How does the treatment of similar content in The Great Gatsby and the prescribed poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning reflect changing values and perspectives? Throughout different time periods in history, perspectives change. With changing perspectives, artists and authors convey their feelings for particular social issues in varying ways through their texts. As the prescribed text, “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and the prescribed sonnets from “Sonnets from the Portuguese” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning show, we can see the changes in perspective from the Victorian Era, compared to that of the Post-WWI period, the roaring 20’s.
A comparison of these texts lets us see a change in society’s view on love, the role of women in marriage, relationships, goals and ambitions (hope) and life’s meaning (morality) and also the impact of gender differences on the perspectives conveyed. “SftP” is a series of sonnets written during the Victorian Era in the 1850s, that expressed her love and feelings for her husband, following their relationship as it developed.
This was a period where women were seen as pure and clean and their bodies as temples which were not to be ‘decorated’ with jewelry or used for pleasurable sex.
Their major role in the household was to have children and maintain the household and were also seen as the property of men. In contrast, “GG” is a story of Jay Gatsby, a lieutenant in WWI, and his fulfilment of a dream. Set in the 1920s during the roaring 20s in America, Gatsby’s closely follows that of the American Dream. This period, dubbed by F. Scott Fitzgerald as the ‘Jazz Age’, was a period of great social change. Women began their rebellion against the idea of being a ‘possession’ to their husband.
People had begun working hard to pursue their goals but others, such as Jay Gatsby, became involved with shady characters such as Meyer Wolfshiem. Therefore, as times change, we can see that views and perspectives will inevitably change also. In EBBs “SftP”, love comes across as a main theme in her sonnets. Her poems were the essence of an appropriate poetry for women to write because they showed a woman in her best role – loving and expressing sentiments of love.
We see how she requires more than to be loved as merely a possession to her husband, Robert Browning, but for him to “…love on through love’s eternity”. On the other hand, in FSFs “GG”, love has a different, more materialistic meainig. As the American Dream was based largely around money and other materialistic possessions, its influence was spread into many aspects of society including a persons’ love for another. Love may have been based around ones wealth.
We can see that in “GG”, Daisy’s ‘love’ for Gatsby is driven by materialistic items as shown by Daisy in “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such – such beautiful shirts before”. Another reflection of changing values in society is marriage. EBB wrote during a time where once a woman became married to a man, she then became his property. Women could not manage their own sexual activity, and were defenceless against physical abuse inflicted by the man. We can see in Sonnet I how ‘a voice said in mastery while I strove, ‘Guess now who holds the! ‘Death’, I said…’Not death but loves’, allowing us to interpret this in many ways. Personally, I interpreted this second person speaking as Robert Browning, her husband, speaking of being her ‘master’ and also Browning’s feelings of hate or ‘deathly feelings’ of this, but it also shows how Robert Browning will also lover her for who she is. As social contexts changed, perspectives of ownership over a woman also changed. Fitzgerald’s interpretation of this loss of a man’s ownership over his wife is demonstrated clearly by Myrtle saying that her husband “_is so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive”_.
This was a time where women began taking control of their own bodies and started to become sexually free or liberated. Women still wanted to marry and there was a strong belief that women wanted to clean, cook, look after children and improve family circumstance, leaving many women feeling frustrated and unsatisfied. Another perspective which has changed is the view on relationships. We see that in EBB’s “SftP”, relationships are based more on gender. By writing a sonnet, EBB goes against the social norm, as it was males that were predominantly the authors of sonnets.
In addition, the social expectations of a relationship at that time meant that Robert + EBB had to go through the properly defined stages of a relationship which were friendship, courtship, relationship before it being socially accepted to pursue a romantic relationship. We can see in EBB’s poem that Robert “_wished to have me [her] in his sight”_ and follow these stages of a relationship. In contrast to this, the newer perspective of relationship was more based on economic status in society. Fitzgerald highlights the separation of the “old money” and “new money” through juxtaposition of the East Egg and the West Egg.
We can see how the two eggs are separated both physically and economically when Nick describes to us in the opening sequence of the novel that “_twenty miles from the city, a pair of enormous eggs, identical in contour and separated only by a courtesy bay… I lived at West Egg, the – well, the less fashionable of the two…”_ The tensions between the poor, the old money, and the new money are particularly evident during the parties. When Myrtle tries to fit in with the crowd through a change of clothes, we see that she cares more about the materialistic side of things, and making sure she belongs to the group at Tom’s party.
Similarly in the two texts, they both have ambitions about their past. Although one may deal with the liberation of the past, and one may deal with the reliving of the past, they both share that common connection of conveying memories from their past. In “SftP”, EBB has a hope to be free and liberated from her past because of the death of her brother. She also has the aspiration of finding a love that is unconditional and not defined by the social standards of the time. In sonnet XIV, she says “_If thou must love me, let it only be for nought except for loves’ sake only”_ meaning she wants to be loved for who she is.
In “GG”, Fitzgerald explains through Gatsby that he (Gatsby) has the dream of reliving his past with Daisy as quoted in “_Gatsby believed in the green light”_. However, Gatsby blindly chases this dream. We find that he is actually in love with the idea of Daisy that he has built, rather than that of Daisy in reality. Because of this, Gatsby blindly following this dream can be interpreted as the downside of the American Dream. Gatsby’s narrowness and close-minded view of Daisy is a major factor for his death. Alternatively, in the time period of “GG”, moral standards had changed dramatically.
Fitzgerald shows the upper class society of the 1920s to be immoral. He makes them participate in immoral activities such as the consumption of alcohol even though it was an illegal substance due to prohibition in America during the times. He also makes them take part in committing adultery (cheating on spouses) and be dishonest, as shown in “_Dishonesty in a woman is a thing you never blame deeply_”. The final issue in regard to changing views and perspectives is that of differing gender roles. Both authors use their life experiences and integrate them into the texts.
For example, in Browning’s case, she uses her relationship with Robert Browning as a topic to write about her emotions and thoughts. In sonnet XIV, “_I love her for her smile…”_ talks about the expectations of women at the time. On the other hand, Fitzgerald mentions gender roles on page 39 where Tom beats up his mistress, Myrtle, showing superiority over her. This shows how men were of higher status than women. Concluding, we can see that due to themes which are portrayed in both texts, along with historical contexts, definitions of values and perspectives have changed which have shaped the values of the world we live in today.
Cite this Comparison of Great Gatsby and Sonnets from the Portuguese
Comparison of Great Gatsby and Sonnets from the Portuguese. (2018, Mar 09). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/comparison-of-great-gatsby-and-sonnets-from-the-portuguese/