Love: A Universal Truth Essay

1543 words - 6 pages


Romeo and Juliet. England, 1597. Hong Lou Meng (I know, you have no clue what this is). China, 1791. Gatsby. America, 1925. What are they doing together? Has Ziyang gone crazy? Yeah, they’re all works of literature, but, as can be seen, they span centuries and continents. On the surface, they share no similarities whatsoever. However, within the pages lies a different tory. all of these novels feature the notorious theme of forbidden love, and affection-driven characters that would do anything to be together. This makes The Great Gatsby a very universal novel, despite its comparatively contemporary setting. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby completely reflects the universal, timeless archetype of the tragic hero who works infinitely hard to achieve their dream in love, only to die in pursuit of that dream.
To create a hero, tragic or not, it is essential that the author builds reader sympathy for said hero. There is no way for a character to be heroic if readers despise them, like I despised McCandless from Into the Wild. Shakespeare creates reader compassion for Romeo and Juliet by using elegant, poetic language to describe the titular couple’s mutual affections, and by making them a relatable couple. Likewise, Cao Xueqin, author of Hong Lou Meng, builds sympathy for his protagonist Jia Baoyu by giving him a divine, prophetic birth (he is born with the jade of spiritual understanding in his mouth; jade is considered very fortuitous in China). Cao also romanticizes Jia’s love, Lin Daiyu, stating that she is the reincarnation of a flower, reborn mortal to repay Jia with tears for watering her in her previous life. (It’s probably the most romantic reincarnation ever!) Don’t you love them already?
Unlike Romeo and Juliet and Hong Lou Meng, which feature tragic couples, Fitzgerald’s relatively modern novel has only one tragic figure: Gatsby. However, Fitzgerald too must stir readers’ hearts to make Gatsby true a hero. He accomplishes this in several ways throughout the novel. First, Fitzgerald describes Gatsby’s riches as “blue gardens… glistening... hors d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams [and] turkeys bewitched to a dark gold” (39-40). Diction such as “blue gardens,” “glistening,” “spiced baked hams,” and “dark gold” create an allure to Gatsby: he has divine, heavenly wealth, that’s literally intoxicating (like his liquor) (39-40). Juxtaposing these words with Fitzgerald’s description of Tom Buchanan’s wealth further enhances the reader’s appeal for Gatsby; all Tom has is “a sunken Italian garden… pungent roses, and a snub-nosed motor-boat” (7). Tom’s garden is merely “sunken,” while Gatsby’s is “blue… [and contained] enough lights to make a Christmas tree” (39-40). The combination of blue and dark gold also implies regality. Meanwhile, Fitzgerald dismisses Tom’s boat as “snub-nosed,” and stuck up, whereas Gatsby’s yachts are described as powerful, “slit[ting] the waters [and] drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam”...

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