IMPORTANCE OF SETTING
The novel The Great Gatsby is written by F. Scott Fitzgerald and is set in 1920’s Long Island, New York. the protagonist Nick Carraway is new to the world of wealth and parties. Through his eyes, we learn about the lavish lifestyles of the people in the 1920’s. The play, A Doll’s House is set in nineteenth-century Norway. The play follows the relationship of a married couple Nora and Torvald who exudes the ‘perfect’ family image. My third text the film Brooklyn directed by John Crowley is set in 1950’s Brooklyn and follows the life of Eilis lacey struggling to adapt to a new environment. I am going to be examining the aspects of Location and Era, the portrayal of women, the importance of financial stability and relationships while drawing similarities and differences between them.
In the Great Gatsby, the date and location influence the novel. The novel is set in the 1920s, Long Island, New York, America. “The great war” had just ended and the economy was booming. This is very important as it influences the lifestyle of people. People in Long Island live lavish lifestyles and followed the motto, “You can’t live forever”.We see that people had no morals and lived carelessly. This can be seen when we meet a man at Gatsby’s party. We learn that he was “drunk for about a week now”. Another encounter with a drunk driver who crashes his car outside Gatsby’s house shocks us. This displays the careless attitudes of people.
Racism was also apart of the world of the 1920s. Tom’s spoken opinions give us a clear understanding of the mindset of people at the time. “This idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be -utterly submerged- it’s all scientific stuff”.
Gossip, rumours and people’s opinion of others added to the superficial lifestyle. Before we meet Gatsby, we hear rumours about him first. “Somebody told me they thought he killed a man”. This shows the huge influence rumours and gossip have.
In A Doll’s House, similar to The Great Gatsby, the era of when the play was set is important to the plot. A Doll’s House is set in a typical, middle-class household in a city in Norway, in the nineteenth century. The time period of the play is important because it affects the society that Nora and Helmer live in.
Similar to The Great Gatsby, People’s opinion and reputation was very important. By the end of the play, we see that Helmer cares most about his self-image above all else. When Helmer finds out about the loan his immediate worry is what people will think. “The matter must be hushed up at any cost”. His solution to the problem is to put on a pretence, “and as for you and me, it must appear as if everything between us were just as before- but naturally only in the eyes of the world”. This demonstrates the importance of reputation and one’s image at the time.
Date and era of society influence how people think. In the nineteenth century, people believed that the sin of one parent passed down to the next generation. This was the thinking of society, even a qualified doctor believed this. “My poor innocent spine has to suffer for my father’s youthful amusements”. Dr Rank believes that his suffering is a result of his father’s bad deed. Another clear example is Helmer thinking that a dishonest parent infects their children. “Because such an atmosphere of lies infects and poisons the whole life of a home”. Helmer’s thinking demonstrates the thinking of society.
Brooklyn, in the beginning, is set in 1950’s Ireland in Enniscorthy, Wexford. The setting has huge importance because, during this time in Ireland, there were no jobs available. People suffered from poverty and emigration was common. This leads Eilis to leave her home and move to Brooklyn in search of a job and a better life. In this small town, everyone knows each other’s business. This explains the behaviour of people such as Nettles Kelly. Then the setting drastically changes to Brooklyn, New York. This new setting contrasts with the small Irish town of Enniscorthy. Brooklyn is a busy city different from Enniscorthy. Brooklyn is significant because it represents opportunities. Eilis moving to Brooklyn has provided her with a new life. She attends bookkeeping classes and has a job at Bartocci’s. Brooklyn provides a life she only wished she could have had.
The setting also influences the impact of religion. Brooklyn is set in 1950’s catholic Ireland and unlike the other two texts, Religion had a huge influence on people. In the opening scene of the film, Eilis is seen attending early morning mass. We understand that Religion played an important role in Irish life in the 1950s. Another example is the influence and power of priests. From the beginning of the film, we are told that Father flood has financed Eilis to move to Brooklyn. We also see that he regularly meets with Eilis while she is in Brooklyn to help her and see how she is doing. Another scene where we see the importance of religion is when Eilis finds out that rose has died from the Father flood. She is in Father flood’s office talking on the phone to her mother, who is also in a priest’s office in Ireland. This scene demonstrates the importance of religion to the society Eilis was living in.
PORTRAYAL OF WOMEN
In the Great Gatsby, women are portrayed as lazy and aimless. This can be seen when we meet Daisy for the first time. We see her “extended full length at her end of the divan, completely motionless”. She is spending her afternoon doing absolutely nothing. “I’ve been lying on that sofa for as long as I can remember”. Daisy is presented to us with nothing to do but lying on the sofa.
In the Great Gatsby, we also see that women are portrayed as child-like. This characteristic can be seen in Daisy. “ ‘look’, she complained: I hurt it”. We see here that her behaviour resembles the attitude of a toddler. We also see her childishness when she purposely provokes Tom, “ ‘I hate the word hulking’ objected Tom crossly..’ Hulking’, insisted Daisy”. Daisy’s behaviour projects to us that women in the 1920s were presented as childlike.
Similarly, Nora in A Doll’s House is also presented as childlike. This can be seen in her relationship with Helmer. Helmer makes decisions on behalf of Nora, she is obedient to him. Her main purpose is to please him. This shows us their parent-child relationship, “As you please Torvald”. Her eating sweets without him knowing then lying about it indicates her childishness.
There is an expectation set on women to look good in society. This can be seen in The Great Gatsby when Myrtle describes her sister, Catherine, as “very beautiful by people who ought to know”. We clearly see that the world of 1920’s long Island is heavily based on appearance.
This can also be seen in A doll’s House. Helmer comments on Nora’s appearance when she dressed for the dance, “ I think she’s worth looking at”. This comment shows that the worth of women was based on their appearance. It shows us that women had certain expectations placed upon them.
Similarly, In Brooklyn expectations of women can also be seen. When Eilis tells Mrs Kehoe and the girls that she is going to Coney Island with Tony, their first reaction is what she is going to wear. They were worried about people would say about what she was wearing.
Women were also given little freedom. They had little independence. This is evident in Tom’s opinion of Jordan. “They oughtn’t let her run around the country this way”. Tom believes Jordan should not be given such freedom. Tom’s views at the time were common. It demonstrates how women were portrayed in society.
Similarly, InA Doll’s House, women are also given little freedom. The society and law they in constrains their independence. Nora does not have her own money. Helmer gives her a portion of money for household and family items. Nora has to ask Helmer for money, “you might give me money, Torvald. Only just as much as you can afford”. Women were under the control of their husbands. The law does not permit women to take out a loan without the husband’s consent. “ no wife cannot borrow without her husband’s consent”. This shows the little independence women were given.
Contrast to Nora and Daisy, Eilis is presented as capable, independent and intelligent. Eilis has hopes and dreams, she “wants to be an accountant one day” while in the meantime she works in Bartocci’s. She enrols in bookkeeping and successfully passes her exams. Eilis is living in a different society to Nora and Daisy, this impacts the expectations of women. For Daisy and Nora, it was uncommon for women to be out working however as time progresses, this has changed. Eilis’ determination to seek the life she wants is evidence of this change.
SIGNIFICANCE OF FINANCIAL SECURITY
Each of the three texts is heavily influenced by financial security.
Marrying for wealth and stability is common in all three texts. In the Great Gatsby, we learn that Daisy was in love with Gatsby however she married Tom Buchanan. “She wanted her life shaped now, immediately - and the decision must be made by some force- of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality” When Daisy and Gatsby meet again, she is given a second chance. This time she is aware of Tom’s infidelity, she is not as naive and young as she was but in the end, Daisy chooses wealth over love.
Similarly, In A Doll’s House, we see that Christine also marries for financial security. We see that Christine, similar to Daisy, chooses wealth and stability over love. “ A heartless woman jilts a man when a more lucrative chance turns up”.However we see that Christine married for the sake of her family, her mother was” bedridden and helpless” and she “had to provide for [my] two younger brothers. Christine an intelligent woman chooses the logical and reasonable choice. This shows us how important financial security was to her.
Similarly in Brooklyn, we see that marrying for stability wasn’t uncommon. A clear example is Sheila, one of the women lodgings at Mrs Kehoe's house. We learn that she goes to dance every week in search of a husband. “That’s why I go that wretched dance every week”. Marriage represents stability and provides financial support. Sheila’s life represents how significant financial security was in the 1950s.
We see that wealth and financial security has an impact on each of the three texts. In the Great Gatsby, the 1920’s lifestyle is heavily based on enormous wealth. “He gave her a string of pearls valued at three hundred and fifty thousand dollars”. Gatsby’s display of wealth is not common. Another example is when Nick’s father agrees to finance him while he is on Long Island. “Father agreed to finance me for a year. Even Nick comes from a wealthy family who has the means to finance him. In the 1920s people lived lavish lifestyles. They travelled around the world and spent money without hesitation. Tom and Daisy are perfect of this, “ They had spent a year in France for no particular reason”. Wealth is direct to lifestyle. We learn that Gatsby’s display of wealth is to please Daisy. He tries to win Daisy over with his wealth. The enormous wealth of the people contributes to their lavish lifestyles.
Similarly in Brooklyn, wealth and financial security is also directly linked with lifestyle. In the 1950’s Ireland was in poverty. They were no jobs available and as a result, emigration was common. “Mothers are always being left behind in this country”. This highlights the poverty in Ireland during this time.
When Eilis returns to Ireland, her mother tries to set her up with Jim Farrell. The main reason for this is Jim Farrell offers financial stability. He is soon to inherit his father’s bar and live in his parent’s house. To her mother, Jim is the perfect man. Her mother Mary says, “ He came along at just the right time for us”. This demonstrates that financial stability was a very important factor even in relationships.
Similar to Brooklyn, In a Doll’s house, people are not enormously wealthy. However, we see that there is a fear of poverty present. This can be seen throughout the play when Helmer is extremely cautious with money. He is also strongly against borrowing. “There can be no freedom or beauty about a home life that depends on borrowing and debt.”.
Another clear example is Krogstad. He blackmails Nora but for the sake of his children.” I am prepared to fight for my small post in the bank as if I were fighting for my life” The fear of poverty led Krogstad to do desperate deeds. “
HOW RELATIONSHIPS ARE DEFINED
In A Doll’s House, Nora and Helmer’s relationship is an unhealthy one. Straight away, in the opening scenes of the play, we see that Nora and Helmer have a parent-child relationship. As mentioned earlier, Helmer treats Nora like a child. “ Is it my little squirrel bustling about”. His use of animal names proves this.
Helmer also makes the decisions on Nora’s behalf. This can be seen when Nora asks for her own money but Helmer already decides against. “You can’t deny it, my dear little Nora”.
Hemler is needy and jealous. We see Helmer’s neediness when Nora one Christmas spends weeks making ornaments. Nora has dedicated her life being the perfect housewife, “ I have existed merely to perform tricks for you”. As a result, Helmer has become dependent on her. “It was the dullest three weeks ever spent”.
Helmer loves when Nora is overly dependent on him. This is one of the clear signs that helmer and Nora have an unhealthy relationship. “This evening I will be wholly and absolutely at your service, you helpless little mortal” His reference to Nora as “helpless little mortal” shows us how he sees Nora”. All these signs show their unhealthy relationship.
Similarly, unhealthy relationships are also seen in The Great Gatsby. During the 1920s infidelity was common.
Daisy and Tom share an unhealthy relationship. We see that this is based on convenience and financial security because there is no real love present. Their relationship is filled with infidelity from both sides. Tom has had multiple affairs in the past and he makes it no secret. The public is aware of his affair with Myrtle, “Tom’s got some woman in New York”. Tom, however, is not the only one, Daisy’s relationship with Gatsby display her infidelity.
There is no respect in the relationship. This can be seen in Daisy’s blatant display of love for Gatsby in front of Tom without care. “She told him she loved him and Tom Buchanan saw”. This shows Daisy’s lack of respect and cares for Tom.
Nick and Jordan’s relationship is based on convenience. We see that there is no love present. “I wasn’t actually in love”. We see that his relationship with Jordan is Nick trying to adjust to the new life and fill that void of loneliness. “ I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes”. We also learn that Jordan is a dishonest person but Nick does not care enough. “ I was casually sorry then I forgot”. In the end, Nick ends their relationship with no regret. “ I don’t know which one of us hung up with a sharp click but I know I didn’t care”. We see here that there was no real love, to begin with.
Unlike Nick and Jordan’s relationship, Eilis and Tony's relationship is filled with a real sincere love for one another. This contrasts with any other relationship in the three texts. When Eilis first moves to Brooklyn, she feels torn in two and alone in the strange new place without friends or the comforts of her home and family, but then, something changes. She meets Tony, a young Italian who treats her with respect and care. They go to the cinema together and he waits for her outside her work, walking her home. As time passes, a friendship slowly blossoms into love.” So the next time you tell me you love me, if there is a next time, I'll, I'll say I love you too”. By the end of the film, Eilis associates home with Tony. “Someone who's only yours. And you'll realize... that this is where your life is”.
In conclusion, from studying the cultural context in all three texts, it is evident that there are many differences as well as similarities between them. For example, all three texts are influenced by wealth and financial stability. Each text is largely driven by the pressures and restrictions placed on the characters by their respective cultural contexts and this is what makes each story so compelling, the overall impression created by the study of the respective societies is a negative one. However, Through exploring each of the text I was glad that times are changing and society is evolving, we are not limited to the same extent by such rigid and unfair values and attitudes.
I saw a few sample answers so I thought I might share one of mine as well. Do let me know if there is anything that I can improve on. Thanks