For so many people one of the hardest things in life is maintaining a strong and healthy relationship with another person, but it is especially difficult in a romantic relationship. For the most part, successful relationships are based on honesty, communication, trust, and most importantly compromise. When you are in a relationship that has a foundation based on those characteristics, it makes you feel connected with that person. On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, traits such as jealousy, greed, deceit and selfishness can lead to disastrous relationships that will only leave people hurt. Two classic books that we've read this semester are McTeague by Frank Norris, and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Throughout both books, the reader can easily find an underlying theme of relationships if they look hard enough. In both novels it seems to be abundantly clear that the prominent relationship portrayed is a failed relationship. When analyzing the relationships between the people in the book, it becomes clear through the ways in which the characters interact with each other throughout the stories, that they are not actually relationships in the true essence of the word.
Another recurring theme that is common in both books by Norris and Fitzgerald is the attribute of greed. In McTeague, the greed that is on display is one that is present throughout the novel. The first time we are introduced to it is when Marcus claims that Trina's winning lottery ticket belongs to him, and it takes a tragic turn, ultimately leading to McTeague's killing of Trina and Marcus, before dying himself from dehydration in the desert shortly thereafter. In The Great Gatsby, a type of greed that is on a similar level was quite obvious within the relationships of Tom and Daisy as well as Gatsby and Daisy. This theme of greed, hidden behind the different relationships we read about in both books, was a main source of their failures.
In McTeague, Norris first portrays Marcus as the closest friend that McTeague has. McTeague and Marcus meet each other "at the car conductors' coffee joint, where the two occupied the same table, and met at every meal" (Norris 10). One is naturally led to believe, based on their frequent meals together, and the close living proximity to one another, that the two were extremely close friends, conceivably even best friends.
Based on Norris' description of Marcus as one of McTeague's closest friends, probably his closest friend, we only have access to one side of the relationship, but no real indication of how Marcus's feels towards McTeague. There are many times when one would get the impression that Marcus is actually using McTeague for his benefit. One such example is when "on different occasions, McTeague had treated Marcus for an ulcerated tooth, and had refused to accept payment" (Norris 10). Another advantage of having McTeague around for Marcus was that he would come with him on walks, so he wouldn't have to be alone. "You'd better come along with me Mac, we'll take a little walk, you got nothing better to do" (Norris 11). During these times, Marcus was very interested in spending time with McTeague, but as the story unfolds, it is clear that Marcus' anger towards McTeague about losing Trina's lottery money to him had grown considerably. It seems as though once Trina won the lottery, a personality switch was triggered inside Marcus that turned him from a selfless best friend, into a bitter human being, filled with rage and jealousy. He even goes so far as attempting to murder McTeague, showing the evils of money, and greed, and how it can change people for the worst. The reader can no longer assume that the two were ever genuinely in a committed friendship. As soon as money came into the picture, it is revealed that the friendship apparently was impure and tainted. In an authentic friendship under the same circumstances, although Marcus might feel a little bit of envy inside of...
Cited: 1) Norris, Frank. McTeague: A Story of San Francisco: an authoritative text,
contexts, criticism: 2nd edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997.
2) Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. England: Penguin Group, 1994.
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