How can Marxist theory be applied to The Great Gatsby?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that Marxist theory can be applied quite easily to Fitzgerald's work.  Marxist theory asserts that all art arises from its socio- economic condition.  Fitzgerald would readily admit that, in that the work is a depiction of the social and economic excesses of the 1920s.  Along these lines, Fitzgerald does demonstrate some beliefs that are Marxist in nature.  The ownership of the means of production consolidated in the hands of the wealthy and this representing a sense of corruption is present in the novel.  The Buchanans and others like them that represent the consolidation of wealth are those who abuse this condition is an idea that is present.  The Buchanans and those like them act only for their own interest, and at the cost of the Wilsons of the world.  At the same time, there is a commodity fetishism where money and objects hold more importance than people do.  The search and coveting of the "next party" or the "next piece of gossip" as well as Daisy's bizarre reaction to the shirts in Chapter 5 are all representative of this.  Gatsby's belief that he can spend money to "win" over Daisy is a capitalist idea that Marx would actually see as endemic to the system.  The proliferation and possession of wealth causes individuals to actually believe that they can "purchase" people for money.

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