Francis Scott Fitzgerald is known as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. His novels and short stories are full of the paradigm writings of the Jazz Age and Lost Generation. Almost none of Fitzgerald’s works were acknowledged highlights during his life, the greatest achievement was modest commercial or critical success. However, after the death Fitzgerald has got a reputation of the most prominent authors in the American history of literature. His novel “The Great Gatsby” has become extremely famous and, as the quintessential work for the Americans, appeared to be a required reading for every student for the past half century, having a transmissible effect on the generation that came after the generation of readers.
“The Great Gatsby” novel deals with characters from different social classes, inculcating personal features and behavior of each of them. Also, the author separates people of various social classes geographically. The main idea of the novel is to criticize the American dream and people’s belief that money can help everyone to get anything desired in the world. The 20th were a time of self-indulgence, dissatisfaction and social experiments for the majority of the Americans. All these features are depicted throughout the novel with interesting themes, characters and settings. Characters will be looked through the Marxist Theory and their actions are going to be judged from the point of view of commodification. This paper covers the reflection of the Marxist Theory in one of the most everlasting novels “The Great Gatsby”.
The Marxist Theory
Prussian-German philosopher and revolutionary socialist Karl Heinrich Marx was a person, whose ideas significantly influenced the social sciences and socialist movements development. He introduced the term ‘socialism’ and greatly changed the subsequent economic thought. His theories deal with society, economics and politics; collectively these theories are known as Marxism and they are based on understanding of labor, as well as its relation to the capital. Karl Marx strongly believes that the humanity is able to progress only with the help of class struggle. In other words, a constant conflict between a proletariat, a class of people who provide the labor for production, and an ownership, those who control production, guarantees a permanent development for the society. He also believes that all political and social activities are motivated by getting and keeping economic power. Marx’s theories are thought to consist of three groups such as Dialectal Materialism, Empirical Evidence and Determinism. The first one is characterized by a great deal of thoughts and the way one looks at life. It also deals with emotions and outlooks of an individual on various things. The second group includes the usage of the truth in every aspect of a situation. Nevertheless, later Karl Marx acknowledged that not all his theories were true as they were considered to have been built more on a scientific theory than on concrete facts. Finally, Determinism explicates that all processes in life are pre-thought and determined by laws of the nature, so they can be predicted.
It should be mentioned that Marxism theories are classified into reality of politics, working classes, economics and society. Moreover, he felt that the separation in socioeconomic classes was more significant than deviations in gender, ethnicity, race or religion. Karl Marx was convinced that a new system, socialism, would be definitely replaced by a stateless and classless society, communism. In addition, he supported the idea that capitalism produced a lot of internal tensions that would lead to its self-destruction. To the philosopher’s mind, people should take organized revolutionary actions to collapse capitalism and cause a socio-economic change. Owing to his belief, such classes as homeless, poor, financially established, well-to-do and extremely wealthy were established in the United States. Consequently, the division for the aristocracy, upper class, middle class, lower class and underclass was introduced and implemented within the society.
The Marxist Theory in “The Great Gatsby”
“The Great Gatsby” is a novel where the author has created an artificial world with money-dependent people. The life goal of each character is to earn as much money as possible and the essence desire is to become wealthy. These people are restricted by the amount of money they earn. The life satisfaction and happiness are achieved only with the help of high financial status as, to their minds, any kind of decision and act is limited by poverty. The place of living also shows a person’s social status. In the novel, human beings were divided into those who lived in West Egg and were considered to be wealthy, and those, who lived in the Valley of Ashes and were thought to be poor. Inhabitants of West Egg did not know how to spend their money so they bought a lot of unnecessary things while people of the Valley of Ashes worked hard in a place, described how desolate and dark it was to earn money for living.
Marxist theory was shown predominately through the characters of the novel. The first hero who is worth being discussed according to the Marxist Theory is Gatsby. The author shows him as an extremely wealthy man who was obsessed by the goal of the whole life – to marry a woman he loved. Gatsby changed everything in his life, even his name, to impress Daisy; however, he did not manage to win her heart. Money played a big role in the novel, and it was clearly shown in the relationships between Gatsby, Tom and Daisy. Gatsby did not have money at the beginning of his life and he did not get Daisy as well. She married Tom, because he was rich, when Gatsby asked her why she had not waited him, her reply was, ‘rich girls do not marry poor boys….rich girls do not marry poor boys’. It depicts that money was the way to get Daisy’s heart and marry her. However, having earned a great deal of money, it did not make Gatsby any good as he and Daisy were completely different. It was impossible for them to be together even through he had money. Such a situation approves that not everything is possible to buy and happiness does not depend exclusively on money. The Marxist Theory works here as we notice that all Gatsby’s actions were done only to impress Daisy and the power of money controls him a lot.
As the characters in the novel are criticized according to the Marxist theory, their actions make a reader believe that they follow the act of commodification. It means that a person is what he or she owns. Considering this point of view, it is possible to say that Gatsby depicts commodification with the help of a goal to be rich and have all those things, which are not really needed, just to impress Daisy. He also attempts to get Daisy as it will show his high social status and wealth. In her turn, Daisy also shows a kind of commodification when she accepts Tom’s proposal to get married only because he is rich. Moreover, she refuses to wait Gatsby as he is of a lower status. She also uses Gatsby as a commodity when she gets off free after the accident with Myrtles, while he takes the blame for her death. Tom, Daisy’s husband, also can be a great example of commodification, because, firstly, he gets married with Daisy and it means that his money is equal to her beauty. Secondly, he enjoys buying expensive things, driving good cars and relaxing in the best places. Moreover, he is also fond of having a power over the women he has affairs with, as it is clearly shown on the example with Myrtles. All this helps him built his personal wealth as he is able to control everything, feeling the power and strength.
Having analyzed one of the greatest novels “The Great Gatsby” through the prism of the Marxist Theory, it is concluded that each character is obsessed with an idea of becoming wealthy. They consider their happiness, feelings and relationships from the side of money. Being much money-dependent, the feeling of love and life satisfaction for them can be reached only with the help of financial status. They do not know what is neither real love, nor true friendship as the rich can love exclusively people of their social class and friendship between the poor and the rich is impossible. It is understandable that people of such character look at each other as on commodities, trying to identify ways of taking as many advantages as possible. According to the Marxist Theory, money is the only power that controls these people and the society in the whole. Their actions and values are strongly criticized in the prism of this theory. The main idea of the novel is that who has money - has power as well. However, the result of such belief is not always positive as it happened with Gatsby. Money did not help him to get everything he wanted, and, moreover, wealth killed him, ruined his life and destroyed his dreams. Being a spectacular example, this novel is a good and instructive reading for any person who lives in the modern society.