While reading the classic novel The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the reader can clearly see how this story can be viewed through the Marxist Lens. Through tales of trial and desperation, the story reveals what can happen when money and social class come into play. The author clearly portrays how the American dream can cause people to lose sight of the important things in life, and how people always want to make it to the top, no matter who they have to step on during the way up.
Living in post-war America, the character’s visions are quickly clouded by greed and their egocentric desires, and tragedy strikes when lust and passion mix with sinful desires. Marxist literary criticism is the critical lens used to differentiate between social classes in literature. The Marxist lens pays close to attention to the literary works forms, styles and meanings, in a way that the reader can comprehend them and apply them to a particular history. In this specific situation, The Great Gatsby effectively displays the difference between social classes, and how these people act as individuals, and as a whole social group.
On the very first page of the book, there is a quote from the narrator’s father that says: “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had”. This quote pretty much sums up the whole Marxist theory. Though people may belong to various different social classes, every single person on this planet has had different experiences and opportunities, and everyone is different in their own way. One of the first characters the reader is introduced to is Tom Buchanan.
Tom is a: “sturdy, straw-haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining, arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face, and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward … you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage—a cruel body. ” (Pg. 7) By the sounds of things, it seems like Nick (the narrator) doesn’t particularly like Tom, but Nick is also fascinated with him.
Tom is a fascinating kind of guy. Like Daisy, he’s got something hat everyone else wants: he’s got power. Tom’s family is rich. Not just well-off like Nick’s family, and not inexplicably rich like Gatsby, but noticeably wealthy, with a long family history of money. And he does extravagant, crazy things with it, like bringing “a string of polo ponies for Lake Forest”. That may not seem like much, but in today’s society, that would be like buying a private jet: it’s a pretty flashy move, and it’s only ever done to prove that they can do it. In a sense, Tom is just as flashy as Gatsby. Tom, on the other hand, has something you can’t buy.
You might call it arrogance: “an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions”. So essentially, thanks to the money and family that he came from, Tom was born to live a certain lifestyle, one where he would live a certain way and marry a certain type of woman Tom’s wife, Daisy, is a beautiful young woman from Louisville, Kentucky. She is Nick’s cousin and Gatsby’s “long lost” love. As a young lady in Louisville, Daisy was extremely well known among the military officers and soldiers stationed near her home, including Jay Gatsby.
Gatsby lied about his background to Daisy, claiming to be from a wealthy family in order to convince her that he was worthy of her. Eventually, Gatsby won Daisy’s heart, and they made love before Gatsby left to fight in the war. Daisy promised to wait for Gatsby, but in 1919 she chose to marry Tom Buchanan, a young man from a solid, aristocratic family who could promise her a wealthy lifestyle. After this happened, Gatsby was determined to win Daisy back. He made her the priority over everything in his life, and she was his main motivation behind the earning of his spectacular wealth through criminal activity.
To Gatsby, Daisy is perfection; she has charm, wealth, she’s sophisticated and graceful. In reality, Daisy falls short of Gatsby’s standards. She is beautiful and charming, but also shallow and bored. Nick profiles her as a careless person who messes things up and then hides behind her money. Daisy proves her real ways when she chooses Tom over Gatsby in Chapter 7, then allows Gatsby to take the blame for killing Myrtle Wilson even though she herself was driving the car. Finally, rather than attend Gatsby’s funeral, Daisy and Tom move away, leaving no forwarding address.
Daisy is in love with money, and lives a very materialistic lifestyle. She is capable of affection, but not of sustained loyalty or care. All-in-all, Daisy represents the differing values of the aristocratic East Egg. The infamous and “great” Jay Gatsby is the main character of The Great Gatsby. He is a young man, about thirty years old, who came from a poor childhood in rural North Dakota, and eventually overcame his setbacks to become incredibly wealthy. However, he achieved this impressive feat by participating in organized crime, including distributing illegal alcohol and trading in stolen securities.
Even before his adult years, Gatsby despised poverty and dreamt of wealth and living the upper-class lifestyle. He dropped out of St. Olaf’s College after only two weeks because he couldn’t stand the janitorial job he was doing in order to pay for his tuition. Though Gatsby has always wanted to be rich, his main motivation in acquiring his fortune was his love for Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby dedicated himself to winning Daisy back after she married Tom, and his way of doing this was making millions of dollars, purchasing a huge mansion on West Egg, and throwing dazzling parties every week.
Fitzgerald withholds most of this information until later on in the novel. The author does this to reinforce the theatrical quality of Gatsby’s life, which is an important part of his personality. Gatsby has literally created his own character, even changing his name from James Gatz to Jay Gatsby to represent his reinvention of himself. As the reader gets further in the novel, Fitzgerald reveals Gatsby’s self-image. Gatsby proves himself to be an innocent, hopeful young man who makes everything dependent on his dreams, not knowing that his dreams are far-fetched and unrealistic.
Myrtle Wilson is the character who ties the whole story together in The Great Gatsby. Every character in the novel is connected to her in a significant way. She is secretly with Tom who is with Daisy who is Myrtle’s “partner in crime” and is also secretly with Gatsby. But out of all these characters, Myrtle is the most important. She is the insecure one, the emotional one and the fake one. Myrtle is always looking for affection. Her insecurity is clear through the decisions that she makes. Her husband, George Wilson, isn’t very useful for anything so she turns to Tom for attention.
Although Tom is married, he is wealthy and enjoys the company of other women. Myrtle takes advantage of this and keeps Tom under her control. When she leaves the New York train station, she sees an old man selling dogs and she immediately asks him for a police dog. The man tells her that he only has an Airedale and that the coat is water-proof, but she still wants to purchase it. She disregards her reasons for wanting the police dog and only something to cuddle with. Her quick decision-making and easily altered reasoning reflects her insecurity and how she lives her daily life.
On another day, Myrtle mistakes Jordan Baker for Tom’s wife. The more she sees Mrs. Baker the more jealous she becomes. Jordan makes Myrtle realize that there are many women who are prettier than her. As a result, Myrtle believes there is someone else other than Daisy that she has to compete with in order to continue controlling Tom. Myrtle doesn’t use logic to make decisions, due to her opinion being so easily changed on every matter. When she marries Wilson, she knows that she is better than him, but she marries him anyway.
Marrying Wilson is a mistake since he is unable to provide for her expensive needs/desires that only Tom can afford. She always regrets marrying Wilson so she runs off with Tom whenever she can. Although marrying Wilson is a serious mistake, she isn’t able to learn from this. One night when she is on her way to her sister’s, she meets a handsome stranger and falls in love with him at first sight. The stranger is Tom and she only loves him because of his wealth and how far up he is on society’s ladder. Myrtle’s behavior reflects her decision making abilities and how she is vulnerable to manipulation.
Although Tom is brutal and violent, his wealth keeps her content. George really gets the short end of the stick in this novel. Considering he’s one of the few characters with redeemable values, he doesn’t even deserve it. From what the reader can tell, Wilson is hard-working and not cheating on his spouse. He’s in a marriage with a woman who doesn’t love or respect him, who walks all over him like a staircase; and all the while he just does what she says: “‘Oh, sure,’ agreed Wilson hurriedly” (Pg. 26) After Myrtle’s death, Wilson is in serious emotional pain.
He cries out “Oh, my God” over and over for one of three reasons: because his wife is dead, because he just found out that she was having an affair, or because he feels guilty for making her run out into the street. The other thing that the reader should note about Wilson is that he’s the only character who talks about God. He tells Myrtle that she “can’t fool God,” that “God sees everything” (Pg. 160). By him saying this, the reader is reminded that unlike the rich careless classes, the lower classes can’t just run away and hide in their money: they need more to believe in.
Wilson and the social class that he is a part of actually have to take responsibility for their actions, and can’t rely on money to get them out of every situation. In conclusion, it is evident to the reader that living in America after the war, times are rough, and the character’s visions are quickly clouded by greed and their egocentric desires, and tragedy strikes when lust and passion collide with sinful desires. Whether they’re killed or affected by the death of a loved one, everyone in this novel is affected by someone else’s selfish actions; by what happens when someone acts with disregard to everyone else’s feelings.