Great Gatsby and Araby Essay

In “Araby,” an allegorical short story from his compilation, Dubliners, author James Joyce depicts his homeland of Ireland as a paralyzing and morally filthy environment. The young protagonist is an unknowing victim of society’s preoccupation with materialism, and in his rush to grow up accepts its distorted views of wealth and love as truth. Conversely, Jay Gatsby, from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, tries to win back the heart of Daisy Buchanan through his obsessive attempts to repeat the past. In each work, the male lead resorts to monetary extremes to capture the attention of his female counterpart under the false notion that love can be purchased. While the boy hopes that a gift will win the affection of his friend’s sister, Gatsby desperately strives to woo Daisy with his bootlegging spoils. Some are able to escape the influence society exerts, while others remain fixated on vanity. Each author manipulates color and shade to epitomize the materialism of adulthood and the confusion of love of wealth with genuine love. The protagonist of “Araby” fantasizes about growing up enough to attain the love of his friend’s sister.

Because the young boy believes he is in love, he elevates himself above his peers. He isolates himself in his dark attic and watches his companions “playing below in the street,” their cries “weakened and indistinct ” (Joyce 24). Although he tries to ignore them, the voices of his childhood freedom still reach the boy no matter how much he tries to separate himself. The boy discounts “some distant lamp or lighted window gleam[ing] below” on his peers, abandoning the light of childhood while he exercises a feeling of superiority (Joyce 23). By distancing himself from his coequals, he embarks on a vainglorious quest to prematurely reach adulthood, thereby reducing the value of childhood innocence. His quest, however, succeeds only in pressing him further into the darkness of adult ideals. Adults face greater challenges and have more responsibility than children do; it is easier for them to forsake their morals than to leave materialistic values behind. Because they ignore their values, adults are of a far lesser innocence than the children they are meant to teach and thus exert a negative influence on their unknowing pupils.

The boy learns from his surroundings that purchasing love is the only acceptable path to attaining happiness and growth. Mangan’s sister “turns the silver bracelet round and round her wrist,” drawing the boy into the superficiality of adulthood (Joyce 24). However, because he sees the girl as “defined by light,” he mistakenly confuses the ideas of wealth and happiness (Joyce 22). The combination of materialism and happiness makes it difficult to determine the meaning of either. Rather than developing a relationship based on mutual interest, the boy tries to buy the girl’s love. When he is unable to purchase a gift for her, he finds himself in a “completely dark” environment (Joyce 26). The boy immediately epiphanizes that he is “a creature driven and derided by vanity,” signifying that light can emerge out of darkness (Joyce 26).

His cognizance no longer allows surrounding influences of materialism to grip him; he realizes love is not a commodity. Mistakes are necessary for moral growth, therefore the young boy needed to suffer vanity and the consequences of his own greed to realize that wealth alone cannot fulfill happiness. His challenges become the outlet through which he ascertains the shallowness of the adult world, ultimately subjugating his influences. By vanquishing them, the boy discerns the genuine love depicted by light. Fitzgerald juxtaposes the obsessively nostalgic Jay Gatsby with Joyce’s young boy who hastily looks forward to adulthood. Despite Gatsby’s seniority, he and the boy both believe they can purchase their beloveds’ affection. Gatsby views wealth as the equivalent of self-worth; his doomed sense of hope justifies his illusion. He optimistically watches the green light at the end of the Buchanan’s dock, “minute and far away,” with his “arms stretched out toward the dark water” (Fitzgerald 26).

Read also  The Great Gatsby

Gatsby reaches for Daisy with profound determination, but bases his resolve on the crooked belief that his grandiose home and expensive clothes will win her love. His materialistic concerns create an impassable gap, placing true love out of reach. Lights on the other side of the water appear greener and grander, causing Gatsby to ignorantly believe that is where happiness originates. The intrinsic confusion of wealth and happiness deprives Gatsby of a truly fulfilled life. Thinking his new affluence will please Daisy, Gatsby draws her attention to his new Rolls Royce. However, the association of Gatsby’s yellow car with “restlessness…with power…and finally with death” (Parkinson 41) foreshadows destruction. Even after Daisy accidentally kills Myrtle Wilson with the yellow car, Gatsby still fails to see the uncontrollable dangers of greed . Wealth only consumes those who attain it, spitting failure into their faces when it ceases to satiate their avarice.

Gatsby’s picturesque opulence deteriorates to frustration because money cannot make him happy. Rather than accepting this conclusion, he dons an elegant wardrobe “which echoes Daisy’s attributes of white, gold, and silver” (Parkinson 47). Gatsby believes his “white flannel suit…and gold colored necktie” will attract Daisy under the guise of suave elegance (Fitzgerald 89). The double entendre, however, is that the gold necktie resting around his throat parallels wealth’s threat to choke off his credibility, sanity, and ultimately, life-force. Although Gatsby actively perpetuates his superficial ambition, Daisy simply allows life to unfold around her. Fitzgerald parallels Daisy’s floral namesake with her white exterior and tainted yellow interior. Wealth rots her to her core, though she maintains a pretense of purity, always “dressed in white” (Fitzgerald 127). Daisy enjoys her trivial existence only because she has the means to do so.

Without wealth to distract her from her meaningless life, she would feel empty and worthless. Contentment based solely on the availability of money inevitably crumbles and fades away, landing in the colorless, desolate Valley of Ashes. With an ever-looming presence, the sign of Doctor T. J. Eckleberg looks over this valley of lost dreams through faded yellow glasses. No matter how willful the dreamer, visionaries with greedy ambitions must endure cruel judgment.

These individuals poison their own lives and become soulless shells, unable to muster the same determination again. The green light he strives for becomes “distant and unattainable” even though Gatsby never truly gives up on winning back Daisy (Parkinson 46). The spoils of his wealth decay to worthlessness and loneliness; in failing to realize his mistakes, he leaves behind a sparsely attended funeral and an unprincipled legacy. Despite all that he fought for, Gatsby forsakes true happiness for the false love he derives from exploiting wealth.

More Essays

  • Great Gatsby

    This quarter I read The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby is a fiction novel published in 1925. It takes place in New York, 1922 and follows the story of a great man named Gatsby. Although Gatsby is the main character, the book is in perspective and supposedly written by Nick Carraway,...

  • The Scarlet Letter and the Great Gatsby

    Although set in vastly different cultures at different eras within American history, a common theme can be established when comparing The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald with The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Both novels, for example, examine the dichotomy between reality and appearance as well...

  • Color Imagery – the Great Gatsby

    Writers often use a variety of literary devices in their literature to relate to the themes of their stories. Imagery is just one of the many that are used to create the structure for the literary pieces. Imagery can be used to form images in the reader's mind, appealing to the human senses. F. Scott...

  • Great Gatsby Final Paper on Feminism

    In his timeless novel The Great Gatsby, author Francis Scott Fitzgerald draws attention to the irrational nature of women and the effect it had on their lives during the 1920s. The female characters in the novel tend to irresponsibly think with their hearts rather than with their heads. Time and again, this...

  • Character’s Personality in the Great Gatsby

    The Great Gatsby, a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a love story about one man's desire to climb the social ladder and to marry the girl of his dreams. In this novel, Fitzgerald uses imagery and many symbols to reveal significant aspects of the central character, Jay Gatsby's, personality. The green light...

  • Comparison Tom and Gatsby in _the Great Gatsby_

    In "The Great Gatsby," written by Scott Fitzgerald, Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby are two characters that struggle with the idea of losing their shared love interest, Daisy. Tom and Gatsby's attachment to Daisy is differently justified due to their contrasting views, personalities, attitudes, actions,...

  • The Great Gatsby and Daisy

    In the novel, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, there are many characters throughout the story. However, Daisy Buchannon seems to stand out the most to me. She is a beautiful, young girl with many different sides to her personality. She can be innocent, and then she surprises everyone with her...

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    One of the major themes in the book The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is the character's inability to repeat the past, which is expressed in many ways, including one of the main characters named Jay Gatsby. Gatsby's desire and his inability to realize he can't change the past ultimately leads to his...

  • Jay Gatsby Character Analysis

    The character Jay Gatsby, also known as James Gatz, is the key character in The Great Gatsby. He started out as a poor farmer's son in North Dakota, and dropped out of college in Minnesota. He joined the military and during training meets Daisy, a beautiful rich woman living nearby, whom he falls in love...

  • Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

    Many characters in the Great Gatsby parallel to Fitzgerald life. For example, Daisy, the women Jay Gatsby has been basing his whole life on, is similar to Zelda Sayre, who would not marry Fitzgerald at first because of his lack of success. Gatsby and Fitzgerald both met vital women to their lives at dances,...

Read also  The Scarlet Letter and the Great Gatsby