‘A deeper understanding of aspirations and identity emerges from considering the parallels between the Great Gatsby and Browning’s poetry’. Compare how these texts explore aspirations and identity? Both the texts ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald and ‘Sonnets from the Portuguese’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning explore the ideas of aspirations and identity developing a deeper understanding of the texts. Both texts share these ideas through the characters and the values of idealism and hope, and personal voice and identity.
Although the two texts are separated in time and context, they both reflect the world of the text and composer. ‘Sonnets from the Portuguese’ was written during the 19th Century in the period known as the Victorian era. This was a period where the role of women was very limited and their position was within the home. This era is commonly associated with a society that was staid and conservative. The sequence appropriates the male voice and shifts it to a feminine voice, communicating the love story between Elizabeth and Robert Browning.
The poems are intensely personal, exploring the power of love, the absence of love and making sense of the turbulent emotions involved with love. Browning’s sonnets emphasize a type of idealized love, one that she hopes and dreams of. A love that is not ordinary, that is not based on physical appearance or on a feeling of pity or concern but for “loves sake only…… through loves eternity” (Sonnet 14). This personified statement of which she repeats continually throughout the sonnet emphasizes her demands which seem extremely idealistic and hard to meet.
The sonnets explore the idea that she has never experienced love, and has only read about it, hence the discussion of Theocritus and “the antique tongue” in Sonnet 1, specifically love in its idealistic and dreamt state. This demonstrates how this text explores the idea of aspirations. Browning continues through her sonnets to attempt to explain what type of love she hopes and dreams for. Her hope of ideal love is something that can fulfill her completely, it is so special to her that it can hardly be repeated “O love, thy words have ill availed If, what this said, I dared epeat at last” (Sonnet 28). She continues to list her idealized love in Sonnets 43 and 14, stating that love should be pure as men “turn from praise”, a love which people endure because it is right and correct. She again through imagery demands the purity of genuine love that can grow through time and endure “on, through loves eternity”. This clearly explores the idea of aspirations, hope and idealism within the sonnet sequence. The Sonnet sequence also involves the idea of identity with Barrett Browning coming to terms with her emerging sexuality and realisation of love.
The sequence was written by Barrett Browning thus providing a personal voice to the sonnets allowing a portrayal of the sequence of events of her personal identity and expression of love. Throughout the sonnet sequence Browning develops a stronger sense and realisation of her love for Robert, hence shaping her identity. By sonnet 43 a series of elements introduced by the simple phrase “I love thee” where the repetition intensifies the affirmation, she declares that her love is free and pure and possesses passion.
Most importantly Browning now holds a sense of identity as she has achieved her idealized type of love. ‘The Great Gatsby’ was written in the early 20th Century during the period known as the ‘Roaring Twenties’ or ‘the Jazz age’. It was a time where money was spent extravagantly on having a good time, but more commonly it was a period of social upheaval, a time of changing values when the roles that people had played for so many years were simply abandoned. The character Gatsby’s’ cars, lavish parties, reckless conduct and carelessness is all part of this atmosphere of enjoyment in the context of the 1920’s.
Like Browning, Gatsby also shares similar aspirations, also longing for an ideal type of love that is not ordinary. But Gatsby’s idea of love is simply to recreate the past that he had with Daisy, whereas Browning explains the type of love she demands at length. Nick, the narrator describes Gatsby as a “dreamer”, a man who believes in the love he creates in his imagination an ideal world with his ideal woman Daisy, and then attempts to live out the fantasy in reality. His love for Daisy is pure but obsessive, primarily based on the relationship that he had with her 5 years ago “committing imself to the following of a grail”. Nick the narrator states that “Daisy vanished into her rich house, into her rich, full life, leaving Gatsby—nothing. He felt married to her that was all. ” Nick seems to be implying that Daisy appears to be incapable of possessing real love. She contributes nothing to the relationship and will always return to Tom her husband, despite Gatsby’s greater, genuine love for her. Gatsby’s relationship with daisy does not ever really start and in the end he meets a violent death because of his hope. This clearly explores the idea of aspirations in the text.
Like Browning’s sonnets, The Great Gatsby also involves the idea of identity, through the characters Gatsby and Daisy, but more as an illusion and unrealistic. This idea of a missing identity is evident in Chapter 1 when Nick describes Gatsby’s mansion being only a replica of a real castle “it was a factual imitation of some hotel de ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a think beard of raw ivy”. Gatsby tries to give the impression that his wealth is inherited but in reality everything about Gatsby is an illusion. Similar to Gatsby is Daisy. Nick writes “her face was sad and lonely”.
Her happiness is an illusion. For all her wealth and comfort, true love is still missing. Both Gatsby and Daisy are literally missing an identity, living an illusion. This text clearly explores the ideas of both aspirations and identity in similar context to Barrett Browning’s sonnets. Both ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald and ‘Sonnets from the Portuguese” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning share and explore ideas of aspirations and identity. Their comparison of context, characters and themes provides a deeper understanding of the ideas represented in the two texts. Word count: 1054
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