Romantic love is celebrated as a source of strength in a world with some underlying sadness

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Love is shown by both texts to be powerful and necessary for fulfilment. Elizabeth Barrett Browning suggests that love is not only possible but necessary whereas Fitzgerald sees that love may be necessary but is not possible.

Poem XX11

Elizabeth Barret Browning’s sonnets from the Portuguese XXII, explores Browning’s satisfaction with her realistic relationship with partner Robert Browning and challenges the idealism of relationships in the Victorian era. This is first evident through the word ‘erect’, alluding to john Donne’s poem ‘valediction forbidding mourning’. Donne compares the love he shares with his wife to a compass, representing himself as the lead, highlighting the authority of males. Browning challenges this ideology through the use of collectives, emphasizing the equality in Robert’s and her relationship. Furthermore, Donne expresses his poetry through a transcendent and heavily love, through the notion of nature, where nature is a provocation to a state of imagination. This however differs to Browning’s sonnet through her religious metaphor, ‘angels would press on us’, emphasizes their realistic, pragmatic love. The illusion VS reality idea is further expressed through the motif of silver. Browning uses the symbol of the golden orb, which highlights power and perfection through the rich colour imagery and ongoing circle. Browning however highlights that she is content with a ‘silver’ relationship, where silver is a symbol for strength and reality, symbolic of her realistic love with Robert Browning. Browning emphasizes her new found strength through the classical allusion to Icarus. This story emphasizes failed ambition, shown through ‘wings break[ing]’, symbolic of the harsh life she has experienced with her brothers death and her patriarchal father’s oppression, however highlights the strength that her past experiences and relationship has given her through the rhetorical question what bitter wrong could the world do to us, that we should not long be here contented?. Through the listening and repetition of ‘Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nighters’, browning heightens the erotic desire and physical intimacy that exists within their relationship. This contrasts with her first poem, which explored her hesitancy and disbelief that love may have found her.


Conventions of 20th century literature

  • Stresses essential loneliness of the individual

  • Main theme:
    - human relationships
    - search for communication
    - escape from isolation
    however human relationships are difficult to form and easily distorted by the mechanical conventions of society, notions of respectability and shams and fraud.

  • The Great Gatsby demands of power, money and success

  • disillusioned youth of the World War I era

Characteristics of Modernism – thematic characteristics

  • Breakdown of social norms and cultural sureties

  • Disillusionment

  • Rejection of history and substitution of mythical past.

  • Metropolis, city, urbanscapes

  • Stream of consciousness

How The Great Gatsby explores the idea of living in the 20th century

    • Modernist text

    • Explores concerns of post WW1

    • Shows the failure of the American Dream

    • Explores some issues of pre WW1 (rise of fascism- tom is a believer in these theories)

    • Explores the poverty of body and soul

    • Explores superficiality of American society- lack of morality

    • Explores ways in which materialism has usurped traditional values and religious values.

    • Deals with problems of capitalism and inequalities it engenders.

    • Presents a severe criticism of American upper class values represented by the character conflicts of Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatz. Where Tom is the incarnation of the upper class, Gatsby the new rich and not acceptable in Tom’s crowd.

The Setting of the Great Gatsby- Twenties

  • Followed WW1
    Backlash against conservative morality

  • New class of wealthy- Nouveau Riche (new rich)

  • Prohibition of alcohol

  • Caught between two wars, a world of jazz and growing fascism.

The dual hero

It is through Nick that one can visualize and understand Gatsby’s idealism, his devotion to Daisy. In many ways Nick and Gatsby represent what the other is not- Gatsby-money, idealism of dream: Nick-realism, a conscience.

The American dream

The American dream is a central idea that is explored and criticized by Fitzgerald. It is the belief that through hard work, courage and determination of an individual could achieve prosperity in terms of material wealth. (with the good morals and principles)

Human waste

The society is based on the acquisition of the material, in an attempt to gain some higher spirituality-generates waste; the cost of setting up Gatsby’s mansion and his parties represent massive waste. Gatsby doe not care what waste there is, as long as he achieves his goal. The tragedy is that the goal is never reached, waste of his devotion, waste of human life- Myrtle, George and Gatsby.

Lack of relationships

All relationships in this novel are flawed and are based on dishonesty. People like Tom and Daisy seeks satisfaction outside marriage and seems to have no qualms about betraying their partner. Tom openly flaunts his affair with Myrtle and yet becomes enraged when he realizes that Daisy is having an affair with Gatsby. This highlights the possessive nature of many of these relationships.

Relationships are often unequal; Daisy sells herself to Tom losing her self respect. She is possession and Tom treats her accordingly. Myrtle also becomes to share the same position that Daisy does. She has lost her self-respect allowing Tom to break her nose and treat her like an object.

The women

  • All materialistic

  • Worship power that money brings

  • Compromised their integrity

  • Dishonestly in a woman is a thing you never blame deeply. – Nick
    Nick declares the women cannot be expected to possess the moral strength of men.

Fitzgerald’s composition

Fitzgerald portrays the 1920s as an era of decayed social and moral values, evidenced in its overarching cynicism, greed, and empty pursuit of pleasure.

Fitzgerald positions the characters of The Great Gatsby as emblems of these social trends. Nick and Gatsby, both of whom fought in World War I, exhibit the newfound cosmopolitanism and cynicism that resulted from the war. The various social climbers and ambitious speculators who attend Gatsby’s parties evidence the greedy scramble for wealth. The clash between “old money” and “new money” manifests itself in the novel’s symbolic geography: East Egg represents the established aristocracy, West Egg the self-made rich. Meyer Wolfshiem and Gatsby’s fortune symbolize the rise of organized crime and bootlegging.


The Green Light

Situated at the end of Daisy’s East Egg dock and barely visible from Gatsby’s West Egg lawn, the green light represents Gatsby’s hopes and dreams for the future, a future with Daisy.

It eluded us then, but that’s no matter- tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms out farther...’ The green light becomes applicable to everyone that has something that they long and search for that is out of reach.

The eyes of T.J. Eckleburg

Careless is often used by Fitzgerald to describe people’s personality (e.g. Jordan’s driving) and it suggests that there is little fear of consequence or judgement. T.J. Eckleburg’s eyes offer a kind of judgement, reminding characters of their lack of guilt for what they have done. This billboard poses as the eyes of a blank and empty god who cannot answer those who look to him.

East Egg West Egg

This is the physical divide of the old rich and the new rich. The water also creates a symbolic barrier that keeps people apart from one another and from what they want to obtain. For Gatsby it is Daisy.

Houses became symbol of status and reflected the individual character

Gatsby’s house is described as an imitation of European ‘hotel de ville’. Daisy’s house becomes an extension of her, romantic, pure and exotic.

Cars- an important role in the novel
Gatsby’s car is described as a shining and magical thing, almost phallic.
Its rich cream colour, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length…’
the car becomes a representation of Gatsby himself- new money displayed in a most opulent manner’

The cars also bring the downfall of several innocent characters.

  • Pg. 89
    Daisy cries into Gatsby’s ‘coloured disarray’ of shirts shows the emptiness of a dream built on style and possession and also extends to the way in which materialism has usurped the traditional values of morality.
    they’re such beautiful shirts, she sobbed…it makes me sad because I’ve never seen such-such beautiful shirts before’

  • Nick remarks on Benny McClenahan coming with four women, each that bared a similar appearance. This makes a comment on the idea of beauty as a product and a cosmetic reconstruction of women into a product

  • Time is the enemy of Gatsby; he wants everything to be the way it is. He only changes in so far as he can get Daisy and then go back to what they had before. Once Daisy was free, they were to go back to Louisville and be married from her house- just as if it were 5 years ago.

  • The literal and figurative death of Jay Gatsby.
    the true tragedy, the destruction of an ultimate American Idealist. Gatsby a firm believer of the American Dream of self-made success and achieving success both financially and societally.

  • Existentialism – The Gaze
    Gatsby describes Daisy’s house almost like an erotic pull- and the fact that many men had already loved Daisy increased her value in Gatsby’s eyes. Gatsby and Tom treat Daisy as a possession.
    gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor was for Gatsby Daisy, the prestigious prize at the completion of his ‘grail’

“This destroys an object's subjectivity. The thing becomes an "in itself" or an object. People place meaning onto what other people think of them rather than what they think of themselves”

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