Knight In English Shirts Essay

1272 words - 6 pages

Courtly love—an expression of passion, a token of intimacy, and a vibrant theme which permeates the spirit of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Energetic and enterprising, young James Gatz ascends the social ladder to become a grossly successful and affluent businessman, all driven by a single purpose: to win the beautiful Daisy’s heart. Gatsby plays his role as Daisy’s courtly lover by his ambitions to satisfy his sincere, undying ardor and to prove his commitment to Daisy’s wellbeing.
The conventions of courtly love stem from the precise chivalric code of knights in the Middle Ages and passionate romances of European medieval folklore. Fantastic tales of dauntless knights and their ...view middle of the document...

An offended Catholic Church scorned this newly instated social system, but such scandalous love persisted. By the mid-fourteenth century, courtly love became an accustomed behavior. The heart of courtly love grew to demand a knight’s complete obedience to his mistress under his honor and courtesy, by means of taxing ordeals to prove his enduring commitment to her. The resulting relationship would be characterized by full expressions of mutual lust and love. Fast-forward to America during the Roaring Twenties and romantic love had long become the basis of most marriages, but the great Jay Gatsby revives the medieval style of courtship to address his deep affection for his beauteous lover.
Gatsby’s unrelenting desire to prove his worth to Daisy motivates him to take long strides away from his lowly farm life to a high status of wealth and courtly sophistication. Like the poor knights often coming from the bottom of the feudal estates, Gatsby materializes from humble origins. His parents “were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people,” but Gatsby dedicates himself to “His Father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty,” in an attitude closely resembling a medieval knight’s binding oath to serve the Lord. (100) Gatsby restlessly chases the elusive wisps of his aspirations, “bound to get ahead” (176), when suddenly another “meretricious beauty” intervenes to claim his life purpose—Daisy. By chance, Gatsby encounters the enchanting maiden and catches himself falling in love. Unfortunately, Gatsby, then a “penniless young man,” could only court her under the “false pretenses… that he was a person from much the same stratum as herself” (151). Incapable of producing sufficient holdings, Gatsby loses his lover to Tom Buchanan, in a marriage secured by Tom’s inherited wealth and alluring status. In order for a humble knight to deserve his lofty court mistress, he must prove his cultivated bearings, and likewise Gatsby devotes himself to this endeavor. Gatsby’s mentor Dan Cody serves as the figurative steed the modern chevalier rides to a height of sophistication. Carrying him up a winding path of cultured mannerisms, Cody fills “the vague contour of Jay Gatsby [with] the substantiality of a man” (102) and brings Gatsby a step closer to Daisy’s aristocratic status. After Dan’s death, Gatsby enters himself into highly illegal business dealings with Meyer Wolfsheim, harnessing a new mount for success by “[buying] up a lot of side-street drug-stores [in New York] and in Chicago [to sell] grain alcohol over the counter” (135). Gatsby soon brews up an overflowing abundance of wealth, and seizes the hard-earned opportunity to at last impress Daisy Buchanan with his intoxicating assets. Like a determined knight hoping to demonstrate both skill in battle and...

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