Compare it has childish connotations (such as
Compare the way society is presented in The Great Gatsbyand A Handful of Dust, in the light of your wider reading and considering thecontext of the modernist period.The worlds in which The Great Gatsby (GG) by F.
ScottFitzgerald and A Handful of Dust (HOD) by E. Waugh are set present one ofskewed views where survival lies in stratification and reinforcing socialboundaries, putting faith into superficial and materialist means whilstneglecting to cultivate the compassion and sensitivity of the people aroundthem. Both being set within the period of 1920-1930, the worlds are immersed inthe post-war economic boom that put the ‘Roaring Twenties’ into motion.
However, both authors reveal a harsh image of the new modern world, showing thecharacters are so busy living in the moment they have lost touch with any sortof morality and realism and despite being unaware of the upcoming stock marketcrash of 1929, they both present a world heading for disaster. The infidelityof both Tom with Myrtle from the GG and Brenda with Mr. Beaver from HODreflects this moral corruption and class segregation within the society which influencestheir selfish behaviour.The fragmented social order in the GG has been split intoold money, new money and no money. The social elitists of the society, such asthe Buchannan’s and Jordan Baker portray a unified and perfect front, attendingglamorous parties whilst living in the lap of luxury inside vast mansions.
However, their superficiality blinds them from the true essence of themselvesand the people around them; rather, they live their lives with a sense ofsuperiority and naiveties above the rest of society, disguising how trulyunfulfilling their lives are. This shallowness is reflected in the guests of Gatsby’sgrand parties, they come and go without invitation, using Gatsby as a form ofescapism- drinking his alcohol, eating his food, dancing to his music withouteven meeting or knowing the host himself. The socialites in HOD also displaythe same lack of depth; “It was, transparently, a made-up party, theguests being chosen for no mutual bond—least of all affection for Mrs. Beaveror for each other—except that their names were in current use . . .
“(51),Waugh uses the word ‘made-up’ as it has childish connotations (such as that ofa ‘tea party’ or playing ‘dress up’, this humorously shows the level ofrealism, how there are no true relationships between the guests and how theyare all using one another to climb higher on the social ladder. Fitzgerald also uses the character Myrtle, from ‘TheValley of Ashes’ to show someone desperate move up the social order and will doanything to get there. By distancing herself from moral obligations she gets tolead the life she lusts right under her husband’s nose, “She smiled slowly and,walking through her husband as if he were a ghost, shook hands with Tom,looking him flush in the eye” which shows the true audacity of her character.Despite this showing her negatively, itmakes the reader feel a degree of sadness towards her as she feels she is not able to get the lifeshe desires despite working for it, but lack of hope and faith in herself resorts her to use people above her as a wayin. The Valley of Ashes shows the gap between the rich and poor, in Chapter Twowhen Tom takes Nick to New York when passing through it is described as ‘where ashes take the forms ofhouses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with transcendent effort, ofash-grey men, who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air'(26). The words ‘ash-grey men’ ‘dimly’ ‘crumbling’ ‘powdery’ workin conjunction portray a dark, industrial world deprived of light and hope, thedecaying souls are a world away from the aristocrats of East and West Egg. PreviouslyMyrtle’s husband was described as if he were a ‘ghost’ which also reinforcesthat this is a land of lost dreams .Moreover, ashes have connotations of deathand debris; showing a world that was once booming through the industrialrevolution has now burnt out and left nothing but smouldering ashes and lostsouls, in comparison to West and East egg, which appear to be a form of’heaven’, it appears hellish and unescapable.
The lack of religion is significant in both novels. Waughpurposely does not explicitly express his religious views, despite recentlyconverting to Roman Catholicism, whilst not alienating any readers allows himto portray the message that a world without religion is condemned and corruptedand without the guidance of God, is heading for demise. However, in HOD Tony isshown to go to church every Sunday, ‘That was the simple, mildly ceremoniousorder of his Sunday morning, which had evolved more or less spontaneously, fromthe more severe practices of his parents; he adhered to it with greatsatisfaction.’ (32) This reflects Tony’s traditional routine and sentimentalnature, holding onto the past and creating a basis of his own life off the ideaof his parents, not his own. Despite attending church being habitual and notdue to his beliefs, Tony is still shown as one of the morally adheringcharacters throughout the novel, unlike the London socialites. Several timeshis wife and her peers attempt to set him up in an adulterous affair, yetTony’s morals remain in line and he stays faithful to his wife of 7 years,Brenda. In GG, Fitzgerald does not explicitly reference religion either,however ‘the eyes of doctor T . J .
Eckleberg’ in the Valley of Ashes symbolisethe eyes of God watching over. This symbolism shows God is always watching overthese people who have lost all sight of faith and strayed so far away fromstandard religion that they will always hold accountable for their actions.Following WW1, due to advancements in science (predominantly Darwin andevolution), the once comforting traditional religious ideals of the past wasclashing with the exciting and modern ideas that were being born in the bigcities. Meaning ‘the modern faith’ emerged with its sole purpose being toaffirm human goodness and offer salvation after the apocalyptic war and thestruggle to accommodate modernity with traditional and reserved belief styles. Theyounger generation left behind what was morally ‘correct’ and started to go to Speakeasiesto drink illegal alcohol, girls bobbed their hair and wore short dresses andwent on dates without chaperones. This rebellion following the war was a way offorgetting and escaping their troubled pasts, lavishing in their new foundluxuries and leisure’s that were now accessible thanks to the invention of’credit’ which allowed them to buy new innovative technology. Waugh’s conscious decision to use 3rd person narrativecreates a detached point of view that entirely shifts the way that the readerinterprets and feel towards Brenda’s affair.
As the relationship develops, thereader’s sympathies are divided one of two ways. A straightforward reading ofthe novel portrays Brenda in a negatively, highlighted by the death of JohnAndrew, their son, where upon being told of John’s death, Brenda at firstthinks her lover has been killed and appears relieved that her son was thevictim. This reflects her moral corruption instilled in her and how she valuesthe superficial love of Mr. Beaver above her true love from both Tony and John.This may correspond to Waugh’s own view of adulterous affairs; his recentconversion to Roman Catholicism led to his novels carrying Christian and moralmessages, by disguising his strong oppositions to adultery in irony and humourhe was able to portray messages to his audience without alienating secularreaders. His bitterness towards infidelity was arguably provoked by hisshort-lived marriage to Evelyn Gardener in 1929; she left him followingconfessing to an affair earlier on in their marriage.
This justified Waugh’sapproach to shaming Brenda, his own negative experiences with corruption ofmorals within the modern world had skewed his views and the way he wished toportray them.On the other hand, Fitzgerald uses Nick Carraway as hisfirst person narrator, however he is not the main focus of the story making hima ‘peripheral narrator’, meaning he is forever on the outside looking in,mirroring him being an outsider amongst the aristocracy, he may attend partiesand dine alongside them, however is small house and lack of money means he willnever fit in with that rank of society. Fitzgerald uses him as he has access tothis society from an isolated and individual point of view without getting lostin their world. As it is coming from a personal account, it makes the narrationunreliable, the reader therefore has to decipher for themselves what they feelis true and what is not this mirrors the world in which the GG is set and theneed to draw the line between reality and illusion. At the beginning of thenovel Nick claims that “I’m inclined to reserve all judgements, a habitthat has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim ofnot a few veteran bores” (3), this statement is his attempt to portrayhimself as an honourable and honest man, setting his apart from his peers. Thischaracter trait allows him to almost be an ‘invisible’ narrator, alike a third-personomniscient point of view, despite this Fitzgerald still manages to adopt animplicit criticism through his narrator’s tone.
In Chapter 1, whist Nick is visiting the Buchannans andJordan Baker, “I love to see you at my table, Nick. You remind me of a –of arose. Doesn’t he?” She turned to Miss Baker for confirmation: “An absoluterose?” This was untrue.
I am not even faintly like a rose. She was onlyextemporizing, but a stirring of warmth flowed from her, as if her heart wastrying to come out to you concealed in one of those breathless, thrillingwords. Then suddenly she threw her napkin on the table and excused herself andwent into the house. “Nick may be aware of the absurdity of certain socialcircumstances, yet he’s also aware of the seductive quality of the upper class.The tension between the two characters results in a cynical undertone, “Untrue,”he says: “I am not even faintly like a rose.” Yet, he is making a mockery ofhimself by being taken in by it; he is absorbing and responding to Daisy’swords, marvelling in the attention and her mysterious allure, seeing it as’thrilling’.
Nick and his narration-half way through chapter 1,shows Tom having an affair yet is shamelessly bold in his refusal to cover itupNo American dream- power,justice, greed, betrayalAssured and skewed views,survival lies in stratification and reinforcing social boundaries, mistakenlyputting faith into superficial and external means (money, materialism) whilstneglecting to cultivate the compassion and sensitivity of people.Jay Gatsby is the embodiment ofillusion within the novel; he isn’t even a real person, it is revealed his trueidentity as ‘James Gatz’. ‘Gatz’ invented Jay Gatsby as he wanted a newidentity to reflect his new life style. ‘Gatz’, his hidden identity was broughtup in an impoverished family, however achieved his level of wealth by participatingin organized crime such as distributing illegal alcohol and trading in stolensecurities. However this name and ‘identity’ no longer fitted in with his newfound lifestyle and therefore he completely re-invented himself. Furthermore,Fitzgerald delays the introduction to Gatsby till chapter 3. This technique ofdelaying the character revelation emphasises the theatrical quality to Gatsby’slife.
It shows that despite beingsurrounded by spectacular interiors, roaring parties and beautiful womenhowever he appears aloof and enigmatic, highlighting how surrounding himself in wealth and power is not enoughto fulfil him. Brenda, despite choosing Mr.Beaver over her own husband, is never fully accepted into the circle- shown atend of novel when she is out casted from society-Beaver’s superficial and socialclimbing Love and affairsNick and Jordan Baker – Nickbegan to realise how the fast and extravagant lifestyle of the rich was only tocover up the disturbing moral emptiness among them. -he learnt Jordan, who he hadfeelings for, was dishonest and would do anything to ensure her success ‘Jordan Baker instinctivelyavoided clever, shrewd men, and now I saw that this was because she felt saferon a plane where any divergence from a code would be thought to be impossible.She was incurably dishonest. She wasn’t able to endure being at a disadvantage'(58)Upon first glance Tom andDaisy’s house looks perfect, Tom’s affair.’Is something happening?’ Iinquired innocently.
‘You mean to say you don’t know?’ said Miss Baker,honestly surprised. ‘I thought everybody knew.’ (20)Brenda, despite being married 7years is bored by Tony’s pomposity and belief is tradition social order.-The failure of Waugh’s marriageand his newly found conversion to Roman Catholicism could have been a drivingpoint for the novel. Immoral valuesTom choses to sleep with lowerclass as their powerlessness makes him feel powerful- uses them as toysLost touch w/ morality- breakinglaws, cheating, [email protected] blatant immorality- Daisy running down Myrtle After hitting Myrtle with Jay’scar, Daisy and Tom conspired a plan in order to avoid the responsibility andbacklash from their actions’Daisy and Tom were sittingopposite each other at the kitchen table…There was an unmistakable air ofnatural intimacy about the picture andanybody would have said they were conspiring together’ (138)Despite Daisy’s ‘love’ forGatsby she allowed him to take the blame- Daisy chose the American Dream overher moral conscience Gatsby is killed and lack ofmourners @ his funeral.Mrs. Beaver – Thehouse fire- she only cares for her own class and business+Husbands heartbreak-the selfishness ofhumankind Conclusion’They’re a rotten crowd,’ Ishouted across the lawn.
‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together’ (146)-Jay Gatsby’s hunger for theAmerican dream proves even the good-natured become corrupted by their desirefor money and power.’You will notcertainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. For God knows that when you eatfrom it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good andevil’ (New International Bible, Genesis 3:4-5)Shows thattemptation and immorality has been around since the beginning of time presentlythe lust for power and authority is exceedingly evident. In both the GreatGatsby buy F. Scott Fitzgerald and A Handful of Dust by E. Waugh, natural humantemptation and green is the foundation for moral decline in society alongsidewealth and supremacy.-