ascension simply strengthens the assertion of economic gulf between poor and rich, as against completely taking down the system (Marxist Interpretations, para 15).

A Marxist analysis of the story would closely regard Wilson, Myrtle's husband and Gatsby's killer, as a symbol of the hoi polloi of the age, in addition to the portrayal of "the Valley of Ashes," situated between the city of New York and Long Island. The basis for this location was, apparently, Mount Corona -- the place in which coal furnace ash was dumped. This waste of a thriving industry seems to personify the perception of industrial workers as being expendable and insignificant. Apart from George Wilson's friend, Michaelis, who plays a narrator's role through Nick, the insignificance…

Sources Used in Document:

Works cited

Falth, Sebastian. "Social Class and Status in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby." Web.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Amersham: Transatlantic Press, 2012

"Marxist Interpretations." -- The Great Gatsby Study Guide from Crossref-it.info. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.

TYSON, LOIS. "Critical Theory Today." Web. 16 Dec. 2015.

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