Applying Literary Theory

Freshman (College 1st year) ・English ・MLA

Marxism, as a materialist philosophy, seeks to understand processes of the universe through events in the environment in which we exist (Isaac 34-38). The hypothesis contradicts idealistic views that are religiously rooted in their explanation of the forces that keep the natural world together. Prior to Karl Marx's contributions to social problems, philosophers tried to understand the universe, as opposed to Marxists who sought to change it. The theory raises a host of questions, the most important of which is how civilization advances in the face of competing forces. Marxists argued that the struggle between classes eventually result in the social transformation that is necessary for understanding conflicts (Sumner 23-26). Historically, class struggles emanate from the exploitations between the classes, a situation that Marx explained using the feudal lords and the peasants during the industrial age. The bourgeoisie and the proletariat have common interests within any given capitalistic setting.

The theory further questions the consequences of the class struggles witnessed between the haves and the have not’s in the capitalist system. Hegel, just like Karl Marx believed, presented the idea that conflicts spark new ideas which are considered as leading to socialism. All ideological systems under the theory are considered as stemming out of the economic and social existence and interactions between people. Marxism also helps to answer the question of how determined are the proletariat in overthrowing capitalism. To prove the fact, Marx argued that the legal system is a true reflection of the interests of the bourgeois rather than a manifestation driven by divine reason. Questions answered in the theory can also be seen in prolific works of literature like “The Great Gatsby” (Aronowitz 78-79).

An analysis of “The Great Gatsby” shows the author presented a progressive attack on the upper class that was materialistic and corrupt, a stand taken through a Marxist literary lens. Although human beings have been fighting for the equality of all, such a state would not excite everyone in a world that considers money as a symbol of success. Gatsby had been chasing love but eventually ended up for materialistic gains to impress his lover. There are Marxists ideas present in the story on the basis that as much as we criticize the wealthy in society, their lifestyles fascinate us. The capitalistic nature of the American system has seen Gatsby being considered as America, his dream being the American dream while the death signifies the failure of the ideals to materialize.

The theme of Marxism is seen in the introduction part where Nick is describing his socioeconomic class. He says, “My family has been prominent…in this middle western city for three generation” (Fitzgerald 4), who has a bourgeois status, is contrasted to other lower-class characters to bring out the big divide witnessed across the social classes. Although Fitzgerald uses Nick to present the life of the upper class, he is brought out as commuting daily to New York and working for long hours as a bonds man. Nick turns out to be an objective observer in the lavish parties that were organized by Gatsby. He noted that “introductions were left out” and that “the enthusiastic meetings had women who did not know each other by name”. Before the scenario, the upper class was criticized for its lies, an aspect that brought out the fact presented by Marxists that classes should not even be in existence.

The description of the beautiful clothes worn by the wealthier class as well as their physiques makes the readers wish to associate with them more than the lower classes. Readers can easily identify the author’s social class in as far as the views on the society are concerned. Readers are emotionally affected by Gatsby’s dream that is doomed by societal factors, results to the growth of a dislike towards the upper classes. Wilsons were never happy because of the values they held dear. They had a rough time when those around them held money as an integral factor in the definition of success. From these scenarios, it is evident that readers can only profoundly understand the ideas and issues of class struggles through the application of the Marxist theory.

Throughout his life, Gatsby was after material success as he struggled to win back the lost love. Trying to climb up the economic ladder made him get into many troubles and challenges that was not prepared for. For example, chasing money eventually led to his demise and even Daisy, whom he was struggling for, could not acknowledge some of the deeds. Despite the relatively brighter future that Gatsby lived, the author described him as a “…penniless man who had no past” (Fitzgerald 159) Daisy however preferred him to Tom Buchanan who wealthy although not through hard ward as Gatsby was presented. The hard work is a representation of the determination to overthrow the upper class. Gatsby’s story is saddening to most readers because it shows that those who dream do not live to achieve their aspirations in life. However, Fitzgerald was not concerned about dreaming but rather aimed at presenting the fact that unworthy dreams often lead to tragedies.

Works Cited

Aronowitz, Stanley. The crisis in historical materialism: Class, politics and culture in Marxist theory. Springer, 2016:78-79.

Fitzgerald, Francis Scott. The Great Gatsby (1925). nd, 1991.

Isaac, Jeffrey C. Power and Marxist theory: A realist view. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987:34-38.

Sumner, Colin. Reading ideologies: an investigation into the Marxist theory of ideology and law.London: Academic Press, 1979:23-26.

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