“The Great Gatsby is a story of infatuation and disenchantment”. How far and in what ways do you agree with this view of The Great Gatsby and one other novel you have read.
The Great Gatsby is a novel that, superficially, seems like the tragic story of infatuation and misunderstanding. However, set in 1920s America, it can be read in a number of different ways. This post-war period was a time of economic boom and rapid change in technological advances led to fashionable, more affluent and carefree lives. Alcohol was banned as a direct response to hedonism of the time but ironically it encouraged corruption and a black market. The speed of change and modernity was both exciting and overwhelming. Thus we see that this was a time of glamour and corruption, excitement and emptiness, infatuation and disenchantment. The novel satirises the hedonistic society of the past, explores the futile search for the American Dream (the idea that any person can achieve material success and therefore “happiness” through hard work) and reveals the comparisons between glittering illusion and harsh reality. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid also explores the themes of enchantment and disillusionment. Changez tells of how he became infatuated with America/ Erica and then grew disappointed and disillusioned by them. This mirrors Gatsby and Nick’s pursuit of individual dreams that fascinate at first but then prove to be unattainable and improbable i.e. initial infatuation giving way to disenchantment. The story of Gatsby explores the rags-to-riches tale (from poor James Gatz to glamorous Jay Gatsby), appearing to demonstrate the possibility of achieving the American Dream. However, the dream is shown to be unattainable; Gatsby’s materialistic achievements are empty; he fails to win Daisy and after his death he is revealed as isolated and his dream as deluded. The style of Gatsby is distinct; romantic and sensual. This dreamy, Keatsian prose suggests the enchantment of the American Dream. For example, the description of Daisy and Tom’s house suggests the romantic and magical lives they seem to lead; the windows are “gleaming white against the fresh grass”, the ceiling is like “frosted wedding-cake” and the two glamorous women are “in white… their dresses rippling and fluttering…” Nick’s narration draws the reader in; mirroring the way the American Dream lured past immigrants in; the initial enchantment giving way to a bleak reality of loneliness, corruption and greed. Gatsby’s structure is also very individual and symbolic of the illusion and disenchantment in America. It is set through a series of parties and events, starting with the vivid rumours; “he killed a man”, surrounding Gatsby. Nick’s infatuated narration suggests to the reader that he is something of a “gorgeous”, idealised hero even though he achieved his wealth through corrupted means. The reader shares Nick’s attraction for Gatsby, based on the energy and vitality of his romantic vision. The reader learns the truth of Gatsby’s origins at the end of the novel and the futility of his efforts and emptiness of his dream make the ending all the more poignant. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a conversation structured as one-sided. By continually switching from the past to the present (“Yes, I was happy in that moment”), Hamid raises and maintains interest and tension through specific events and the personal meanings gained from them. The style mirrors Gatsby with the dreamy, poetic language used e.g. “houses twinkling in the distance… waves whispering”. It has the quality of nostalgia i.e. by the fond references of the past (“the city of my birth”); it is also a romantic and dreamy piece with descriptive and emotional language, seen prominently through descriptions of Erica’s thoughts- “remarks… register only indirectly…like shadows of clouds gliding …on a lake”. However the underlying reality is darker and more sinister as the reader realises the tensions between Changez and...
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