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).
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.