The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald and Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning are influenced by their varying context in their portrayal of love in their respective texts. Both authors explore the concept of love using various language features such as metaphors the use of irony. The Great Gatsby explores how the desire for the American Dream has taken prevalence over romantic love during post world war 1. This is contrasted with Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese where we are able to visualise her passion towards her lover through linguistic construct and also through the construction of an intimate sonnet. The Great Gatsby is set in what is commonly known as “The Roaring Twenties” or “The Jazz Age.” Given the 20s was about opulence, the nihilist attitude is reflected in romantic needs. Fitzgerald dismisses the idea of idealised love and refers to America’s love with the American Dream. Post World War 1 was a period of hedonism that reflected people’s determination to forget the sufferings and loss of the war. It was also a time of moral confusion.
There was a mood of superficial optimism as people tried to hide their disillusionment. Fitzgerald explores the difficulty of individuals maintaining moral integrity in a material society that values wealth above all others. It was a time where there was great importance placed on what people had and not what people were. Fitzgerald’s use of Nick as the unreliable narrator is meant to represent cultural mores of the 20s. He represents the voice, failings and cynicism of the time and acts as a filter through which ideas and characters are reflected and mediated. We gain a pessimistic and fragmented insight into the tragic love story of the novel. The fragmentation and complex structure of the novel builds up Gatsby as the paragon of the Jazz Age and epitome of the American Dream. Ultimately, someone who represents the 20s cannot gain true love in the face of Tom’s wealth and riches. At the end of the play, Nick comes to fear that he is living in a loveless and faithful world. The narrative structure shows that time is a representation of love.
The exploration of love in The Great Gatsby is treated with great ambiguity as Gatsby who is to be admired for his hope and vision, is sadly tragic and is unworthy in a society in which he loves. Fitzgerald is alluding to the fact that in successful America at the time, many were preoccupied with their social standings and wealth. The American Dream took precedence over romantic relationships. He condemns love to be distrustful and faithless. This is shown through the numerous relationships throughout the novel. The relationship between Daisy and Mr. Gatsby is a clear example. Before Gatsby went to war, Daisy promised to wait for him but instead, married the very wealthy Tom. It becomes clear that Gatsby loves and wants the idea of Daisy rather than the real version. In order to eligible for Daisy’s love, Gatsby recreates himself to become a successful and wealthy man; hence he shows Daisy all his possessions after their meeting at Nick’s house. When Daisy cries over Gatsby’s “beautiful shirts” it highlights, the materialistic views she possesses and the relationship between love and money at that time.
Part of Gatsby’s yearning for Daisy is her link to an exclusive society that he desperately wants to join. Gatsby’s love for Daisy is clear when he takes the blame for the death of Myrtle. We are positioned to see his devotion to Daisy as being foolish. “I love you now, isn’t that enough?” Although Daisy is unsatisfied with her marriage and enjoys her relationship with Gatsby, she never intended to leave Tom. In the end, it is not enough as Gatsby is not accepted in society or accepted by Daisy. F.Scott Fitzgerald shows the shallowness of love through the relationship of Myrtle and Tom. Their relationship is a symbol of an exploitative relationship. Myrtle is not content with her marriage and vies for a higher position. Myrtle admires ‘breeding’ and the aristocratic society and sees nothing immoral about her position as Tom’s mistress. She feels more superior when walking around New York with Tom and looks down on people who cannot afford materialistic goods although she normally would not be able to afford these products either.
Tom provides Myrtle with presents that she normally would not receive. Ironically, Myrtle condemns her husband, George Wilson, for not owning his wedding suit. However, Tom doesn’t want to sustain the relationship with her. It is purely for his sexual needs. Hence, Fitzgerald depicts love to be superficial and is determined by the amount of wealth and social standing of a person. F.Scott Fitzgerald critiques the American Dream. Gatsby is an apparent self-made man who went from almost nothing to extravagance and wealth. However, Gatsby, Myrtle and George are seeking a better life but only achieve humiliation and death. Myrtle dies in the pursuit of the American Dream. Ironically, she is killed by Daisy who represents the idealised woman of her time in terms of wealth and status. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese explores love from the perspective of a 19th century women in order to convey the passion she feels for her lover. Barrett Browning reflects a society where idealised love is admired and where there is faith in the individual. Barrett Browning presents an optimistic view of love. She manipulates the Petrarchan sonnet form, which is traditionally written from a male perspective, by subverting the writing scheme.
She subverts the form by writing as the subject and object of the poem. Elizabeth Barrett Browning writes of her personal experience of love and idealised love. She is challenging how the art form challenges woman and celebrates love as a liberating force. By exploring her emotions, she explores her own identity. Elizabeth Barrett Browning believes her love with Robert has elevated so much that they approach transcended beings, “Our two souls stand up erect and strong.” Barrett browning is suggesting that if they didn’t have a body they would still move towards each other in passion. She captures the intensity of their love and the depth of their love through the line “Until their lengthening wings break into fire” This reiterates their passion and connection of love. There is a stark contrast with F.Scott Fitzgerald’s bleak view towards idealised love to Barrett Browning’s optimistic representation of love.
In each sonnet, Browning portrays the notion of love has empowered her and made her value herself as an individual, “I love thee with the love I seemed to lose” (sonnet 43) She reveals to us that before she met Robert, her life was characterised by fragmentation and loss. This reinforces how love has transformed her life. She attempts to measure her love for Robert through the line, “I love thee to the depth & breath & height.” The use of the half-rhyme unifies Sonnet 1 but fractures it at the same time. Half rhymes show the impact of the love she is feeling and the reassessment she is feeling.
The half rhymes are created to show how the predictable known ways of seeing the world have led her to innovation. In conclusion, it can be seen that both authors deal with love in their respective texts. However, F.Scott Fitzgerald takes a pessimistic view towards idealised love and rather, comments on the love for the American Dream in his society. Elizabeth Barrett Browning takes a more optimistic view, suggesting that it is a liberating force.