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By Amaraj Singh-Purewal Jan 11, 2015 1756 Words
Compare how far Blanche Dubois and Jay Gatsby are victims of their own dreams or of social circumstances. Explore this statement with close reference to the social, class, cultural, moral contexts of the novel and the play.

Both characters do not reveal their past and they let rumours circulate as to how they randomly appeared without any warning. Jimmy Gatz changes his name to Jay Gatsby and being a war veteran he is respected for his duty to his country, he does not reveal much more other than he fancied Daisy and they were. Already in love till she married Tom Buchanan despite telling Gatsby that "she would wait for him". Blanche appears in New Orleans out of nowhere to her sister Stella and her brutal, dominant husband Stanley Kowalski, she also lets stanley fascinate about how she ended up here and why. The difference here is that Blanche reveals her past and she confirms that she lost their family home "belle reve". This is because after ww2 (when "streetcar" is based), women were encouraged to work more, she is upset because due to her teacher salary, she could not keep such an extravagant luxury. Both show how they are victims of their social circumstances, apeearing out of nowhere with vague rumours as to their unexplained past and random appearance.

Gatsby and Blanche are also victims of their own dreams, as their dreams are too unrealistic and they remain fixated on this dream. Gatsby remains fixated on attaining Daisy, she has married Tom but Gatsby and Daisy rekindle and continue to have an affair and this means that Gatsby achieves his dream. Blanche hopes to achieve romance and a new life but this proves pointless as Mitch (her lover) reveals he intended to go and rape her "I came here for something else, I'm afraid". This is where the two characters differ as Gatsby has his dreams accomplished but his dreams led to his death and the death of another character, in this case Myrtle who is killed by Daisy driving Gatsby's car. Blanche does achieve her dreams but no characters die and likewise she gets a chance at romance but her obsession and constant clinginess leads to her becoming mental and having her sent off to a mental state after her obsession with a "Shep Huntleigh".

Gatsby and Blanche both have contrasting backgrounds as Blanche grew up rich probably due to the 1920s and the boom of stocks in this time mean that anyone and everyone had a shot at success. She later loses the wealth which leads to her appearing at Stella's house and she appears all innocent "dressed all white" and this shows that she is out of place and that she is innocent and vulnerable in this new world. Gatsby comes from a poor background (like Fitzgerald) and wanted to marry a much richer woman (like Fitzgerald) but both failed to do so and this meant that both were unhappy. Gatsby met Daisy before the war but after Gatsby left she chose to marry Tom instead of Gatsby as Tom was richer but she later regrets doing this as she starts an affair with Gatsby. This contrast shows the difference of the 30 odd years of 1925-1955.

Both characters are also victims of the social circumstances as both characters use alcohol to cope. Gatsby uses alcohol for attention tion as it is a priority for his parties that attracts more people. This was illegal due to the prohibition act introduced in January 1920, this was unsuccessful as there were not many prohibition agents, only 1500 across the country. Blanche uses alcohol to cope with her traumatic past, Blanche DuBois uses booze to distract herself from reality and to retreat further into a world of fantasy and cleverly contrived artifice. Habitual drinking isn’t ideal for a woman’s reputation in the 1940s, so the habit is often hidden or disguised. For the male gender, alcohol is very much tied to physical aggression and plays a part in the play’s worst violence.

Blanche's retreat from reality is interesting because it’s difficult to distinguish between when she has lost her grip on reality, when she’s simply imagining a better future for herself, and when she’s immersed in fiction and indulging in romantic fantasies. What start off as harmless flights of fancy soon escalate to a dangerous level as she throws herself at Stanley who she calls "a handsome brute". Gatsby also follows a bizarre change as he follows a military lifestyle, "the last fly-leaf was printed the word SCHEDULE, and the date September 12, 1906. And underneath:

Rise from bed...........................................................6.00 A.M. Dumbbell exercise and wall-scaling........................6.15-6.30 " Study electricity, etc. ...............................................7.15-8.15 " Work.........................................................................8.30-4.30 P.M. Baseball and sports..................................................4.30-5.00 " Practice elocution, poise and how to attain it.........5.00-6.00 " Study needed inventions.........................................7.00-9.00". This shows that both characters are victims of their social circumstances as both follow their old lifestyle and their old habits refuse to cease.

Both characters are also victimised by social circumstances as both require strangers to help them. Blanche constantly repeats the phrase "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers" and this shows how much strangers mean to her and how she cannot adapt to this new age as she has been in this lovestruck state where her first husband committed suicide after revealing his true sexual orientation. Gatsby is also reliant on strangers as he "threw lavish parties in his mansion" and relies on attention from other people to impress Daisy although she seems relatively unphased.

Both characters are also motivated by Love and romance, they both aim to achieve it but it leads to their demise. Gatsby meets Daisy while training to be an officer in Louisville in 1917. She acknowledges his duty and promises to "wait for him after the war" and instead she marries Tom despite Gatsby illegally selling alcohol and bootlegging just for her. He later takes the blame when Daisy runs over Myrtle and he takes the blame for her death as he is having an affair with Myrtle, this leads to him being shot by Wilson while in his pool. Blanche experiences her first husband kill himself and “I had many intimacies with strangers. After the death of Allan – intimacies with strangers was all I seemed able to fill my empty heart with”. This shows that both the characters get into this mess due to love and their inability to retain a relationship whereby they engage in hasty and ill-thought decisions resulting in the amassing chaos.

Both characters are also illusions and they hide away their true selves to the world. Gatsby, in the end even though he's a self-created millionaire built out of nothing but lies, Nick singles him out as the only real person in a crowd of fakes: "better than the whole damn bunch put together". Blanche also pretends that she does not know what is happening and chooses not to acknowledge it as it is only going to lead her getting burned as usual with her previous encounters. Both characters choose to hide themselves away and this is likely because they cannot cope with this new reality and this new environment where neither know what to do.

The characters are also microcosms of society in that time period as they show certain parts of society. Gatsby shows the new America, where people do whatever it takes to get to the top and this usually meant illegal activities e.g. bootlegging or gangsterism. This is shown by Gatsby who is nobody famous or well known but made his wealth and has a lavish lifestyle. Blanche represents old America, the golden 20s vs the normal 50s, she shows America's struggle to conform to new ideals and the struggle of the "Flappers age". These were the short skirt, short hair, casual sex, smoke/drink in public and they would have been the people Blanche grew up around so they influenced her morality and decency and meant that she would see "casual sexual encounters" acceptable.

Regarding the social and moral circumstances, the characters reference light a lot. In "streetcar", Blanche avoids appearing in direct, bright light, especially in front of her suitor, Mitch. She also refuses to reveal her age, and it is clear that she avoids light in order to prevent him from seeing the reality of her fading beauty. In general, light also symbolizes the reality of Blanche’s past. She is haunted by the ghosts of what she has lost—her first love, her purpose in life, her dignity and later her sanity. In "Great Gatsby" Situated at the end of Daisy’s East Egg dock and barely visible from Gatsby’sWest Egg lawn, the green light represents Gatsby’s hopes and dreams for the future. Gatsby associates it with Daisy, and in Chapter 1 hereaches toward it in the darkness as a guiding light to lead him to his goal. Because Gatsby’s quest for Daisy is broadly associated with the American dream.

The characters differ by gender and this means the men are influenced by and, often, married to, and the circumstances in which they live and work dictate the women’s characters and personalities. In ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘A Streetcar’, Daisy and Blanche suffer degeneration in terms of their mentality and their morals due to the behaviour and actions of the men in their lives. The male characters act as catalysts in implementing this change, as they alter the lives of others but not their own. However, it cannot be said that men are entirely responsible for this degeneration- to a certain extent, the fate of the women rests in their own hands.

The Guardian's review of "Great Gatsby" states, "Many consider The Great Gatsby to be depressing because, in the end,those who dream do not achieve their aspirations. However, the main message that Fitzgerald sends to us isn't that dreaming will lead to despair, but that chasing an unworthy dream will lead to tragedy." Likewise, a review of "Streetcar" states "Blanche duBois is by no means innocent. Moreover, her actions point out that she is not charming, either. In fact, she is a nuisance to those around her; not having achieved anything, married anybody, or obtained a home anywhere--what is she but a middle-aged walking issue? It would be very hard to surpass the challenging complexities of Blanche's character. For this reason, it is hard to think of her as innocent or charming in any way."

Bibliography: Sparknotes

Word count: 1976 words

Word count (no quotes): 1754 words

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