Semester2/ The 20th Century: Take Home Exam

a/ The Great Gatsby is the story of a man trying to reach a quality of experience unavailable and not understood in the times in which he lived.

Gatsby is ever reaching out across the bay toward the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. It symbolised his thirst for something unattainable and unreachable. Gatsby’s attempts to attain perfection in his life are a failure, they ultimately lead to his death and unfortunately Daisy’s flight proved that he was never going to be successful in any way.

What made Gatsby a great man was his ability to see a head of him, to envision better things for himself. His vision of a perfect life with Daisy was his ultimate goal. With everything else he has achieved he strives to use it in his favour in his attempt to win Daisy and to get back the experience they had before his decision to leave her. Everything Gatsby did was with her in mind; however his means of achieving what he wanted depleted the quality of that which he was ultimately trying to experience. His idealism was constrained by his times, the 20’s were ripe with crime, including Gatsby’s own source of riches, the money made from bootlegging alcohol. This very fact illustrates that the quality of life Gatsby was trying to achieve was already tainted and therefore unavailable due to the time in which he lived.

This man attempting to reach an intensely unwavering high quality experience of his life was also hindered greatly by the very thing he was attempting to grasp, Daisy. Gatsby’s own greatness was recognised by Nick the narrator, his appreciation of Gatsby’s attempt at achieving the American Dream was countered by Nick’s knowledge that perhaps Gatsby could achieve more if he wasn’t tied so closely with his quest for Daisy. This is where Gatsby was stopped from reaching the quality of experience that he was attempting to achieve as the people around him could not understand his vision. Daisy was partly blinded by selfishness, she allowed Gatsby to bear the brunt of her actions and ran with Tom instead of any attempt to morally redeem herself but perhaps she was making the right decision in not remaining with Gatsby. After the reveal of Gatsby’s criminal lifestyle perhaps Daisy understood that life with Gatsby wasn’t the right way to live. Gatsby himself did not understand that his criminal dealings had already negatively affected the outcome of his story, that they had diminished its quality. Daisy is made to be a villain due to circumstance, however even if Gatsby’s intentions were pure he was also a villain in his own right, yet he was made to be the hero after being wrongly implicated in the circumstances of Myrtle’s death.  Gatsby dies without achieving this high quality of life because he did not understand that his past actions had already tainted it and by further facilitating Daisy in her careless behaviour instead of counselling her to admit to her wrong doings he sealed his fate by being blinded by his love. His lack of understanding and his decision to not acknowledge that his life was not as perfect as once thought already reduced the quality of the future life he had envisioned.

c/ Contemporary Twentieth Century poets are concerned to improve human relationships. Discuss with reference to any two Twentieth Century poets represents in the Norton Anthology of English Literature

Contemporary Twentieth Century poets are concerned with improving human relationships; we see examples of this through Wilfred Owens Dolce Et Decorum Est and it’s rough pleading to others to value each other’s lives, instead of willingly sending men to war and to their deaths. Carol Ann Duffy’s War Photographer follows on in very much the same vein. She also paints a negative picture on the loss of life and how it correlates with human relationships as a whole. Both poems are in relation to war and make comment upon the amount of care the humans should have for others despite the connection and reflect the idea that more care must be shown in every relationship despite its depth.

Owen throws the reader on to the battlefield without warning. He delves into the worst of the worst and lays the truth of war down for everyone to observe. In graphic terms he describes the death of a fellow soldier. It is far from the idealised picture of war that was propagated at the time. He portrays the suffering of the soldier to excruciating detail and sense of hopelessness escapes from his words as the soldier dies before the author’s eyes with no hope of survival or even minimal help to relieve his suffering. The entire scene serves the purpose of trying to lift the fog of perception from around war, to reveal the ugliness and make people reconsider their willingness to send or allow their young sons or husbands to voluntarily fight for their lives.  Owen uses his description to call for more care to be taken, for more value to be placed on the relationships with family and friends to reduce the chaos and misery. Out right he requests other to heed his message and to stop spreading falsehoods, “The old lie”(Owen), of honour to lure more to their deaths for the sake of pride. The entirety of his poem shows his dislike to war and the misgivings that are spread carelessly and without a thought to those who die. In general Owen asks others to heed his request to take more care in the relationships we have with others, to be more protective of their wellbeing instead of being careless with life.

Carol Ann Duffy makes very much the same commentary. As a poet she also focuses on the suffering of war, as viewed through the camera lenses of a war photographer, she makes a stronger statement in relation to the uncaring nature of people. This is in comparison to the anguish felt by those who do share cherished relationships with the dead, “he remembers the cries of this man’s wife” (Duffy). The protagonist is twisted and haunted by the things he’s seen and in comparison the reader’s that view his photographs in their morning paper feel a mere spark of sympathy before moving on with the rest of their day. The difference is in sharp relief of the two different levels of care and the people are challenged to give a little more thought to those who give the ultimate sacrifice, than a simple passing thought. Duffy urges them to form any sort of relationship or connection, to care, for those who fight for their peace and comfort.


1 thought on “Semester2/ The 20th Century: Take Home Exam”

  1. A good reading of Gatsby’s dilemma. Good comparison between Owen and Duffy. Well done for being innovative!
    Editing Needed (and some workshop follow-ups- see Purdue Owl for help:
    * to see a head of him =to see ahead of him [ ]
    * The 20’s were ripe with crime, [New sentence required here. You should also explore

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