Essay on The Great Gatsby

Submitted By aarnold2015
Words: 1888
Pages: 8

Ann Arnold
Ms. Hemingway
AP Literature & Composition
20 March 2014
Importance of the Adultery Motif Adultery is a defining motif in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as well as T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. Written from modernist perspectives, these two works seek to portray modern, industrial society in its most genuine light. Doing so it involves exposing and illustrating the overpowering sexual natures individuals possess. There are three specific occurrences of the motif in the novels that best exemplify its meaning. In The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchanan has an affair with Myrtle Wilson, one of extraordinary extravagance and luxuriousness. In addition, Daisy has an affair with Gatsby, formerly known as Jay Gatz, one that occurs due to the stigma against relationships between members of West Egg and East Egg. Likewise, Eliot references Queen Elizabeth I and her politically motivated affair with the Earl of Leicester in the third section of The Waste Land, The Fire Sermon. Both authors use the motif of adultery to define one of the overarching themes of America during this period following World War I, a gilded persona. Eliot and Fitzgerald seek to illustrate how on the outside America possesses the image of a strong, industrial nation full of economic and political bravery. At the same time, however, they demonstrate how within America there is a vast population of corrupted, lost individuals. Despite their common motive, Eliot and Fitzgerald use the adultery motif to highlight different meanings within these two works. Eliot uses the motif in The Waste Land to show how adultery is simply an exhibition of humans losing the invigorating sense of passion in their lives. On the other hand, Fitzgerald uses the motif in The Great Gatsby to show adultery is the result of a society losing lacking confidence. Understanding the relationship and romantic background of Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester is critical for interpreting Eliot’s use of this particular belief. Originally known as Robert Dudley, the favored courtier of Queen Elizabeth made his rise to fame when he became her Master of the Horse, a highly regarded royal appointment. Their previous flirtatious encounters were now allowed to evolve into a very passionate, lustful affair. These intense feelings of bliss obviously had a profound impact on Dudley, who promised King Philip of Spain the return of Catholicism to England in exchange for helping him obtain Elizabeth’s hand in marriage. (Britannia). An arrangement of this sort simply could not be compatible with Elizabeth, whose primary goal was to settle the religious unrest created by the rivalry between Catholic and Protestant views. Furthermore, the prosecution of English Protestants by France and Spain made it a political necessity to ultimately resolve the disputes on the Protestants. (Britannia). The political ambitions of Elizabeth I obviously forced her to keep her relationship with Leicester a secret and contradict her persona as the “Virgin Queen”. Eliot references this historical and biographical context in order to exemplify the idea that adultery is simply a byproduct of the moreal downfall every individual possesses. Eliot seems to suggest that this downfall revolves around the greed for power. He uses the example of Elizabeth refysing to marry Leicester due to possible political consequences to llustrate this idea. Essentially, Eliot defines the moral downfall of a man specifically as the curse of being preoccupited with power. Chris Miller says, “The Waste Land is concerned to return to the sexual act a significance which the alienated poetry of the city describes as utterly lacking; a significance which is not that of the free individual making his or her own sexual choices, but that of sacrament, institution, and duty” (Miller). Miller essentially argues that Eliot’s objective is to restore sexual intercourse a sense of passion and freedom. His view is supported