The Great Gatsby and Elizabeth Barrett Browning Sonnets Essay
The Great Gatsby and Elizabeth Barrett Browning Sonnets
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald written in the Jazz age and Sonnet from a Portuguese written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning composed in the wake of Romanticism, although the two texts were composed in two distinct time period both texts are influenced by their varying contexts in their portrayal of the enduring human concerns. Both authors use authors explore the universal human concerns of love, hope and mortality through the use of various language features such as metaphors, use of irony and the subversion of the established values of their time.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning employs the Petrarchan form and male linguistics to challenge the tradition of courtly love whereas Fitzgerald critiques the hedonistic lifestyle, and the fall of the American dream to illustrate the illusion of love and hope. Elizabeth Barrett browning challenges the courtly love tradition and the expectations of womanhood in her sonnet sequence through subversion of contemporary values and its depiction. Elizabeth Barrett browning challenges and subverts the courtly love tradition by employing a strong female voice and the use of the Petrachan sonnet form, with at the time was dominated my males.
The poet does not display the passive femininity of courtly love but takes initiative and takes control through a instructive voice “Beloved, say yet and yet again/That thou dost love me” in Sonnet 21. Barrett Browning also rejects all the features of a woman which were idealised in the traditional Petrachan sonnets “her smile- her look- her way/ Of speaking gently” is temporary and subject to change and perception, therefore the persona urges the audience to be loved “for love’s sake” in sonnet 14.
Additionally repetition of her word “woman” in “let the silence of my womanhood/Comment my woman-love” further subverts social expectation through the assertion of “woman”. The succinct structure of the sonnet is contradictory as it depicts a complex emotion of love promoting the subversion of the values. The challenge against convention that is demonstrated in the sonnet sequence is reflective of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s own experience with love and courtship.
Elizabeth Barrett browning challenged the conservatism and constraints by conducting a secret romance and eventually eloping with the poet Robert Browning despite the disapproval of her father. The great Gatsby is set in the Jazz age; post WW1 world where traditional American values were being reconsidered and hedonistic pleasure were being pursued. Gatsby bears genuine love for Daisy which is a sharp contrast to the hedonistic values of the era; it challenges the pursuit of carnal pleasures that are apparent in the party- goers in Gatsby’s house.
The contemporary values of the Jazz age are subverted though the description of Daisy by Nick when she meets Gatsby, the sentiments conveyed in the descriptions are phrased according to the traditional Petrachan sentiments focusing oh her voice as a “husky, rhythmic whisper” and blossoming “like a flower”. A mesmerising quality of Gatsby that he “has one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it that you may come across four or five times in life” attracts nick to Gatsby upon their first meeting.
This surface characteristic is a quality which is backed up by Gatsby’s more solid qualities of hope and romantic readiness “if personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life…- it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I never found in any person and which it is not likely I will find ever again”
Gatsby’s infatuation of Daisy as the ultimate commodity is seen as his goal from which he tries to draw closer to, in order to do so “Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay” symbolising the need for him to be close to her. Gatsby lived in the West which stood for traditional values such as solidity whereas Daisy lives in the East which was associated with the extravagance living which offered opportunities.
This is a major contrast of the societal values of the time and of the values of the characters, Gatsby subverts the contemporary values where as daisy is the epitome of the “flapper” and hedonism. Gatsby’s idealised love for Daisy was corrupted by money and dishonesty, Fitzgerald portrays the American dream of happiness and individualism has become disintegrated into the mere pursuit of wealth. Typical of the Victorian era, Barrett Browning explores the idea of hope through. Her elegiac tone in Sonnet 1 personifies love as dark mysterious figure “a mystic shape”.
The imagery is physically powerful and perhaps emblematic of physical abuse, which Elizabeth Barrett Browning was subjected to, in “drew me backward by the hair”. Barrett Browning personal familiarity with death causes her to mistake it for “Death” creating uncertainty with in the reader. However, the sestet marks a change in tone with the “silver answer rang” metaphorically signifying and connotes the “silver” purity of her hope and love and the realization that it is “Not Death, but Love” that is Barrett Browning’s salvation.
Barrett Browning subverts the traditional expectations of the Victorian woman through her open expression of courtship. The Twenties originally revolved around discovery & individualism, but easy money and relaxed social values corrupted this dream. Even in the midst of Gatsby’s corrupt world there lies a hope in his love for Daisy. This hope is symbolised by the green light situated at the end of the wharf in front of Daisy’s house at East Egg.
This light reminds Gatsby that he is close to having his dream come true, the dream he so desperately longs for “… he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way… I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away”, even though he doesn’t have Daisy yet, this green light provides reassurance and hope that he is close to having her in the future.
This “extraordinary gift of hope” came from Gatsby’s faith in idealised love, which challenges the corrupted and subverts the values of the Jazz age. Written in two distinct eras, Sonnets from a Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and The Great Gatsby By f. Scott Fitzgerald explore the Universal enduring concerns love, hope and mortality through the literary techniques and the subversion of the contemporary values of their time. The attitudes and paradigms influence and shape the text and how the individuals subvert these established values.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 10 July 2017
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