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The construct of society in the great Gatsby is Dichotomous, and in this way Fitzgerald works 'within the framework of his economic base', supporting Marxist theory. From both a Marxist and Feminist perspective, the novel, and novels of many male writers, portrays a society of suppression in which individuals must fight in order to progress and survive. However, unlike the work of his male predecessors such as Keats and Browning, Fitzgerald's novel challenges Marxist and Feminist ideas by subverting gender roles and dealing with social mobility.
Although Marx's philosophies were widely controversial, alarming parallels can be drawn between this idea and the character of Wilson, who appears to operate on a barely conscious level . He is 'Spiritless' and 'Anaemic', with only 'Damp' hope, as a result of his grey surroundings and his turbulent relationship with his wife, both products of his socioeconomic status.
However, If we are to accept Marxism we would have to accept, as Bertens' says, that 'there is no such thing as a changing human condition'. Marxism argues that people are a product of their environment, but Jay Gatsby embodies the very opposite idea, and his environment is a product of his own efforts. Coming from 'unsuccessful farm people' to owning a 'collossal' mansion, Gatsby's environment is overflowing with opulence ('coloured lights' 'Turkey bewitched to a dark gold'), a result of his own 'romantic readiness' and a power to dream. His change of name from 'James Gatz' to 'Jay Gatsby' is symbolic of his defiance of the 'shiftless' situation he was born into. Gatsby proves that, as Bertens' states,
'all you have to do is make the right choices and you can start moving up that social ladder.' The entire 'East Egg Set' represent the 'new money' of the 1920's, gained through self-made business and organised crime. Fitzgerald creates a society that refutes the marxist idea that people are socially static.
The events into the Great Gatsby suggest social mobility is possible, however, in 'Frankenstein', Mary Shelley shows us that our choices can be severely restricted by personal circumstance, through the character of The Monster. The Monster in his, innocence, holds ideological views of the human race: 'my heart yearned to be known and loved by these amiable creatures', and he is enraptured by their 'grace' and 'beauty'. There is dramatic irony in the Monsters intentions as we know he is bound to fail. As Bertens' says, 'Ideology is what causes us to misrepresent the world to ourselves', and the monster , in his newborn state, assumes that he is essentially free. This is clearly not the case, as, whenever he comes into human contact, he experiences persecution: ('The man saw me draw near, he aimed a gun ... and fired'). His social circumstances cause him to become 'cut off from the world'. The Monster identifies with the De Lacey family, who can be seen as victims of capitalism due to their poverty. The admirable image Shelley paints of them through the Monster's eyes creates sympathy for a family who have to work hard and labour for survival.
Discuss Marxism in Frankenstein. (people who don't conform become alienated)Discuss dramatic irony in the monsters aspirations as we know he is bound to fail. Refer to the De Lacey family as a symbol of the victims of the prolateriat.
Discuss Marxism in Mansfield park and the kite runner
'The ECONOMy determines sociocultural contructs' discuss how far the great Gatsby agrees with this.
Kate Millet sees power levels in relationships as being reflective of and interacting with the power balance between men and women in wider society. In 'The Great Gatsby', Daisy and Tom's relationship is wholly unbalanced, with Daisy having very little power. Tom has 'Some woman in New York'
Discuss feminism in the great Gatsby. Refer to millett and the way she saw power levels in relationships as being reflective of and interactive with the power balance of wider society. Link to daisys lack of power in her relationship. (find evidence that shows her as submissive) explain that this reflects the balance of social power all over.
Feminist critics such as Elaine Showalter argue that, in literature, women are cast into stereotypical groups. One of which Bertens' claims, is the 'cute, but essentially helpless child'. Daisy is portrayed in such a way by Fitzgerald:
"Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it?"
The use of repetition suggests a juvenile way of speaking, and Fitzgerald exaggerates Daisy's facial expressions to convey a childlike innocence: "Her eyes fastened with an awed expression on her little finger ... 'Look! .. I hurt it.'"
Feminism argues that women are portrayed in this way throughout 'male constructed literary history' is due to the fact that characteristics such as innocence and dependence are seen as attractive and preferable in women. Daisy is certainly portrayed as attractive through the point of view of Nick Carraway. She is described as 'the most popular girl in the neighbourhood' by Jordan and we know that 'Many men had already loved' her. Daisy is a symbol of the 'youth that wealth imprisons and preserves', and this idea is elemental in Gatsby's attraction to her. However it could be argued that Fitzgerald portrays Daisy in this way not to perpetuate a stereotype,but to suggest her childlike behaviour is a coping mechanism for issues such as Tom's affair.
The character of Jordan, conversely, is independent and shown to be much less innocent than Daisy. We know that she lies ('She was incurably dishonest') to get ahead in the world, and Fitzgerald uses adjectives with negative connotations such as 'insolent' when describing her. Gatsby, on the other hand, is extremely dishonest and it is suggested in the novel that he is a 'bootlegger', but Fitzgerald and Nick are much more sympathetic toward him, describing him as 'Elegant' and 'Gorgeous'. Gatsby's concealment and ambition reflect on him positively, then, whereas Jordan's does not. Jordan is also accused of cheating in a golf tournament. The question is, if she had been a male, would she still have been portrayed as deceptive or untrustworthy, or a 'loveable rogue' that tells white lies and is admired for his ambition? Bertens' says:
'female independence gets a strongly negative connotation, while helplessness and renouncing all ambition and desire are presented as endearing and admirable.' This has never been more true than in the case Jordan and Daisy.
Throughout history, male writers have struggled with the portrayal of the perfect woman. The antithetical quality of the stereotypes 'Dangerous seductress' and 'Self-sacrificing angel' results in confused characterisation, and feminists argue that the constructs present an impossible ideal for women to conform or relate to. Both qualities are displayed in Daisy in the great Gatsby. She is openly flirtatious with Nick, "If you want to kiss me at any time during the evening, Nick, just let me know.." but reverts between this behaviour and her childlike attitude. The hypocrisy of these ideals are exemplified in the works of John Keats, whose Madeline in 'The Eve of St Agnes' is the archetype of all things pure. "Her maiden eyes divine, Fix'd on the floor" This submissive behaviour is in keeping with what was expected of women in Keats' time, and the religious imagery throughout the poem compounds this idea. Madeline is described as 'Lily white', a 'Saint' and metaphorically refers to herself as 'a dove forlorn'. This is contrasted with the descriptions of Porphyro and his 'heart on fire'. The hypocrisy of such ideas of Madeline is illustrated by the erotic imagery of her and her surroundings
Shows that although not as bad, the effects are still in play t
TheKeats has failed to take into consideration that the woman as a reader would find it impossible to relate to someone who is at one virginal yet erotic. The same themes are apparent in 'Lamia':
'Her neck regal white
Turn'd - syllabling thus, "Ah Lycius bright,
And will you leave me on the hills alone?'
Lamia is described as 'regal white', which conveys a saint-like innocence, yet the sibilance of 'syllabling thus' suggests a seductive, softly spoken tone of voice. Lamia, a snake-woman, is deceiving Lycius, and is also described as 'the demon's self'.
In Porphyrias Lover, Browning's Porphyria's image is also at odds with her behaviour. She has 'Yellow Hair' and is 'Perfectly pure, and good' yet she makes 'her smooth white shoulder bare' and put's the narrators arm 'about her waist'. Considering this affair is being conducted in secret, this behaviour would have been seen as outrageous to Victorian readers. It is clear that, although not as extreme, the effects of these stereotypes are still being felt in more modern literature such as the Great Gatsby.
One problem Berten's highlights is that 'upon closer inspection many texts clearly assume their readers are male'. When Myrtle is introduced in The Great Gatsby, the first Fitzgerald mentions is her body shape: 'The thickish figure of a woman blocked out the light.'. He again describes her 'as faintly stout', and within the same sentence: 'She carried her flesh sensuously as some women can.' Myrtles figure seems to be a symbol of her vivaciousness, and the idea that the reader should infer a personality characteristic from Myrtles appearance could be a stereotype for the appreciation of a presumed male audience. Fitzgerald descriptions of the physical appearances of males are minimal, and it could be argued that he is alienating, or overlooking, female readers.
However, Fitzgerald challenges gender roles in his characterisation of Jordan, who is 'hard and jaunty', and her independence is shown by the fact that she get's engaged almost immediately after her breakup with Nick. Fitzgerald also shows that gender stereotyping can be applied to males, when Daisy criticises Tom for being 'Hulking'. ('I hate that word, hulking!'). Fitzgerald does seem to stereotype females to some extent, although he also has clear sympathy for women in society such as Daisy, who have to act the 'beautiful little fool' to get ahead. Bertens' sees the views of traditional male writers such as Keats and Browning as a'perpetuation of the unequal power balance between men and women'. These views are, to some extent, still evident in Fitzgerald's novel, and are apparent through the inequality of Daisy and Tom's relationship. This is a reflection upon Fitzgeralds society, a society in which a man is not questioned by friends of family for parading his mistress around in public. He also indirectly criticises the morally bankrupt, capitalist society of his time, through a depressing depiction of the working class and a frank portrayal of the degradation of capitalists and the upper class.
'The Great Gatsby', and other novels like it, reiterate that although the world is advancing, and there is such thing as a'changing human condition', many of the common Marxist and Feminist principles are relevant; Such as the idea that our consciousness and experiences in life are pre-ordained by the circumstances under which we are born, whether it be through gender or poverty.