The Great Gatsby & Enduring Love
‘Obsessive love has the capacity to drive a person to insanity, leading to irrational behaviour, alienation and despair’ Compare and contrast the ways McEwan and Fitzgerald present the complexities of human love in light of this comment.
F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ian McEwanpresent obsessive Idealised love as deranged and harmful.Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, published in 1925,epitomises the euphoric atmosphere which permeated consumerist attitudes after WW1, during the period known as the ‘Roaring Twenties’ a revolutionary time associated with breaking tradition, Modernism, rapid technological change andnew definitions of the ‘modern’ woman. Fitzgerald’sfictional characters can be understood asvictims of a Capitalist culture which valued materialism over personal integrity. Complexities of love and lust co-exist with cultural conflict andmoral blindness in adecade dubbed by the French as ‘l’années folles’; (the crazy years1.) McEwan’s Post-modern novel ‘Enduring Love’, published and set in 1990's, also explores the damaging and potentially destructive consequences of intense and passionate desire. Both authors convey the complexion of human emotionand explore how obsessive love differs from the conventional view of romantic love. Sharing the theme ofidealised love, presented as unwavering loyalty and passion, the authors take these traits to extremes. McEwan questions what we think we understand and making the reader uncomfortable; pastiche of narrative style catches the reader off guard, especially when the novel switches abruptly from being a philosophical exploration of ideas to a thriller style, metafiction which challenges the suspension of disbelief by being self referential. McEwan, strongly influenced by E.O. Wilson’s critical scientific development of socio-biology and uses the narrative to explore aspects of human love and the evolutionary mechanics behind behaviours such as altruism and aggression. Both novels therefore offer interesting and varied perspectives on the experience of alienation and despair.
The antagonist of EL Jed Parry suffers from DeClérambault’s Syndrome, an uncontrollable mental illness which forces Parry’ to obsess over the object of his desire, Joe. Joe struggles to understand Parry’s attitudes and behaviour simply through logic. At first glance, Jed’s obsessive love seems similar to society’s idea of ideal love an emotion, defined Oxford English Dictionary: ‘a strong feeling of affection and/ or sexual attraction for someone’ McEwan uses our inability to fully define love to highlight the characters’ different viewpoints. Jed does indeed have ‘a strong feeling of affection’ for Joe although it is ambiguous whether or not it is sexual. When Joe asks ‘Are we talking about sex? Is that what you want?’, parry has no reply. Initially Joe’s partner, Clarissa, has a very detached view of the situation and mistakenly writes off Jed’s declaration of love of love for Joe and intrusion into their lives as ‘some poor fellow [who] has a crush’ and teases Joe about his ‘secret gay love affair with a Jesus freak!’ Clarissa’s very different perspective doesn’t help Joe who feels threatened by Parry. He sees his presence as an intrusion. To Clarissa, Joe’s urgent fear seems irrational. The couple occupy ‘very different mental universes’ and Joe’s Isolation from his partner starts to become apparent. Joe functions as a first person narrator but McEwan also includes Clarissa’s viewpoint she tells Joe ‘You were so intense about him as soon as you met him. It’s like you invented him’ their very different perspectives encourage the reader to make their own judgements about ‘rational Joe’s’ sanity. The exploration of individual perspectives is a prominent feature of post-modern literature. When the conflict is perceived from Clarissa’s perspective Joe’s behaviour sounds absurd, ‘You phoned the Police? Thirty-three messages on the machine? But she saw it when she came...
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