The novel "The Great Gatsby" by Scott Fitzgerald takes place in the 1920's; a time of rebellious behaviour and living life according to the American Dream. The women of this era are portrayed in two different lights in the novel: defiant and foolish. The play "A Doll's House" by Henrik Ibsen was first performed in 1879, and through the ch aracters of Nora and Torvald Helmer, it illustrates the subordinate and confining position of women in marriages of the late Nineteenth Century. Attitudes to marriage and relationships are reflected powerfully in these two pieces of work, where both protagonists, although they share some similarities, have extremely differing perceptions of what they want in life, which includes the different outlook each has on her marital relationship.
Both the 'Great Gatsby' and 'A Doll's House' put in to the rich collection of books that have marked the 1800-1900's, through their reflective theme's of society of the time, portrayed through interesting characters. Both pieces of work are modern in the sense of dealing with challenging issues for modern society. The women Daisy Buchanon and Nora Helmer have been specifically chosen, being the obedient and inferiorly treated possessions of their husbands, who mask their possible intellectual potential. Whilst Nora develops a dramatic character change throughout the book by realising her duties to herself, Daisy remains the same person she was at the beginning of 'The Great Gatsby'. In this essay, comparisons will be made concerning both Nora and Daisy's relationships with their husbands and children, as well as a deeper analysis into their personalities, uncovering their secret beliefs and motivations.
In Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby', each character is noteworthy when establishing the confusions and complexities of social relationships. It is considered a representation of the golden age of jazz and all of its extremes.The era of this story, the era ended in 1929 with the Wall St. Crash and the start of the Great Depression. The end of the Great War brought a period of peace and prosperity. Mass production allowed much wider access to new consumer goods, such as radios and cars. The women wore short hair (bobbed) and short dresses. In many Western countries they finally achieved the right to vote. A new feeling of freedom replaced former restrictions. The frenetic Charleston dance celebrated this spirit. Gatsby's parties demonstrated the extreme flamboyance of this era: wealth, opulence and decadence.
The novel begins with a verse quotation to introduce it; "Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her..." and this is suggesting that one must do all things possible to impress the woman whose love one seeks. The novel is narrated by Nick Carraway, he is a persona adopted by the author and as a narrator the readers can value his insights and feel that he will be a reliable informant. Through his eyes and experiences we meet other characters and learn of all the relationships included in the novel.
The chronology of the events of "The Great Gatsby" begins with the protagonist, Jay Gatsby, meeting and falling in love with a young Daisy while he is still a poor officer. When he is sent overseas, Daisy marries the very rich yet fierce Tom Buchanan.Fitzgerald gives the readers a significant impression of Tom through the use of many descriptive adjectives. The first time the readers are introduced to him he is in 'riding clothes' (pg 13) - this accentuates his muscularity, and his 'high boots' (pg 13) are an association with military authority, and the fact that he was standing with his 'legs apart' (pg 13) indicates a stance of confidence and power.
Daisy, who becomes Tom's wife, is also introduced to the readers in an imposing way. She is described as 'charming, passionate and witty' (pg 14) and the readers learn that she had a 'sad and lovely face' (pg 14). Fitzgerald shows her personality as 'appealing, attention seeking, seductive and captivating' in the sense that when she talks one enjoys being in her presence (pg 15). Tom and Daisy also have a three year old daughter. When the readers are introduced to these characters they also learn that the relationship between them is not a typical relationship that a married couple are expected to have.
To add, when Gatsby learns that Tom and Daisy got married, decides to pursue wealth endlessly until he is a self-made millionaire, as he knew that Daisy was very wealthy when he never was. Gatsby then moves to New York and buys a great mansion. He begins to host generous parties and he is hopeful that Daisy will appear. Nick Carraway, the narrator of the novel, lives next door to Gatsby and he is also Daisy's cousin. When Gatsby learns this, he befriends Nick trusting that this will lead him to see Daisy again, which eventually does happen. The relationship between Gatsby and Daisy then arises once again, which introduces the readers to one of the most prominent relationships in the novel.
Furthermore, the marital relationship between Daisy and Tom is a very unusual one due to the fact that Tom has a mistress in New York; Myrtle Wilson, who is also a married woman. The odd thing is Daisy's attitude towards this relationship; Daisy continues to stay with Tom despite her knowledge of his unfaithfulness, and this is the thrust of the novel. This also raises the central question, why does Daisy stay with Tom?
Additionally, when Nick goes to visit Tom and Daisy at the beginning of the novel, Daisy confides in Nick, she calls herself 'cynical', and this is reflected in her approach to life and relationships. She also tells Nick that she cried when her daughter was born, 'the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool', Daisy indicates that being a fool will protect a girl from the harsh truth of infidelity. Daisy cried when her daughter was born, sadness is ingrained in her life. The readers can appreciate that Daisy is not a fool because if she were she wouldn't be concerned about Tom's mistress, and Tom is not a caring husband because when his child was born he was not nearby. This goes to add to the bizarre fact that Daisy does not leave Tom, despite everything being wrong in their marriage.
Also, the relationship between Myrtle and Tom is one that is clearly driven by wealth. Myrtle was young when she married her husband George and she thought that he was a gentleman; she had little knowledge that he was a simple soul who had borrowed a suit for his wedding. She loves the sense of wealth from Tom that George could never provide, and she stays with Tom because of this, as well as the status, prestige and ego-flattery that he provides her with. When Tom slaps her and breaks her nose at the apartment he has provided her with, he proclaims his power and sense of authority because that is the type of man he is. This goes to show that this relationship offers Myrtle the wealth and status she would never be able to receive from George; only leading her to want it more from Tom.
To add, when Gatsby invites Nick out for lunch he introduces him to Meyer Wolfsheim, who was reputed to be a gambler who fixed the World Series in 1919.This illegal act linked Gatsby with a shady and less than reputable man. There is no proof that Gatsby was involved in this illegal act but there is a long-standing association between the men; this linkage soils Gatsby, which shows that the relationship the two men may have is not a decent one. The readers know that Gatsby originated as a poor deprived man, who suddenly, driven by his love for Daisy, became wealthy and owned much more then people knew he could afford. This goes to show that the origin of Gatsby's wealth may have come illegally and it is not guaranteed to stay with him forever.
Moreover, the play 'A Doll's House' is a clear interpretation of a character that goes through a great dynamic change only to find her true self and to remove the deceitful perception of herself in the eyes of others. Such a change leads the character to become fully aware of their life along with understand what an insincere life they have mistakenly led, and this character is known as Nora Helmer. At the beginning of the play, Nora is shown as a childish and naive housewife with a skill for spending money. This view is conveyed through the 'parent - child' dialogue she has with her husband (page 14) and his usual categorization of Nora as an 'expensive little person' (page 14) with a talent for melting his money in her hands. This evidently demonstrates Nora's relationship with her husband as being clearly similar to that of a spoiled child and his wealthy parents.
Also, through the character of Nora, Ibsen shows us that a woman is expected to be little more than a child in her own marriage, incapable of taking on serious issues, and useful only for her ability to amuse her husband. During the course of the play, as Ibsen takes the reader through the climax of Nora's controlled life, he shows how Nora develops into a wiser, more determined woman who learns to have her say. Nora's development is highlighted and guided with her growing courage, her direct attempts to become more equal with her husband, and her decision at the end of the play conveys Ibsen's idea that a woman has a duty to herself and that marriage is so confining that she can fulfil that duty only by leaving.
However, Nora learns this through the experiences she undergoes while she was treated more like Torvald's child then his wife. The fact that she does not recoil at Torvald's comparison of her to minor creatures, but rather she even links herself into his terminology by saying things such as "we skylarks and squirrels" just proves how blind Nora was towards her husbands' arrogance and superiority. A major theme of the play - deception, or the gap between appearance and reality - is introduced in the very first word, "Hide". Nora wants to hide the Christmas tree so that the children don't see it before it is decorated. The theme is developed throughout the play until it is realized that Nora's entire relationship with her husband is based on many layers of deception. Another strange deception in the play is the macaroons, which are symbolic to their relationship. Torvald forbids them while Nora enjoys them secretly, which just shows that Nora is capable of lies and deception. But the fact that Torvald forbids them because they will spoil Nora's teeth also adds to the way in which Nora has more of a father-daughter relationship with Torvald rather than a husband and wife relationship, because that is a strange instruction to be given to an adult.
The deceptive relationship between Torvald and Nora is contrasted with that between Dr Rank and Nora. With Dr Rank, Nora is able to be more truthful and drops the childish-flirtatious act she employs with Torvald, and she is able to have open conversations with him, which shows the audience a different side of Nora. The relationship she has with Dr Rank
In A Doll's House, Ibsen explores his interest in the role of women in society. He raises questions about how much a woman has to compromise her own wishes and aims in order to fit into society. Mrs Linde has had to give up her true love, Krogstad, and marry a man she did not love in order to gain the financial security she needed to look after her mother and brothers. Therefore, because she let the relationship with her loved one go in order to have the wealth she needed to look after her family, which shows that her life has been one of self-sacrifice rather than self-fulfilment.
Moreover, the relationship between Kristina Linde and Krogstad constitutes the sub-plot. It is of less importance of that of the Helmers, but serves as a contrast to aid the understanding of the audience of the relationship between the protagonists. Krogstad and Kristina find the mutual need, they are open and truthful, and they move towards emotional love.
Ibsen has used Krogstad to provide a device to bring the play to a climax. He has also provided a different male paradigm to that of Torvald, and when he had fulfilled these tasks, he takes no further part in the play. Krogstad does not hold a grudge; he is not vindictive and is prepared to request the return of his letter from Torvald. However Kristina makes the decisive decision of the play, she wants Torvald to find out the truth of Nora's secret; it was she who saved Torvald's life, she borrowed money and forged her father's signature without his consent.
Women began to take a step forward in society during the 1920's and the novel 'The Great Gatsby' explores these phenomena. As women in the novel start to detach themselves from the stereotypical proper and prim manner in society, there are new stereotypes created. In the novel, it is perfectly alright for women to drink and conduct themselves wildly at parties just as men do. They express their views much more, and begin to take control of their newly established place in society. Daisy, the common prim woman, was treated as in inferior for years in her relationship with Tom. She allowed herself to be degraded as her husband committed acts of infidelity. However, Daisy eventually liberates herself when she has an affair with Gatsby.
On the other hand, women also are portrayed as extremely foolish, and easily used by men. Myrtle is an excellent example of his, for Tom is using her. To Tom, Myrtle is a game. He uses her for fun, and never intends on having a substantial relationship with her. He goes to her when he pleases, and she will always be there waiting for him. Tom does not treat her with respect, yet she continually returns to his side, and this is due to the sense of wealth he provides her with.
Although Torvald may treat Nora extremely inferior to him, he had never hurt her and would never dream of being unfaithful to her, and this is a big contrast to Tom of 'The Great Gatsby'. Tom would answer the calls of his mistress at dinner time; indicating that he did not have an ounce of concern for Daisy's feelings whatsoever. On the other hand, Nora was Torvald's whole world, and he would not dream of hurting her. Therefore, when Daisy decides to stay with Tom while Nora decides to leave Torvald, the readers are left in a confused state. Daisy stays with Tom because despite everything they are from the same social status. Tom offered Daisy certainty of position, while Gatsby has an upstart, and there are suspicions about his money. Gatsby also has no reputation in the background of being socially acceptable. Daisy stays with the group of socially stable people, and even though Gatsby loves her, she finds her wealth and position in society more important.
Furthermore, Nora's ultimate decision of deciding to leave her husband and children may seem uncalled for, however she did have reasons which supported her decision. The relationship she shared with Torvald was that like a father-daughter relationship, it was dishonest as well as hypocritical. There was no love between them; she was Torvald's 'doll wife'. At the end of the play, Nora is aware of herself and the subordinate inferior position she held for so many years. She feels a strong sense of injustice, firstly by her father and the by her husband, and she accuses Torvald: 'It's your fault I've made nothing of my life'. When she states her intention 'I must educate myself' Torvald is concerned only about appearance; 'what will people day?' And then pathetically says 'I could change' followed by his plaintive suggestion 'couldn't we live here as brother and sister?' Both this ideas were dismissed out of hand by Nora.
In conclusion, the apparent irony that Nora leaves her husband even though he is not a bad man while, in contrast to this, Daisy stays with her husband even though he is extremely unfaithful supports the quote of Susan Brownell Anthony at the beginning of the essay,
"Marriage, to women as to men, must be a luxury, not a necessity; an incident of life. Not all of it."
This is because the attitude Daisy has towards her marriage is not based on infatuation or love; rather it is based on her status, both financial and social, and that is what she considers to be luxury. However, the attitude Nora has towards he marriage was initially based on what she thought was love, as she knew nothing more or less. However throughout the play she learns and develops into a woman able to make her own decisions; where her marriage becomes only an incident in her life where she ultimately found herself.
- Henrik Ibsen "A Doll's House" 1979, published by penguin books
- F. Scott Fitzgerald "The Great Gatsby" 1950, published by penguin books
- Thomas Parke D'Invilliers
- Fitzgerald S. "The Great Gatsby" page 13
- Fitzgerald S. "The Great Gatsby" page 14
- Fitzgerald S. "The Great Gatsby" page 15
- Fitzgerald S. "The Great Gatsby" page 22
- Ibsen H "A Doll's House" page 14
- Ibsen H "A Doll's House" page 151