Characters Who Violate Social Norms In The Great Gatsby By F. Scott Fitzgerald And The Awakening By Kate Chopin

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel ‘The Great Gatsby’ a grim version of the roaring twenties is portrayed, as well as the decay of the American Dream. As for ‘The Awakening’ by Kate Chopin; which is set in the late 1800’s, at a time when the industrial revolution and feminist movement began to emerge. Both novels being examples of acute social criticism of their respective time periods; through characters who violate social norms. The two authors generate suspense in their novels through their usage of several literary techniques, including; characterization, the two endings, and symbolism, where in turn they are able to reflect their criticism of the upper class and societal expectations at the time.

Beginning with Fitzgerald’s novel, the author builds up suspense primarily through the central character (Jay Gatsby); this is done by the authors implementing of characterization. Fitzgerald provides the readers with an insight into the struggling character of Gatsby; being a mysterious and tragic character, who despite this reality, throws lavish and expensive parties, only revealing that he is truly surrounded by shallow and self-centered people. All the rumors about Gatsby; “somebody told me he killed a man once”, creates a mysterious aura about his character and gives an illusion of depth and richness to him. Gatsby violates social norms, and constantly strives to reach out to Daisy, seeing that he feels Daisy (his once true love, who split paths with Gatsby, and returned a married woman), is the only thing he needs to fulfill a perfect life. This ironically reveals that perfection in his eyes can only be pursued through imperfect, and fatally flawed (morally ambiguous) means, hence we identify that Gatsby’s true flaw is imbedded within his desire and dreams to once more ‘fall in love’ with Daisy. Furthermore, the moral ambiguity built is accentuated when we are led into the first meeting between Gatsby and Daisy, which can be describes as awkward, and tense situation in which both characters are aware of possible consequences of their reconcile (knowing Daisy is a married women), living a luxurious life, enthusiastic for the thrill of wealth, and rank in society.

Similarly, Chopin also uses characterization in order to edge her readers to identifying the ambiguity of her main character (Edna). In the novel, Edna Pontellier is a middle-aged married woman with children, who experiences a sexual awakening, that slowly built up as the events progressed in the novel. The ambiguity is largely sustained from the situation itself, where Edna is chained by societal norms and their standards, where even Edna's physical description is always referred to be unconventional, not representing the typical society pleasing woman. Chopin purposely includes the description "embodiment of every womanly grace and charm" as the idealistic description; Adele Ratignolle being an example. However, on the other hand, Chopin compares Edna as being "rather handsome than beautiful", revealing that a man is usually described as handsome; depicting Edna as being androgynous to an extent; a mixture of qualities and mindset of a man and woman. Once Edna experiences her awakening, and finally accepts her unique characteristic, she "had all the men in New Orleans at her feet. " However, she hasn’t fully committed herself to any of these individuals she refers to, underlining the point that she in reality does not need (or want) anyone else's approval; hence unlike other women in her society, she does not need a man to be complete and satisfied, therefore he isn’t willing to sacrifice anything for these individuals. This being implemented by the authors leaves Edna in the shadow, seeing as she does not abide by her society, and what is expected of her. Moreover, Leonce, Edna’s husband; whom is persistently pointing out Ednas’ faults, serves as a constant reminder to the pressuring expectations and beliefs of what a woman should be like, and attempts to mold into the ideal obedient wife, and mother women in the 19th century.

Nonetheless, Chopin also uses the ending of the novel to evoke true and impactful sympathy for Nora as she decides to take her own life and doing so in the very place se began to feel a sense of release and freedom; the sea. Hence revealing that Edna realistically has no escape from society, and either is forced to mold in perfectly and conceal her want of freedom or leave society permanently as she has done. Sympathy within ‘The Great Gatsby’ is also emphasized and let on the reader through Fitzgerald’s use of symbolism. Through different symbol present throughout the novel, the reader is led into the world of Gatsby, and are exposed to his true colors behind the mask of money. One symbol being; the green light, where it represents the unattainable dream of Gatsby, despite seeming so close and a sight present every night, it represents Gatsby’s disability to once more find love in his life, and in turn is lonely, as shown in the novel “He stretched out his arms to a single green light”. Also, where Gatsby’s love for Daisy become poisoned by his greed for riches to an extent the reader begins to question if Gatsby’s love is still even genuine, presenting even more reasons to be sympathetic for the character of Jay Gatsby.

Additionally, in ‘The Awakening’, Chopin furthermore embeds sympathy of her characters through the use of symbolism. Where one symbol is the birds; as the bird’s failure to fly symbolizes Edna’s suicide and represent the inability of Edna to defy her society and break free of the constraints set, in order to live a free life. All in all, this poses as a psychological battle which Edna must face throughout her journey to her sexual awakening, as she fails to fully free herself.

In conclusion, both authors of ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘The Awakening’ were able to evoke sympathy from the readers towards their characters through the usage of several literary techniques, including; characterization, the two endings, and symbolism. Mainly this presented through their main characters, Chopin’s Edna, and Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby. Whereby this sympathy acts as a vital role in helping the two authors portray the true message they wish to embed in the readers mind, leaving a long lasting effect on them.

18 May 2020
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