The Impact of the Social Context in Great Gatsby and Elizabeth Barrett-Browning’s Sonnets

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ENGLISH – TEXTS IN TIME COURTNEY MILLS

HOW DOES THE CONTEXT IN WHICH THE TEXTS ARE SET SHAPE THE VALUES WHICH ARE EXPLORED WITHIN THEM

The context of both the Great Gatsby (GG) and Elizabeth Barrett-Browning’s (EBB) sonnets has shaped many of the attitudes and values explored throughout the texts. Both texts take into account the social contexts of the time and the personal context of each author.

An author’s personal context can shape many of the values displayed throughout a text. The values portrayed are often the values of the author themselves. This is clearly demonstrated in both EBB sonnets and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s GG. There are parallels between Fitzgerald and the characters in GG. For example, Fitzgerald originates from the mid-west of America as did Gatsby and Nick Carraway. Fitzgerald lived an extremely lavish lifestyle after he made his money, as did Gatsby. The importance of money at that time is depicted in Fitzgerald’s own life, where his wife set a condition that she wouldn’t marry him until he had made his money. This is also portrayed in GG through Daisy’s and Gatsby’s relationship when Gatsby says to Tom Buchanan “Your wife doesn’t love you, she only married you because I was poor”. In GG both Daisy and Tom Buchanan have affairs. It was also reported that Fitzgerald’s own wife was known to have had an affair. Overall the personal context of Fitzgerald’s life is shown throughout the text and explored thoroughly through the characters of the GG.

EBB was born in 1806, during the Victorian era. She was brought up in a fairly wealthy family and was well educated. This was unlike the norm of the period where women had not yet earned the right to an education. Her level of education is portrayed clearly through her references of Theocritus’s writing in her first sonnet. At first when Robert Browning shows a love interest for EBB she doesn’t believe that she is worthy of such love and uses the simile “more like an out of...
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