Love in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Bronte’s Wuthering Heights – Comparison Essay

A Comparison of Love in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Bronte’s Wuthering Heights

The mysterious nature of love has proved a source of intrigue for millennia. As a theme, it features in almost all legendary masterpieces ever produced. Rulers have waged wars in the name of love while others struggled to understand it as the bane of their existence. It is an inescapable fact of life, even when its strong effects are already known. Love can either be the source of joy in one’s life or the cause of a wretched existence, a duality that still baffles humanity. Even though love presents a risk, many always opt to embrace it hoping that what they find on the other side was worth their giant leap of faith. More often than not, individuals fall in love and live a harmonious life with their better half, but there are moments when a romantic affection between two individuals might cave in spelling doom. Authors F. Scott Fitzgerald and Emily Bronte share these same sentiments, even though they lived during different epochs. Romantic love and the turmoil it is capable of causing is a theme that has been widely explored in their literary works. These authors play a vital role in relating stories where love turns sour or unrequited. Fitzgerald and Bronte seem well aware of the fact that the intricacies that come with love prove a hard topic to broach in modern society. Most people would readily choose to ignore the pain, heartache and the possibility of it as a complicated abstract entity and decide to pursue it wholeheartedly. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Bronte’s Wuthering Heights are indeed perfect for analysis of love since they are littered with tales of love and the struggles to find a partner who fits the bill.  The purpose of this essay is to provide an in-depth comparison of love from both texts while exploring the use of language, form, and structure.

In both texts, the authors primarily focus on romantic love to develop their plots. Firstly, The Great Gatsby is purely centered on romantic love, and it is this particular aspect that allows Fitzgerald to build his story.  Jay Gatsby is a representation of the power of love, and the length people may go to actualize their dreams. From the text, it is clear that Gatsby is a mysterious individual.  He lives a reclusive life, and none of his neighbors even get to see him. People are aware that he is a man of considerable means through his ability to hold large parties inviting the who’s who in society. His guests never get to see him but are aware of their host’s opulence from how he chooses to entertain them. The truth behind these parties is somewhat surprising. Nick Carraway’s technique of vivid description of the occurrences reveals the primary reason why these parties were held. It turns out that Gatsby had a romantic encounter with Daisy Fay Buchanan, who was Nick’s second cousin and had gone great lengths to craft a plan meant to catch her eye. A symbolic gesture of his dedication to pursuing her was a clear indication of how strongly he felt about her. Similarly, Bronte writes of the mysterious life led by one Heathcliff who, from the beginning, appears a central figure in the tale. It is now clear where precisely in Liverpool it was where he came from and whether or not he was Edgar’s son, but what was clear was he loved Catherine deeply. He viewed her as more a soul mate and was ready to do anything to ensure that she was well and taken care of: “She was much too fond of Heathcliff. The greatest punishment we could invent for her was to keep her separate from him: yet she got chided more than any of us on his account” (Brontë, Kiefer, & Miller, 2013).  All he wanted was to be near her as evident after her death when he begged her ghost to stay behind by his side, even if it meant haunting him for the rest of his life.

Money, wealth and social status feature prominently Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and are a driving force of the love that follows.  Love in both books is characterized by intense feelings of longing to change one’s present circumstance for posterity. Gatsby is genuinely in love with Daisy Buchanan but is apprehensive about their relationship. He is an ordinary commoner during their first encounter and later on loses her to Thomas Buchanan. Winning her back becomes an obsession. He ultimately decides to work hard and amass wealth that would be instrumental in wooing the one who got away. Although his primary source of income remains enigmatic, a revelation by Nick’s first-person narrative reveals that he was deeply involved in the bootleg business. The setting is the Prohibition Era during one of the most tumultuous periods in American history. Operations by the Federal Government targeting distilleries and their supposed financiers was at an all-time high with the aim of cracking the whip on a product that was viewed as a threat to morality. Gatsby, therefore, takes great risks to acquire money, wealth and the social status that he thought necessary if we were to ever have Daisy Buchanan as his lover again. On the other hand, Heathcliff’s decision to seek wealth was solely motivated by his feelings towards Catherine. He had been openly castigated by those around him and looked down since he was an orphan who has been merely adopted by the family’s patriarch. Worse still, he had continuously been tormented by his brother Hindley for being their father’s favorite and for his close relationship with Catherine. Making himself rich was part of his scheme of presenting himself as someone worth Catherine’s love, in addition to enabling him to carry out his plan for revenge against his estranged brother.

The element of time is used in the play as a way of elucidating how people from different eras understood love.    As a modernist writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald pays attention to his mode of presentation to produce a sophisticated narrative technique. All events taking place in the novel are told from Nick’s account to fulfill his slightly eccentric literary ambition. The use of direct speech is purposefully utilized by the writer to enable readers to feel present in the moment and develop and relate to the emotional nature of the story. Fitzgerald invites us to his characters unique world to allow readers to comprehend the level of emotion that was involved between the two central characters. The story is set during the Roaring 20’s when the American society was at its peak of success. It had just emerged victorious in the Great War, with most of its citizens developing a renewed nationalistic fever. Alongside this success was the prosperity that many would now enjoy that would ultimately transform the meaning of love. Overindulgence in vanity was a common aspect of life during this era. Thomas Buchanan and his mistress Myrtle represent experience for those who lived during their era. Love was connected to this messy and modernized construct that was in vogue among the populace. Conversely, Wuthering Heights is set during the Gothic period when traditional conventions that applied in love were commonplace. One of the best examples of these practices is seen in matchmaking done by families for social mobility. Heathcliff’s love for her has no bounds. It is the society that they find themselves in which is the problem considering the culture that the two grow up in. Cathy goes ahead and accepts the match made between her and Edgar, even while being aware of his feelings and how her actions would ultimately degrade her soul mate (Brontë, Kiefer, & Miller, 2013). She is therefore caught in her society’s definition of love and adopts an egocentric demeanor that ignores Heathcliff’s emotions and the love that he professed for her.

Subplots feature significantly in both novels and are aimed at expanding the scope of the love stories being related. They appear as slight deviations from the primary characters but are instrumental in developing a deeper understanding of how love is presented in the text. In The Great Gatsby, the subplot comes in the form of Nick and Jordan’s romance which is wrought with the complexities that are all too common in love. Nick is in love with Jordan right from their first encounter. He is determined to make this reality known to Jordan so that they ultimately end up together. Jordan, on the other hand, decides to completely ignore him the first time they come across each other. She even avoids looking him directly in the eyes as a sign of her lack of interest in him. Even with this seemingly subtle rejection, Nick admirers her much and cannot stop thinking about her. He idolizes, and the situation worsens when he finds out that her fame precedes her in reputable circles and falls with her even more deeply. As a golf champion, she courts fame and Nick is soon extremely proud of her and views her as a perfect match for him: “But I am slow-thinking and full of interior rules that act as brakes on my desires, and I knew that first I had to get myself definitely out of that tangle back home. I’d been writing letters once a week and signing them: “Love, Nick,” and all I could think of was how, when that certain girl played tennis, a faint mustache of perspiration appeared on her upper lip” (Fitzgerald & Gyllenhaal, 2014, p.169). Although this all, it is nonetheless clear that his love is unrequited since she is uninterested in his advances. Similarly, Isabella and Heathcliff’s tale reads more like a subplot of the main story. To Isabella, Heathcliff is nothing more than an “honorable soul” and a force for good around the neighborhood. However, Catherine is of a different opinion and believes that he is a danger to her as a so-called “unreclaimed creature” and might harm her in the long haul. Further ahead, these sentiments are proved when evidence provided reveals that the two were in a toxic relationship that would destroy them both at the end.

Fitzgerald presents love as an unstable entity that cannot be contained. Almost all characters in the novel are in pursuit of love, and not just any love, but true love.  Nonetheless, love is confusing for those who find themselves in such positions with Gatsby’s relationship with those around him taking center stage. All connections that he engages in are either unstable or unhealthy. Fitzgerald’s depiction of love is centered on its violent nature coupled with the power dynamics where each of the individuals involves seeks to gain control of their partner.  Tom and Buchanan’s relationship serves as an example of unstable nature of love in relationships. The couple was genuinely in love during their marriage, which is shocking considering the chaos that soon follows. Tom cheats on her shortly after completing their honeymoon which is then closely followed by a string of extramarital affairs: “It made me uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick of some sort to exact a contributory emotion from me. I waited, and sure enough, in a moment she looked at me with an absolute smirk on her lovely face as if she had asserted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged.”  (Fitzgerald & Gyllenhaal, 2014, p.120). George and Myrtle are in a similar position, trying to hold on to a fractured relationship that seems doomed from the beginning. In Wuthering Height, love function more like a religion that is meant to protect all those who profess it from any form of annihilation.  Heathcliff feels strongly for Catherine and wants to have her in her life. In essence, she is his soul mate, which is why he strives to prove his dedication to her. Heathcliff’s love is an addiction and is the bane of his life.

In finality, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Bronte’s Wuthering Heights are both constructed around romantic figures. They paint a picture of the complexities inherent in love and the struggles to find a perfect match. Love is an elusive reality harnessed to aid the authors in developing characters and novel’s plot.

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