Marxism Point Of View in The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby uses characters to talk about the oppressor and the oppressing of people through rich socialites and poor people in New York City through the ideas of wealth, education, money, class, power, and the American dream through the viewpoint of Marxism. Marxism is an ideology seen through the story using the characters that are rich like Gatsby and Tom Buchanan are either old or new money, but you also have poor characters like Daisy and Nick who don’t have any of their own money or just money. This book has a Marxism view touching on human behaviors.
Within Marxism, there are two classes within society which are the upper class and the lower class which is evident in the Great Gatsby. The upper class is called the bourgeois which are characters like Gatsby and tom. The lower class is often referred to by Marxism as the proletariat which is the working-class people. This quote gives insight into how the two classes develop, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and . . . then retreated into their money . . . and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” (Fitzgerald 6). This shows the two different classes in society. Some people have enough money to not care because they don’t have to clean it up or do the work to make the money. The two-class is extremely evident in the story. This quote expresses how many class effects are life, “In my younger . . . years my father gave me some advice . . . “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone . . . just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” Some people were born into money which is the old money people. They will never have the burden of making money or being rich because they were born with this. The way people have raised changes with money involves. How you ended up being an adult and what you do depends on the money you had growing up. The fact that the two-class system was taught you have money, or you don’t, ‘I told that boy about the ice.’ Myrtle raised her eyebrows in despair at the shiftlessness of the lower orders. ‘These people! You have to keep after them all the time.’ She looked at me and laughed pointlessly… (Fitzgerald 32). Myrtle is a working-class woman having an affair with Tom, so she isn’t rich by any means. How myrtle is portrayed in a bad light cause of her social standing in society. The human behavior of people is rich thinking they can oppress the poor people because they don’t have money. The two Class system is working through this novel to touch on topics about classism within America and human behavior within society.
The ideas of wealth and money being very important in this place that you are either born or you work for money till death, the two-class system makes it hard for the working class to become as rich they ever have to revolt or stay the same. This quote shows how much money affects how you were raised, “I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parceled out unequally at birth.” (Fitzgerald 2). These even kids see the two-class system and that where they are either taught that they have money or will have to work till they die. The thought of always striving for something else that you don’t have ultimately have like happiness leads to death. The facts are here about wealth being something that heard not just seen, ‘Her voice is full of money,’ he said suddenly. That was it. I’d never understood before. It was full of money – that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it… high in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl… (Fitzgerald 99). The class system is put there by rich people to oppress people. There are signs of wealth throughout this book like the green light that he sees in the beginning. The people making big money are oppression people making very little money and you see this throughout the novel
The American dream is such a large portion of this book and Marxism. This quote gives you a perspective of the American dream, “I lived at West Egg, the—well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them. […] Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water, and the history of the summer begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanan’s. Daisy was my second cousin once removed, and I’d known Tom in college. And just after the war, I spent two days with them in Chicago.” (Fitzgerald 5). The American dream is working hard, and you can achieve that, but America is different. The rich and the poor with the poor being taken advantage of in everyday life by the rich. This quote shows the messed-up version, ‘Meyer Wolfsheim? No, he’s a gambler.’ Gatsby hesitated, then added coolly: ‘He’s the man who fixed the World’s Series back in 1919.’ ‘Fixed the World’s Series?’ I repeated. […] ‘Why isn’t he in jail?’ ‘They can’t get him, old sport. He’s a smart man.’ (Fitzgerald). They messed up being so rich and can say whatever they want to get the reaction they want. That collar crime doesn’t matter they get away with everything because they have money. The American dream is very unattainable has the reader sees them through the whole story.
The theme of education in The Great Gatsby relates to Marxism because of the money aspect of it back then if you had the money you got an education. Education is for the wealth, “I graduated from New Haven in 1915, just a quarter of a century after my father, and a little later I participated in that delayed Teutonic migration known as the Great War. I enjoyed the counterraid so thoroughly that I came back restless. Instead of being the warm center of the world, the Middle West now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe—so I decided to go East and learn the bond business.” (Fitzgerald 3). Education is usually a sign of wealth. If you can go, get an education then you can probably afford quite a lot, or you are middle to the upper class. And without education, these rich people wouldn’t be advanced to positions that make them a lot more money than the middle class
Consumerism in their society is prevalent with a character like Tom and Gatsby the more you own the richer you seem is more the principle that they apply here. Marxism talks about human behavior and the effects of buying things to feel need or important in this world. Gatsby through a huge marvelous party, “The honor would be entirely Gatsby’s, it said, if I would attend his “little party” that night.” (Fitzgerald 41). These parties were a way to show off Gatsby’s wealth and his social status to get the girl of his dream daisy. It was to show off everything he has bought and achieved with his money. The consumer is always trying to buy stuff and one-up each other which leads to the problems we are having within our society. The rapid consumerism within our society is slowly killing the middle class
The power structure struggle between the upper class and the lower class is very evident within this book. The upper class holds all the power they can afford to do what they want when they want like parties, and cars and servants. Some people in the book like nick identify more with the maids due to their social standings within the story. He identifies with the servants because he is on more social standing with them from what he was a part of previously. This quote really shows the power struggle between upper and lower class, “I called up Daisy half an hour after we found him, called her instinctively and without hesitation. But she and Tom had gone away early that afternoon and taken baggage with them. ‘Left no address?’ ‘No.’ ‘Say when they’d be back?’ ‘No.’ ‘Any idea where they are? How I could reach them?’ ‘I don’t know. Can’t say.’ (Fitzgerald 9.4-10). This really leads the reader to think about class. This is really talking about the how it doesn’t matter what you do if you have others fixing it for you and cleaning up your problems which is a problem with class system and the power struggle between them. The power struggle between them is evident in other places as well.
In the end, the Great Gatsby is a great example of Marxism because it touches on a lot of the points within the story. The struggle between the lower and upper class being prevalent within the character as you have seen. The Great Gatsby has Marxism themes coursing throughout this novel that is played out through the character living their life. Marxism is an ideology that clear is relevant today.
- Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Great Gatsby. Penguin Books, 2019.