‘For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.’
The assertion made here, being that true love does not involve physical actions but strong emotional bonds, is evident in both the novels, Tess of the D’Urbervilles as well as The Great Gatsby and in the poetry collection ‘Rapture’ as we see all three protagonists experience a volume of intense feelings towards the object of their affections; from the passionate love that they feel for their other half to sheer desperation of their others approval. However there are many physical obstacles that stand in their way, such as Alec and Tom who touch Tess and Daisy physically and materially but not emotionally. In Rapture, the lovers become separated due to the unconventional nature of their relationship, this arguably intensifies the love felt by the poet as many say, ‘Distance makes the heart grow fonder’.It is obvious to us as the reader that Tess is willing to obtain true love at all costs; even though that may mean death, this shows how very deeply Angel has touched Tess emotionally and not just physically.
It shows her obsession with Angel and her dismay at Alecs persistent love interest in her; ‘I don’t see how I can help being the cause of much misery to you all your life. The river is down there. I can put an end to myself in it. I am not afraid…I will leave something to show that I did it myself – on account of my shame. They will not blame you then.’ Here Tess takes all the blame for Angel’s decision to end their relationship and offers to kill herself in order to save Angel the embarrassment of having to explain why his marriage failed. Tess takes the heavy burden and almost exaggerates it ‘being the cause of much misery to you all your life’ seems to be a bold statement of guilt yet it was not just her who wasn’t a virgin when Angel and Tess’s relationship commenced. The use of simple sentences in this extract gives Tess’s decision a sense of finality and determination; she will do anything to see that Angel is happy.
The use of such negative language sparks a sympathetic despair in the reader as Tess seems so set on ending her life: ‘misery’ ‘end’ ‘not’ ‘shame’ and ‘blame’ all have connotations of conclusiveness, as if nothing will change Tess’s mind because she is convinced that she must take the suffering in order to appease Angel. Her final though ‘They will not blame you’ not only evokes a sense of definiteness but is perhaps a comment on the social conventions that the Victorian reader would be accustomed too; should one have an affair or it be discovered that a gentleman’s wife was not virginal before their marriage then the primary concern for the man was to avoid scandal as it could destroy his reputation. No matter how in the love the couple may have been, it was not easy to forgive ones wife is such a discovery was made as it was a social embarrassment and ultimately a social inconvenience.
Here Tess demonstrates her knowledge of Angel’s concern as she attempts to solve this problem by suggesting that she drown herself. A modern reader would not be quite so concerned with the idea of people finding out that one was not virginal before marriage as one critic comments: her soul remains unstained regardless of what happens to her body. This comment on how Tess remains pure even though her body is violated, is a particularly modern view, society no longer frowns upon a girl if she is not chaste till marriage as they did in the Victorian era. This is why the statement ‘They will not blame you’ has such an impact on both the readers’ acceptance of the novels social context and the readers realisation that Angel has touched Tess’s heart and soul and not just her ears and lips.Similarly in the poem ‘If I Was Dead’ from Duffy’s collection ‘Rapture’ the main theme of the poem is around the idea that the love received from the poets lover is strong and powerful enough to raise her body along with her own love from the dead: ‘I swear your lovewould raise me out of my grave,in my flesh and blood,like Lazarus;hungry for this,and this, and this,your living kiss.’
Duffys use of the images of death, especially the Biblical reference to the man who was awoken from the dead, in contrast to the vagarious kiss of life show the physical distance of the lovers yet it emphasis the strength of the bond of true love between them, even in death. In a similar way to the way Hardy uses Tess’s family tomb in ‘The Woman Pays’, to heighten the sense of a bleak future for Angel and Tess, Duffy uses a ‘grave’ to illustrate not only the powerful, reawakening nature of love, but the foreshadowing of the metaphorical death of their relationship. In this poem, the graphic images of ‘flesh and blood’ being restored to arise from a grave create a gothic image of the supremacy of love. Instead of using a noun such as ‘skin’ Duffy chooses the word ‘flesh’ to show the rawness of the emotions associated with death and she almost begins to compare these with the emotions indicative of love as she writes that the speaker is ‘hungry’ for the lovers ‘living kiss’.
The adjective ‘living’ provokes one to think of the kiss of life. The lover breathes life and love into the carcass of her other, in order to restore what once was there; this kiss is so heart-rending that it touches not only her lips, but her soul as it rekindles the light of life within her. Contrastingly in Gatsby, the love felt by the protagonist is never truly reciprocated as it is for Tess and Angel and Duffy and her lover, as Daisy ultimately cannot admit that she wishes to be with Gatsby and not her husband Tom. However, the love that Gatsby feels, to him is pure and all engulfing, as it is what has driven him to seek corrupt means of becoming successful as he feels this is what is stopping himself and Daisy being together.
Yet Gatsby’s idealised version of Daisy is what forces his love to stand the test of time: ‘He had been full of the idea so long, dreamed it right through to the end, waited with his teeth set, so to speak, at an inconceivable pitch of intensity…because of the colossal vitiality of his illusion…no amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man can store up in his ghostly heart.’ The fact that at this point in the novel, when Gatsby and Daisy get their first intimate moments alone together, Hardy choses to describe Daisy as Gatsbys illusion is incredibly poignant.
Courtney from Study Moose
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