Literary theories are theories that help expand and understand the text more thoroughly. They give you different perspectives on the text and show the different views on literature. It made me understand the characters in The Great Gatsby much more clearly and altogether gave me a better understanding of this novel. Reading the Great Gatsby in a Feminist and Marxist perspective you can see lots of events that collaborate with these perspectives and much more such as Formalism, Historicism etc. Altogether it helps appreciate the text and discover things you hadn’t noticed before applying these theories.
The Marxist theory elaborates on social class and how one is richer than the other. The book has lots of characters that are in different social classes such as middle class, high class, and low class. Nick is considered as middle class who lives on the West Egg side which is clarified as the newly rich and is judged by the East Egg as in West Egg is the fake rich. “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”(Fitzgerald7). To the East Egg people, the West Egg people are compared to be less classy and not as rich. Both the East and West were equally as rich but to the Easterners, they were considered as fake money and less luxurious.
“A society in which all enjoy more or less equal wealth and power” (Trainer). This is not the society in Gatsby but instead, it’s the total opposite because people in the 1925’s were always judging the people’s income and what class they belong to. So, this would never work out for the society in Gatsby but it helps me understand that people were judged based on their class in wealth and where they had lived. Either living in the East, West or the Valley they will always be the same whereas the East is the rich, the West is the new rich, or the Valley of Ashes is the poor.
Power is shown in the text and shows how much power you have if you are with someone that is rich. “I’m going to give you this dress as soon as I’m through with it. I’ve got to get another one tomorrow. I’m going to make a list of things I’ve got to get” (Fitzgerald40). This shows that someone that was from the Valley of Ashes is now rich due to her having a relationship with Tom. She flaunts her “richness” to her friends by professing she is of a higher class. She is jealous of Tom and Daisy and tells her friends that after she’s done wearing this outfit she will donate to her because she can always get more. She rants about how rich she is and it shows how much power is in her hands now just because she’s in a relationship with Tom who is from the East Egg. “Some groups come to dominate others and to win for themselves a disproportionate share of the society’s wealth, power and privileges” (Trainer). When Myrtle got the wealth from Tom it made her more powerful in the society and leads her on to bragging to her friends that she can get any dress she desires. It helped realize that money can give lots of power and can make someone who has lived in the low life for several years become someone totally different and can change their personality in being a jealous and selfish person.
The novel is looked through the feminist lens and feminism is shown through the characters Tom, Daisy, Gatsby etc. In this time period, women were less superior then men which impacted their knowledge and made it easy for men to take control of. “I wouldn’t think of changing the light, ‘Cried Mrs. McKee. ‘I think it’s-‘” (Fitzgerald31). She was interrupted by her husband while explain something and showed that women’s opinions didn’t matter and weren’t valued as much as they are now. At that time men were the ones with all the control and could do anything to please themselves. “Women have no wilderness in them, they are provident instead content in the tight hot cell of their hearts to eat dusty bread” (Bogan). This correlates with how the women weren’t allowed to express themselves and were always under the demand of the men in the old days. They weren’t able to be themselves and share their opinions on anything instead they just had to sit their quietly and eat a pile of trash.
In the book, the men overpowered the women and are beat to where they cannot say any words. “I’ve got my wife locked in up there,’ explained Wilson calmly. She’s going to stay there till the day after to-morrow, and then were going to move away” (Fitzgerald136). This shows how much he controls her and what else he could do if he had wanted. Wilson is the one who makes the decisions and Myrtle is just there to follow and she can’t do anything about that. “That women in literature were historically presented as objects seen from a male perspective” (Napikoski). Men think of women as objects and think they can just be played and used however they wanted in the past but that’s wrong. They believe they can take control of anything and women are not strong enough to fight back. It is proven in the text that the men just take control over the women’s just like how Wilson does and Gatsby.
Reading this book through the Feminist Criticism and Marxist view you can have your likes and dislike on the book. The feminists would be strongly biased about this book and criticize all the parts in the Novel that they don’t agree with or approve of. A Marxist will be very displeased with the amounts of social class and power that is talked throughout the book and how effective it is in that society.