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Essay: Marx's Influence in "The Great Gatsby

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Within the following paragraphs I will analyze the use of Marxism in ‘The Great Gatsby”. While reading this book through a marxist critical lens, I discovered that many examples in the text work together to show the Marxist theory, of how everything relates back to wealth and financial status, reflecting on the economic experiences of the time period in which tis text was written. In order to through express the use of Marxism within the text I will focus specifically on how characterization and relationships amongst character, conveys the theme on how money can affect one’s life. As we know Money, wealth and class are central themes within the plot, and the way in which characters act, think, interact with the other characters, and are portrayed.

  We as readers know that this story takes place in the 1920’s, a time were your economic status defined what class you were in, either upper or lower. The text even includes the sub- categories that were prominate witihin real time in the 20’s. This includes ‘old’ money and ‘New’ money. It is important to include that while both were seen a wealthy, it was frowned upon to be considered “New” money. The characters portray Marxist ideas, through Fitzgerald’s representation of the different classes, and his interpretation of how their class defines their experiences within the text.

  Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels created Marxism in the 19th century, both argued that through out human history we have seen ‘ a series of struggles between classes – the oppressed and the oppressing.’ The upper and lower are the two classes of people in society. According to Marxists, the everyday workers are the lower class, while they are hard working they have little to show for their efforts and the bourgeois or the upper class, who according to Marx and Engels reap the benefits of the labours.

Marxists, as well as many other scholars believe that literature reflects ‘those social institutions out of which it emerges. Which The Great Gatsby does, it reflects the struggle within and between classes as well as the materialism within society Fitzgerald lived in. Fitzgerlad lived in a time were one’s life resolved completely around their economic status. ‘The Great Gatsby’ characters are really a reflection of our and Fitzgerald’s fascination with classes, and how people can ‘move up’.  It should be notedthat various aspect of the text reflect occurances from Fitzgerlds on life. For example, during a romance with a girl from a wealthy family, her Father allegedly told Fitzgerald that ‘poor boys shouldn’t think of marrying rich girls.’[4]

We can assume Fitzgerald took this message to heart, and included it as  the storyline for  Gatsby, in his pursuit of  ‘rich girl’ Daisy.

The Great Gatsby starts out displaying Marxism almost immediately when we are  introduce to narrator, Nick when he describes his socioeconomic status as a ‘bonds man’. He is quick to establish to readers his class, saying; “My family have been prominent, well-to-do people in this middle-western city for 3 generations.” The extremely wealthy Gatsby and his grand mansion contrast the bourgeois status of Nick. Nick, describes in great detail the homes of both of our central characters, to express the differences between “old” and “new” money. “

The one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard – it was a factual imitation of some Hôtel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and garden.’

Nick represents Fitzgerald’s view, as he to comes from a well-off family, but he also works.

Nick’s experience of society is similar to  that of Fitzgerald’s, while  Nick comes from a richer family than Fitzgerald, the author was basically raised as if he were rich, so would be conscious of the knowledge and view of the Upper class. His social status allows him to see things without and biasness, because he doesn’t fit into any one class like the other characters. We have first, Tom and Daisy who both come from wealthy families who represent “old” money because they have had money for generations. Secondly, readers encounter Myrtle and her husband Wilson, who both represent the lower working class, and finally Gatsby – who started life as low class, and moved up the socioeconomic ladder and represent the sub category of “new” money. Readers must acknowledge that each character’s experiences stem directly from their class.

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