DRAFT: GUILIANA’S: INTRODUCTION TO CULTURAL CRITICISM
Explanation of the economical Setting
The novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald was written and set after the World War 1 during the economic boom of the 1920s. . This essay explores examples of the Marxist belief like the theory of commodification where social relationships in the novel are expressed by the relationships between traded objects. It will also show how the characters are all stereotypes of their classes, and none of them is portrayed in a very positive light. High society was mocked, yet at the same time glamorised, while a poorer lifestyle is rejected by Fitzgerald. The characters portray Marxist ideas, through Fitzgerald’s representation of the different classes, and his interpretation of how their class defines their experience.
The American Dream is based on the ideology of getting-rich-quick and opportunity for all. This ideology blinded the middle class by telling them that financial success is simply the product of initiative and hard work. Therefore if people were poor, it is because they are good-for-nothing and lazy.When this book is set, the amount of money you had defined what class you were in. Even within the category of the wealthy there were sub-categories, such as old money when families have been wealthy for many generations. New money is somewhat frowned upon, and looked on with suspicion and contempt by the aristocracy, who pride themselves on having been affluent for generations. Fitzgerald illustrates the materialistic theme with a quote in the first chapter ‘Then wear the black hat, if that will move her, If you can bounce high, bounce for her too, Till she cry “Lover, gold- hatted, high bouncing lover, I must have you!”
Marxism believed that the class system and the large gap between the rich and poor would be bridged by the removal of capitalism, and returning the means of production to the lower and middle class people. This would lead to a classless society which governs itself, where everyone is equal. For Marx this an economical process between the rich and the poor which controls their mind set and their perception of life.
This analysis manifests itself within The Great Gatsby when comparing the Wilson’s to the Buchanan’s and Gatsby. The Wilsons, are the base of the society who work arduously in order to manufacture more goods, the ‘mode of production’, to cater for the bourgeoisie. The circumstances that some characters find themselves into, define the Marxist principles of a Capitalistic society, being the principles of commodity fetishism and reification. This essay explores examples of the Marxist belief like the theory of commodification where social relationships in the novel are expressed by the relationships between traded objects.
This commodification is evidently embodied in the character of Tom Buchanan. Tom is represented as a wealthy man, and approaches the world through his money, for him everything and everyone is a commodity.
- For instance Daisy’s good looks and social standing substitutes Tom’s power. The $350,000 string of pearls gift which Tom gives Daisy before getting married symbolises his image of strength and financial stability.
- Similarly, he uses the same approach towards Myrtle Wilson in order to get her sexual favours.
However, one might argue that Daisy marries Tom for his value, she loves his commodity value, and she desires his world as much as he wants hers.
- She knows that Tom Buchanan possesses inherited wealth and belongs to the upper class not like Jay Gatsby who has a proletariat background.
- It could be said that Daisy loved Jay as on the eve of her wedding day, she refuses to marry Tom knowing that she does not love him. However the ‘Next day at five o’clock she married Tom Buchanan without so much as a shiver, and stared off on a three months’ trip to the South Seas’ (Fitzgerald 76) in order to save her image. “his only importance lies in [her] benefit to [herself]” (Tyson 71).
- Her quest for sophistication and wealth is even seen after her child is born. Her cousin Nick narrates that after mentioning the birth of her child “It made me uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick of some sort to exact a contributory emotion from me. I waited, and sure enough, in a moment she looked at me with an absolute smirk on her lovely face, as if she had asserted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged” (Fitzgerald 17)
- Her affair with Gatsby is based on commodity as she knew that he would ‘fully able to take care of her [now]’ pg 156:ch 8 but when she learns about Gatsby true origins her interest dies, realising that he can never be part of the upper class.
Fitzgerald makes use of the device of the dreary setting of the ‘valley of ashes’, where the Wilson’s live, to show an alarming picture of life led by those who are socioeconomic unstable. The Marxist theory infers that it is from this kind of setting that the American dream should emerge. However, words like ‘grey land’ and ‘impenetrable’ show how farfetched this promised dream is for them. The novel through the character of Gatsby mirrors the American Dream, however Gatsby achieves it through the criminal activities which devalues the true significance of it.