As for the matter of time, almost a century separates F. Scott Fitzgerald (“the Roaring Twenties” of the XX century in the USA) and Elizabeth Browning (middle of the XIX century, England). But that does not really matter, because in both Fitzgerald’s novel and Browning’s sonnets the main theme is the theme of love.
In the times of Fitzgerald the USA’s society was like a boiling cauldron. The First World War had just ended and though America did not suffer of it as much, as Russia, there appeared a new special generation of people. These were the veterans of this war, affected by its horrors. They decided, that only “living for today” (Larson, Creason 492) is worthy of attention. They wanted to get as much pleasure from life as they could, often with disregard for their future. Although their number was not so large, many Americans were affected by their beliefs. Many women were also caught in the turbulence and turned to be “flappers” (492) – women, who enjoyed shocking their parents with wearing short skirts, drinking and smoking in public. All this led to moral degradation and ridicule of Christianity. Although Fitzgerald pictured one of main characters of “The Great Gatsby”, Nick Carraway, to be a thirty year-old bachelor of quite strict moral code (by his own words: “I have been drunk just twice in my lifeâ€¦” (Fitzgerald)), the author by himself was a vivid representative of “living for today’s” style of life, he ventured to uncover the sins of that-time society in his novel.
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Along with the moral decline and the hunt for pleasures came a lust for luxury and wealth of all sorts. This obsession led many young girls to marry men they did not love at all, just for the sake of personal profit. The vivid example of such a marriage is Daisy and Tom Buchanan. She – an attractive, but shallow young woman (“I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little foolâ€¦I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.” Her eyes flashed around her in a defiant way, rather like Tom’s, and she laughed with thrilling scorn. “Sophisticated – God, I’m sophisticated!” (Fitzgerald)), and he – a hereditary millionaire, rude (by words of his wife: “That’s what I get for marrying a brute of a man, a great big hulking physical specimen of aâ€¦” (Fitzgerald)) and holding racist beliefs (Tom: “It’s up to us who are the dominant race to watch out or these other races will have control of things” (Fitzgerald)).
It is the gain for material profits of the young men of ‘the lost generation” (Larson, Creason 492) that brings these two together. And because of the growing prosperity in society Nick finds himself jammed between two millionaires – Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby. But nothing can last forever, and more so prosperity.
And sadly, even Love is not stronger than this obsession for money in some people. That is the ultimate truth, which Jay Gatsby had learned. He was fervently obsessed with Daisy Buchanan, ever since he was a young man. But at that time he was an officer in the army and had no money to afford to marry her, so it seems that it was the only reason why she married Tom. Jay Gatsby (the name James Gatz had invented for himself when he was a lad of 17 years old) was a son of a family of farmers, which he never regarded as his own parents. Some time after that he met a man, Dan Cody, an owner of silver mines, whose trusted companion he had become for five years. But after Cody’s sudden death he did not get a cent out of his vast legacy. So, he turned to bootlegging.
But he was so mysterious a figure and nobody knew for sure what he was doing to earn himself such a magnificent living. In fact, nobody really cared as long as he had the money and continued to invite local nobility to his “little parties”. That’s why the truth was brought to light only in the end. Tom, envious for Gatsby’s love for Daisy, reveals to her the truth about his past. And though Gatsby tries to defend himself, Daisy declined him, because she was brought up in a rich family and she could not imagine herself living without luxury. For it is said in the text; “For Daisy was young and her artificial world was redolent of orchids and pleasant, cheerful snobbery and orchestras which set the rhythm of the year, summing up the sadness and suggestiveness of life in new tunes” (Fitzgerald). But against that we can ask in Oscar Wilde’s words – “Who, being loved, is poor?”
On the contrary, the feelings which are shown in Browning’s “Sonnets from the Portuguese” are natural and sincere, and by no means related with the gain of profit. These sonnets were written as a tribute to her love for her husband, Robert Browning and they are as much love-letters as they are poems. In her Sonnet XXVII she clearly states:
That Love, as strong as Death, retrieves as well. (Browning)
And in her Sonnet I, Elizabeth Browning mentions “a mystic shape” which drew her backwards by the hair, –
And a voice said in mastery, while I strove, –
Guess now who holds thee? – Death, I said, But, there,
The silver answer rang,–Not Death, but Love. (Browning)
Love, in her opinion, is “a gift for mortals”, a blessing from the almighty gods. This love, the True Love, Love Eternal, must “be for nought”, because any love that is attached to some sensibilia is a subject for alteration, that those very features can change or disappear in time. True Love is a heavenly feeling, which lies in no worldly matters. It is something that makes you want to fly.
My dear Beloved, who hast lifted me
From this drear flat of earth where I was thrown,
And, in betwixt the languid ringlets, blown
A life-breath, till the forehead hopefully
Shines out again, as all the angels see,
Before thy saving kiss! My own, my own,
Who camest to me when the world was gone,
And I who looked for only God, found thee!
I find thee; I am safe, and strong, and glad. (Browning)
It is a feeling which tolerates no regrets and reproach. To love somebody forever is a solemn oath, and must not be treated lightly. As one Frederick Saunders writes:
My heart to you is given:
Oh, do give yours to me;
We’ll lock them up together,
And throw away the key.
As for myself, I can only add: And let it stay that way forever.
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