Jay Gatsby Vs. Tom Buchanan

To clarify Marx’s theory: it assumes that the bourgeoisie are more or less the same, a relatively small group of people who hold all the economic and social power at the expense of the lower class(es) who suffer/stagnate (regardless of consideration of the addendum to address the middle class and American social structure).

I think we can all agree that Gatsby and Tom are both easily defined by Marxist critics as being bourgeoisie because of their economic wealth. However, Gatsby is seen through the eyes of the society within the novel as being NOT equal to Tom, despite being roughly equal in terms of economic power/wealth (though not in how income is received). In fact, upon discovering that Jay Gatsby was born James Gatz to a proletariat family he was degraded socially in the eyes of the characters (Tom, Daisy, and Jordan) into the same class as poor, social climbing, vulgar, Myrtle. Marxist criticism would ascribe this phenomenon as being caused by the ideology of classism (one’s value as a person is directly related to their class- proletariat/lower class inherently shifty and vulgar) which is designed to suppress the lower class(es).

My take away is that in the Great Gatsby economic status is not necessarily equal to social status. Jay Gatsby has accumulated an absurd amount of wealth, however his social status is not entirely equal. Nick Caraway clearly comes from an affluent family however he does not live a lavish lifestyle and likely does not have the same means as those he associates with, however coming from an old affluent family allows him to have a higher social status than he has wealth. Tom Buchanan who has both money and the social status of coming from a prominent background sees Nick as belonging to the same social class as him whereas he sees Gatsby as inferior (even before the affair). Marxist critical theory is based primarily on the power of economics/money however it seems to me that the Great Gatsby stresses the importance of social background and how even if one can gain/improve their economic power they will never belong to the same social class as those born into it.

What did you get from it? Do you agree or did you see something else about Gatsby and socioeconomic class?

Robert’s Marxist Analysis of Chumbawamba – She’s Got All The Friends That Money Can Buy


This song, I find, is espousing a number of Marxist ideals. The chorus “She’s got all the friends that money can buy, she’s the apple of her Daddys eye” is referencing not only that a member of the Bourgeoisie more often than not has friends among the proletariat only because it allows those members of the proletariat to “get close” to that money , hence ” The family money has a magnetic pull”. It is also implied that this theoretical “She” has friends among the bourgeoisie only due to the fact that “she” is also a bourgeoisie, because as a human being her value in this case is dictated by her sign-exchange value.  The line about being the apple of her dad’s eye is also talking about her sign-exchange value that is, her father only values her for the increases in status she will grant him once she is married off to some one of even higher status within the bourgeoisie.

The line “And both her faces–so easy on the eye” is talking about how “she” wears two faces, presumably one for interacting with the proletariat to maintain her apparent connections there and the sign-exchange value that such interactions grant her. (Rather like Tom Buchannan in this way).  The other face she wears for interacting with her fellow bourgeoisie where she undoubtedly discusses her unrivaled contempt for the proletariat.

“Style has a price without much change … If you have to ask then it’s out of your range ” Is talking about the folly of consumerism. The latest style is the new hot thing that you must have! But it’s really no different than what preceded it. In addition the cost of acquiring this new style is irrelevant to the bourgeoisie.

“Well, you can buy your friends, but I’ll hate you for free Hate you for free” This line is speaking to the hatred the proletariat should be expressing towards the kind of bourgeoisie this song is talking about. Its placement late in the song is meant to bring the hatred that the proletariat has to a boil as they have had time to think of an example in their day to day life about the bourgeoisie that irritates them.


The end-cap on the song (that is only in the album version) refers to two other major Marxist elements.

“You see, it’s magic, and it shouldn’t work

I still look at it most surprised it does”
The magic referenced here is the illusion that by befriending the bourgeoisie a member of the proletariat can ascend to the bourgeoisie. The continual surprise is aimed at the proletariat that is still buying into the lies of the bourgeoisie that keep them in their current place; unwittingly supporting the bourgeoisie. The final lines ” Pass it along, pass it along ” Are asking the bourgeoisie in a tongue-in-cheek way to “pass along” their wealth to the masses because they are ” make[ing] too much money”.

Samantha’s Marxist Criticism Analysis of In Time

After the discussion in class today about the bourgeoisie and proletariats, I felt that a good film to analyze would be the film In Time.

The film is about a world in which currency equals years a person has to live after 25. The rich have decades while the poor have only days, hours, or minutes. The main character Will Salas who is poor, saves a man who has over 100 years on his clock. While Will is sleeping, he transfers all his years to him committing suicide. Will then goes to live in the rich area of society but is chased by the “timekeeper”. Will and his new wealthy romance  Sylvia then rob banks and give time to the poor while trying to not get caught by the timekeeper.

In Critical Theory Today Tyson writes that Marx believed proletariat’s will “one day develop the class consciousness needed to rise up in violent revolution against their oppressors and create a classless society”(54). This is exactly what Will was trying to do, he realized that it was not fair the rich had all the time, or currency, in the world while he only had hours. He believed that everyone should have decades to live and be equal. This would be similar to someone trying to take money and give it to the poor, like the story of Robin Hood.

Tyson talks about how underclass and lower class are “economically oppressed”. The poor in In Time were oppressed because they literally did not have enough time to worry about trying to find a better paying job. The different regions of wealth were blocked off by walls and the only way to get to the other region was to take off years. This was set in place by the wealthy so that the poor were not able to do anything about being poor. They were not able to get close enough to fight back or become “a threat to the power structure”(56). The wealthy feel that they benefit by keeping the poor because they get to have all the time, luxury, and happiness in the world.

At one point Will is told “For a few to be Immortal, many must die.” This false consciousness is in place to make the poor believe that there is not enough time in the world for them, and that it is better to have a few people that can live forever than for everyone to have equal time. In reality, there IS enough time for everyone to live for decades and decades, but the immortal have those years stored in their banks, never to be used because they already have so much time on their hands, or arms in this case.

life time


One Ironic thing to compare about this movie and Marxist theory, is the idea of classism. Tyson states that “people at the bottom of the social scale, it follows, are naturally shiftless, lazy, and irresponsible”(59). In the film, the low class are the hardest working people in the world. They use every minute to work, and cherish the moments they have. The rich Tyson would say are supposed to be “naturally suited to such roles [of power] and are the only ones who can be trusted to perform them properly”(59). The individuals who have all the time in the world are hoarding unused time in their banks, making them untrustworthy and greedy.

In the end of this film, the proletariats do overcome the bourgeois and receive all the currency, or years in the world. They are then able to move to wealthier areas and move up in the world. Money or time actually does buy happiness in this case because without time they would die and I’m sure they would rather live than die, and so Marx or Tyson might say that the characters have achieved the American Dream.

Marxist Criticism on The Great Gatsby

What happened to money does not buy happiness? From what I read, Tyson seems to portray that the more money you have, then the higher social status you seem to be and therefore the happier you are. After reading this chapter on Marxist criticism I still stand behind my motto of money does not get you happiness, but instead the people you have in your life and goals you accomplish.

The first part of Tyson’s chapter wanted to bring out the argumentative side in me because I do not believe that all wealthy people are happy and all poor people or even middle class people are unhappy with their life. I come from certainly not a wealthy family, but a stable financial family. Both of my parents worked hard for their money and still do to this day, but regardless of whether they own a mansion, a private plane, or a huge corporation they are still happy with the place that they stand financially.

Marxist criticism apparently tends to be a “Debbie downer” on the American dream. This is the part where I completely disagree with the Marxist criticism because I do not think that the American dream is a belief to make you wealthy, but more of a way to make you happy. Fulfilling a dream does not necessarily mean you need to own five houses or your own plane. It could simply mean starting your own small business and making enough money to where you are financially comfortable, not filthy rich.

Going back to money can’t buy you happiness, I think this comes across strongly in the characters of The Great Gatsby. Jay Gatsby himself is one of the prime examples of being rich and having a huge mansion, but not being satisfied with life. To me Gatsby is very empty inside and I think his empty house represents this. Without fulfilling his dream of getting Daisy back, he will not be happy regardless of how much money he acquires. Now, the reason I seem to agree with the Marxist criticism is because I truly believe that if this book had not been based in the roaring 1920s then it would have turned out differently. This was a time when everyone believed that money was the only path to happiness, so therefore whether rich or poor you tried to gain not only money, but power as well to try and fulfill this need of happiness. In my opinion Tyson does a good job of analyzing the fact that if this had not been the 1920s things might have turned out a little differently in The Great Gatsby.

To conclude what I am trying to get at here, I do not believe in Marxist criticism defining that you must be wealthy in order to be happy. Also, I might be living in a fantasy world, but do you really want to go along with the fact that all beliefs are a joke and that in hindsight they are just a failure? Do you really think that our beliefs of the American Dream is an unnatural way of viewing our world? I’m sorry, but I do not believe it is unnatural to want to fulfill a dream. But, I do agree with the fact that the economic status and society does effect our literature and how an author might write a book. I have very mixed feelings about Marxist criticism, does anyone else feel the same way?