Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby and Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
The Roaring Twenties bring to mind a generation of endless partying, which reflected very little of the morals of the generations preceding it. The world, for that generation, was fast-paced and thoroughly material, crowded with bizarre and colorful characters like David Belasco and Arnold Rothstein. Inspired by this era's "spiritually exhausted people" (Brians), F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and T. S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock address many of the same themes in attempting to restore the "lost generation." In developing these themes, both authors utilize weather, the concept of illusion versus reality and the direction of time as a mode of conveying the promise of their dream to the citizens of the Jazz Age.
In both The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Great Gatsby, weather and time of day play an important part in setting the tone and mood. Prufrock sets out in the evening, a time of uncertainty, neither day nor night, to confront his past. Likewise, the important events in the Great Gatsby occur at a significant time of day. Once, when Gatsby talked to Nick about his past, Nick describes it as "a time of confusion," (Fitzgerald 102) which the evening time has come to symbolize. Also, the time of final confession in the Great Gatsby was the night Daisy rejected Gatsby (148). Even the covering of the night was not enough to hide the disenchantment of his dream. At this time, Gatsby tells the whole truth about his past and his relationship with Daisy. This past was set in October, as was The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. When Gatsby looks back through the mists of time, he sees a perfect world, one that he desperately wishes to return to. Prufrock's world is also covered by a fog, which licked into the evening, his evening, and lingered, obscuring reality and practicality. The main difference between Gatsby and Prufrock's illusions is that Prufrock recognizes that a fog is obscuring his vision and he accepts that, but Gatsby thinks that the past that he sees through the mist is reality for him.
Consequently, both Gatsby and J. Alfred have problems confronting reality. As each story begins, both are satisfied to avoid reality all together. J. Alfred wishes to spend his evening, "like a patient etherized upon a table" (Eliot 708), rather than to tell his female companion how he feels. In Gatsby's youth, he is also content that, "...these reveries...were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality" (Fitzgerald 105). Gatsby therefore prefers the imaginary world over the real one. The two men are also quite uncomfortable with what their realities hold for them. J. Alfred's anxious mind is revealed when he questions, "Should I...have the strength to force the moment to its crisis" (711). This man is very troubled over what he might lose. Similarly, Gatsby is quite overwhelmed with how...