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The Desire In The Great Gatsby And Great Expectations

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The obsessive nature of desire is explored within both ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘Great Expectations’ with Fitzgerald and Dickens portraying this desire through: wealth, love and also self-advancement, within their novels. These concepts are devised throughout both novels in different ways. In ‘The Great Gatsby’, Gatsby desires to be wealthier than Tom Buchanan to gain the love of Daisy Buchanan and Fitzgerald uses his mansion to exemplify this. Similarly, in ‘Great Expectations’ the main protagonist Pip desires to be rich when he first sees Satis house and longs to be as wealthy as the upper class of the period. Love is also strongly portrayed through Gatsby’s obsessive need for wanting Daisy. However this ‘love’ is rarely depicted as healthy or stable but rather an overpowering desire to put right the past. Akin to this, Pip is driven by his desire to be worthy of Estella’s love. Lastly the self-advancement of Gatsby shows a strong correlation to the American dream and becoming the wealthiest man of Long island. As well as this, Pip’s desire for self-improvement is to please Estella by becoming a gentleman of the upper-class to be able to meet the standards of the typical gentleman of Victorian society.

In both ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘Great Expectations’, Fitzgerald and Dickens similarly explore how Gatsby and Pip have the desire of being wealthy. Fitzgerald depicts Daisy as her voice being “full of money”, and in this way she becomes almost a symbol of wealth to Gatsby, rather than a real woman. As well as justifying that Gatsby’s desire to be wealthy is an attempt to become wealthier than tom Buchanan so that he can please Daisy, and Fetterley argues that ‘he who possesses Daisy Fay is the most powerful boy’, suggesting that Gatsby may just be pursuing this desire of wealth to prove to Daisy that he is the more superior man. It is also evident that, within the 1920’s American society, it was important for people to know where your wealth came from, and whether it was legitimate. Daisy’s wealth comes from her family and the hard work of her husband’s, whereas Gatsby’s wealth isn’t at all legitimate, as we learn when Gatsby replies to Nick about his business with ‘that’s my affair’. By Fitzgerald embodying Daisy as a character so perfect, he is in fact revealing to the reader that Jay Gatsby’s wealth has not been achieved through honest and legal work, further accentuated by his devious nature and the way that he tries to deceive Nick about his wealth. Although Fitzgerald may portray Daisy as the most perfect 1920’s woman, it is apparent that the wealth of Daisy has left her a very corrupt and careless woman, Nick says she ‘smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back to their money or their vast carelessness’. Which provides the reader with an interpretation of Daisy Buchanan and many other 1920’s American women being extremely materialistic, and dependent on the wealth and luxury that their husbands yield to them.

In chapter 22 of ‘Great Expectations’, Pip says: “I wonder he didn’t marry her and get all the property”, when he cannot understand why Compeyson would turn down the opportunity of marriage and wealth, exemplifying that he feels the only things that you need in life to be successful are marriage and wealth, wealth connoted by ‘property’, which was largely associated with status in the Victorian society. As well as this, Pip believes that money can buy him acceptance from the society around him, however he is wrong. Alike to Gatsby, Pip is presented as a character with changed attitudes in ‘Great Expectations’ once he has encountered wealth in London, he says that Hebert Pocket “had grand ideas of wealth” and that he “would never be successful or rich”. Now that Pip had achieved his desire for wealth, supposedly from the kind-hearted actions of Miss Havisham, he portrays himself as somebody obsessed with the nature of status and wealth within Victorian society. Once Pip has the wealth he has been dreaming of, it seems to the reader that he thinks that he can judge everyone’s social status and their wealth against his own.

Dickens makes use of settings and imagery to portray Pip’s desire of wealth to impress Estella within his novel, but to also exemplify how wealth can destroy a person. Pip used to watch the ships on the marshes that transported the convicts, which can be inferred as an important metaphor for the motivation for Pip’s desire of wealth and this isn’t to please anyone else but himself, but he soon realises that wealth isn’t all that it seems which makes Pip different to Jay Gatsby: “I began fully to know how wrecked I was, and how the ship in which I had sailed was gone to pieces”. The ships on the marshes became to Pip a symbol of failure which motivates Pip’s desire for being wealthy, but once he finds this wealth Pip realises that social status is not always the concept that defines success within society, and reveals to the reader that Pip’s dreams didn’t result in his happiness. The connotations of ‘Wrecked’ and ‘pieces’ suggest that the hopes that Pip thought that wealth would bring for him have just shattered before him and made his life more dismal than it was before. Pip doesn’t retrieve Estella by the end of the novel, and she says in the ending: “tell me we are friends”, effectively implying that marrying Estella was a false desire for Pip right from the very beginning of the novel, however the reader does expect a spontaneous marriage or even a happily ever after for the pair. Victoria Leslie suggests that “(Dickens’) decision to subvert so many fairy-tale conventions suggests that there is no place for them in the Victorian world”, implying that Pip and Estella might have been used to portray views about a loss of desire and hope within Victorian society. Also this could have been intended to exemplify that his desire for wealth would shatter before his eyes along with the destruction of Satis house. Pip had fantasised about the wealth and superiority of the rotting and decaying house, and after its burning at the end of the novel he feels somewhat remorseful: “I could trace out where every part of the old house had been”. It becomes evident to the reader that the destruction of something so desirable to Pip, results in the destruction of all the wealth that he had dreamt of.

The settings and imagery of properties has also been used in both ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘Great Expectations’ to define the protagonist’s desire for wealth, for example Gatsby’s mansion and Satis house’s influence on Pip. The parties that Gatsby holds at his opulent mansion are very much a representation of his wealth: “he had waited five years and bought a mansion where he dispensed starlight to casual moths”. Which provides an interpretation of Gatsby using this mansion as a way of drawing attention to himself, by always keeping it lit up, in an attempt of desiring Daisy’s curiosity towards these parties. As well as this, his excessively large ‘mansion’ connotes impressive wealth, implying that these are solely owned by the rich, giving Fitzgerald an opportunity to reflect his thoughts and views about 1920’s America. However, it is evident within the novel that not many people know Gatsby or in fact who he is, suggesting that Gatsby’s parties and wealth provide a fascade of the character that he is. The fact that it is also emphasised that these people who attend are just ‘casual moths’, implies that the only person that he wants to attend these parties is Daisy, and instead people just casually come and go as they please to absorb the wealth and beauty of Gatsby’s parties. The fact that Gatsby’s wealth has been used to attract Daisy, is confirmed by Dr Anna Wulick as she says ‘he set out to earn enough money to win Daisy over, turning to crime’, hinting towards the illegitimate mass of wealth that Gatsby had occupied. The semantic field of opulence and luxury depicted throughout the novel of Gatsby’s parties, acts as a representation of Gatsby’s wealth with, ‘glistening hors d’oeuvre’ and ‘harlequin designs’ and ‘turkeys bewitched to a dark gold’. Successfully strengthening the theme of desire presented within the novel, by exemplifying Nick’s first experience of Gatsby’s parties from a sensuous aspect, in a way of glorifying the lavish and luxurious lifestyle of Jay Gatsby.

Similarly to this, Pip’s desire for wealth is defined by a property, and in ‘Great Expectations’ this is exemplified through Satis house: “The strange house and the strange life appeared to have something to do with everything that was picturesque”. The ‘strangeness’ of Satis house seems to entice Pip’s desire of wealth, although for much of the novel, it is described as ‘rotting’ or ‘decaying’. Both Satis house and Miss Havisham have influenced Pip’s desire of being a wealthy Victorian gentleman, and the fact that Pip juxtaposes this ‘rot’ and ‘decay’ of the house with it being ‘picturesque’, suggests that Pip aspires to have these possessions, although Satis house is a representation of disappointments and unfulfilled dreams, Pip is more compelled by the house’s mystery and beauty. Which further accentuates the alienation of Pip’s social class from the rich and suggests that he has an uneducated desire for wealth. Satis house is in great comparison to Gatsby’s mansions in the fact that the opulence of Gatsby’s mansion, is far from evident at Satis house with it being unkept and overgrown. The semantic field of decay lingers throughout the novel with the house having ‘many iron bars’ and the ‘passages were all dark’, to create a gothic setting for Satis house and depict this almost as a prison which holds the downhearted memories of Miss Havisham. Satis house successfully acts as a symbol of wealth within the novel yet also disappointment and regret, and so his desire for this wealth helps him to look beyond the ‘rotting’ of the house, and instead he is naïve towards the ‘decaying’ of the house and chooses to accept it for its substantial wealth within Victorian society. The disappointment and regret felt by Miss Havisham, evinces that money cannot make you happy further accentuating Pip’s uneducated attitude towards wealth.

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Fitzgerald and Dickens have both similarly made use of fairy-tale conventions within each of their novels to exemplify the desire and passion that the two main protagonists have for gaining the love of each of their female interests. Gatsby presents Daisy as the embodiment of a quintessential 1920’s American woman, but it is eventually revealed to the reader that Daisy is not what they assume: “High in a white palace the King’s daughter, the golden girl”. Daisy is repeatedly depicted as the ‘golden girl’ by Fitzgerald throughout the novel, which entails the supremacy and royalty that Daisy demands, prevailing Gatsby’s desire to have her, with ‘palace’ and ‘golden’ creating almost fairy-tale imagery, to imply that Gatsby deems Daisy as an almost enchanted woman. As well as this, the use of fairy-tale conventions effectively promotes Jay Gatsby as somewhat of a hero, rescuing Daisy from her authoritative husband although it is clear to the reader that she does not actually want to be rescued by Gatsby, and is rather disinterested in his ‘fantasy’ of re-writing the past. Andrew Green defines Gatby’s desire of re-writing the past as Gatsby being ‘Unable to escape from the idealised memories of his past with Daisy, he finds himself trapped within an uncertain and deeply unsatisfactory present’, which further emphasises the fact that Fitzgerald is using fairy-tale conventions to undermine the realism of love within 1920’s America.

Similarly, to ‘The Great Gatsby’, Pip describes Estella in a likewise manner in Chapter 29 of ‘Great Expectations’: ‘Marry the princess’, ‘princess’ holds underlying connotations of royalty and fortune which suggests the prominence of Pip’s unrequited love for Estella. Dickens has also used the same approach, of fairy-tale conventions, as Fitzgerald in identifying Estella as another archetypal woman, but within the Victorian society: ‘princess’ connoting beauty. This fairy-tale imagery of the ‘princess’ being locked away in Satis house by Miss Havisham, could exemplify to a modern-day reader a parallel between the story of Rapunzel, and the evil stepmother keeping her locked away in a tower. Pip’s description of Miss Havisham being a ‘wax-work’ and a ‘skeleton’, enforces upon the reader an idea of her having the character of almost the wicked witch of this fairy-tale convention, rather than fairy godmother that Pip assumes her to be. Victoria Leslie further supports this point by insisting that Miss Havisham ‘delights in watching Estella’s cruelty towards Pip’ and that ‘she doesn’t teach Estella to love in return’. Which successfully suggests that Miss Havisham has created Estella to be cold-hearted based on her own resentment, and makes the reader feel somewhat sympathetic towards Estella’s unfortunate childhood. As well as this, there could be underlying tones of self-pleasure, alike to Gatsby, when Pip is satisfied with his ‘princess’ he has reached his goal of social status in society and no longer sees his desire for Estella as a necessity, because he now has ‘everything’ that a man needs in life.

The symbol of the Green light within ‘The Great Gatsby’, is significant in contributing to the presence of Gatsby’s desire for Daisy, because to Gatsby the Green light represents his dream which-is in fact Daisy. In some ways however, this could come across to the reader as obsessive: “If it wasn’t for the mist, we could see your home across the bay”. Fitzgerald has effectively used the ‘mist’, to create a barrier between desire and reality to in fact foreshadow that Gatsby’s dream is never actually going to be granted. Successfully identifying Gatsby’s obsessive desire for Daisy and emphasising this theme, as Gatsby has managed to occupy the house directly opposite to Daisy’s and has even addressed this with Daisy herself. As Fitzgerald uses ‘mist’ to determine that Gatsby’s dream of Daisy is a risk because she is presented as an unstable woman without Tom, Dickens has also used the theme of mist to present similar ideas: ‘Pip walks to the site in the misty dusk/he is stunned to find Estella’. With mist again acting as a barrier between Pip’s desire for love and for a new life with Estella, and the reality that Satis house has now actually been destroyed, to conclude Pip’s desire of loving Estella.

The actions of Daisy are exemplified by Fitzgerald within the novel in a way of exposing the corrupt nature of desire and love within the 1920’s society, through her aspirations that she has for her young daughter: ‘I hope she’ll be a fool-that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool’. Fitzgerald has included this, to portray views about women that were present within the 1920’s society like women being subservient to men, without intelligence but rather a product of the social environment and beauty, and to also reveal that Daisy believes that her daughter should grow up to be everything that a man wants her to be so that she can be loved and desired. This view is supported by a website source which has also suggested that ‘her bitterness and cynicism is signalled early on as she expresses a devastating critique of women’s position in society’, confirming the bitterness and disgruntlement of the character of Daisy within the novel.

Alike to ‘The Great Gatsby’, there is an important symbol permeating the novel that represents Pip’s desire to have Estella, which is Satis house although this isn’t used as a positive concept of Pip’s love for her: “She reserved it for me to restore the desolate house”. As mentioned previously, in the novel we can understand that Pip depicts a successful life for a man as being married with property, and Pip’s only way to achieve this is to please Estella and “restore the desolate house”, although this quotation portrays Pip as being selfish, more than being in love as to the reader it seems like all that Pip is interested in is Satis house. Thus, implying that Pip’s love and compassion isn’t as legitimate as it seems, and maybe Pip becomes too focused on the journey of achieving his dream of success that he forgets to actually focus on the desire itself: Estella, making ‘Great Expectations’ very similar in forms of compassion to ‘The Great Gatsby’.

The last concept of the obsessive nature of desire explored within both ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘Great Expectations’ is the self-advancement of the main protagonists within the two novels: Gatsby and Pip. In ‘The Great Gatsby’, the theme of self-advancement is explored through the use of the American dream, a theory present during the 1920’s society of this novel. Nick says: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future”. The symbol of the ‘green light’ which permeates this novel is representative of the American Dream, ‘green’ infers connotations of money and ‘light’ suggesting a source of hope for 1920’s America. Frederick Millet says that the Green Light ‘is a symbol for Gatsby’s dream and the hope for the future’ as well as, Green being ‘the colour of promise, hope, and renewal’, justifying the fact that this symbol does act as a concept of uncovering Gatsby’s dreams for having Daisy and being the richest man of the 1920’s society. Alternatively, this could provide us with a view on transcending present in 1920’s American society, in which people believed that they could transform into a much more omnipotent character, and this green light epitomises the desire that Gatsby has for constantly improving himself. However, the importance of the ‘green light’ dies towards the end of the novel once the carelessness of the richer characters: Gatsby, Daisy and Tom, is exposed. Churchwell claims that, ‘Gatsby has been shaped by a country that channelled his desires into climbing social ladders’.

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