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Great Gatsby’ written by F. Scott Fitzgerald presents America as a country
of wealth, hope and prosperity, whereas Robert Frost’s collection, ‘A Further Range (1937)’ is about the aftermath of the 1920’s economic and social
boom.  This collection is one of Frost’s
later works and is a lot more political than his previous works.  Some critics such as Robert Newdick see it as
being a collection that concentrates on uncustomary subjects such as religion
or politics1.
There is a clear distinction between the works of both Fitzgerald and Frost as
it represents the change that America and the world have been through. These
changes can be seen through many features such as evolving gender roles,
industrial changes and adapting lifestyles. 
The 1920’s were also known as the ‘Roaring Twenties,’ as everyone felt
more liberated which allowed for more erratic behaviour and success became more
desirable through the American Dream.  However,
in Frost’s collection it is set during ‘The Great Depression,’ which provides a
clear representation of changing lifestyles. Both writers use their work to
subtly present their own opinions on the rapidly changing world through
different devices.

writers use the theme of changing gender roles in order to portray the rapidly
changing world, which is made clear through the use of female characters in
Fitzgerald’s novel. In the 19th century, women were expected to be a
domestic figure, however in 1903, the ‘suffragette’ movement was found and it
led to the revolutionary right for women to vote in 1920. Consequently, the
stigma of women being the more passive figure started to decline, as women were
experiencing liberation, therefore allowing stereotypes to be broken. This is apparent through Fitzgerald’s use of characters like Daisy,
Jordan Baker and Myrtle Wilson. There is a real emphasis on sexualising women, for example, Fitzgerald
states, “Myrtle carries her flesh sensuously, as some women can” which defies
the image of the traditional, domestic woman. This depiction of Myrtle suggests
that there is an element of rebellion within her
as a woman with connotations to sexualisation (“sensuously”) and a resemblance
to “flappers” which opposes the stereotypical, domestic woman. There appears to
be a pattern in this novel, that women who attempt to break the gender
stereotypes always have a consequence. For example, Myrtle’s affair with Tom
resulted in her own death. This could resemble Fitzgerald’s own opinion on the
changing gender roles, yet it could also be satirical, as if women can never
escape the stereotype. Makowsky
argues that Fitzgerald’s use of female characters is purely for “a handy
narrative technique” purpose. This has connotations of women having little
significance within the novel such as the character of Jordan Baker who is used
as a narrative of Daisy’s earlier life. However, it is clear that Daisy and
Myrtle are representative of the changing gender roles within the developing
world.  Fitzgerald
uses New York as a setting to expose Myrtle’s other persona – a woman engrossed
in fashion and excessiveness. This persona represents the effect of the
American Dream on the 1920’s society, where the concept of excessiveness seems
to be present in the larger and more prosperous cities. Parkinson2
argues that Tom Buchanan sees women as a decorative object and therefore has
more traditional beliefs of gender roles, yet he contradicts this by having an
affair, which wouldn’t be considered traditional. There is a sense of men still
having some dominance over women; this is depicted through Tom Buchman’s
violent act on Myrtle when she disobeyed him. However, within this changing
society, men still hold dominance and think of women as being a “decorative
object” or a domestic figure, meaning that there are still essences of
traditionalism even within the changing, developing world.  Fitzgerald uses young female characters to
explore the concept of youth and it’s importance in the changing world. Whilst
Fitzgerald explores the new found sexual freedom of women, Frost, in his poem
to ‘Provide, Provide’ suggests that
youth and beauty only lasts a certain amount of time, so people should
encourage themselves to take advantage of this which Frost expresses by
stating, “the withered hag… was once the beauty of Abishag.” This suggests that
women are considered as being almost biblical in their youth, as if they are
free from faults and almost godly. However, once their youth dwindles they are
likened to a “hag” which makes them seem almost villainous.  This could be suggestive that part of the
change in women’s roles is that they face more responsibility in society to
maintain their appearances and youth. “Abishag” was known for her outstanding
beauty, and because of this she was chosen to serve an aging king. This is symbolic
of the traditional, stereotypical image of women serving and being reliant on
men.   This concept is also present in Fitzgerald’s
novel through the use of female characters. There is certainly a sense of women
breaking free from their stereotypes in the novel. Yet, it can be argued that
women’s dependence on men can actually contribute towards their freedom. This
is clear through Myrtle’s reliance on Tom Buchanan to fulfil her alternative
façade in New York. It seems that within this gender shift that women still do
not have full control, especially where Daisy states, “that’s the best thing a
girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” The stereotypical
inferiority of women is also present in Frost’s poetry, especially in ‘Provide, Provide’ as it suggests that
girls who are considered beautiful by society can have more fun, yet it makes
the females seem inferior to men as if they must obey and hide any from of
their own opinion. Consequently, referring back to
the traditionalism within the gender roles, even in such a rapidly changing
world where gender roles were altering.

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writers use symbolism in order to express their own opinions of the rapidly
changing world. Frost seems to have a more negative attitude towards the developing
world than Fitzgerald, which justifies the tendency to isolate and separate the
speaker in his poems from society. In Frost’s poem, ‘The Roadside Stand,’ there is a road used as a symbol of the
divide between rich and poor. The poor use roadside stands as a way of living,
yet the rich who travel past in “polished traffic” do not pay any attention to
the poor and precede their journey to the booming city.  There is a real sense from this poem that the
American Dream was for the few and not the many. It also feels as if there were
two extremes of either being excessively wealthy, therefore having the ability
to excel, or being extremely poor and declining within society. The symbolism
of the road highlights the divide between classes and this is reinforced where
Frost writes, “you have the money, but if you want to be mean, why keep your
money.” This is suggestive that the rich have become so absorbed in the concept
of money that they have become protective over it. The pronoun “your” has
connotations to possessiveness, as if they cannot spare any for the poor.
Consequently, this has links to selfishness (“mean”), which could indicate that
the bigger and more prosperous cities breed arrogance and selfishness. There is
a sense that the rich wish to disassociate themselves from the poor, which
could imply that money can destroy morals and sincerity. This concept is
presented in Frost’s poem ‘Provide,
Provide.’ Here, he explores how wealth and fame can create insincerity such
as “boughten friendship at your side,” portraying a false sense of reality
where money can fund something that shouldn’t be bought. Furthermore,
“boughten” is also suggestive of people becoming more materialistic within such
a rapidly changing world.  Frost also
refers to the city as a flower; “the
money, the cash, whose flow supports the flower of cities from sinking and
withering faint.” The use of the flower symbolises delicacy. A flower is
reliant on nutrients in order to be substantial, mirroring the city’s reliance
on money, therefore making it vulnerable. This vulnerability could be Frost
reflecting on events such as the ‘Wall Street Crash’ of 192, where money was
the very reason for that created this crisis. As well as this, Fitzgerald also uses
symbolism in his work to reflect his opinion on the rapidly changing world.
Fitzgerald uses Doctor T. J. Eckleburg’s eyes in the ‘Valley of Ashes’ as a
figure of judgement. Fitzgerald describes the eyes as being almost omnipresent,
like a God, to remind people of their morals. Yet, it is clear that it is
beyond repair; “But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days… brood on
over the solemn dumping ground.” This portrays a loss of hope for a doomed
society as if the sins committed are beyond forgiveness or repent. This concept
could be Fitzgerald’s own views on society, as if the changing world is moving
too rapidly and is spiralling out of control. Shaw argues that Owl Eyes is
almost an avatar of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg’s in the novel as they both share
this omnipresent sense3. Owl Eyes
appeared to be with Gatsby at the beginning and till the very funeral of
Gatsby’s. Ironically, Owl Eyes is described as being almost blind where it
states, “with
enormous owl-eyed spectacle” which makes him seem unreliable, as well as old or
frail, yet he is also described as a wiser, omnipresent figure. The use of
“solemn dumping ground”  has connotations
to a graveyard and death, as if the Valley of Ashes is a place lost prosperity
and hope.  Fitzgerald also uses cars as a
form of symbolism as it can represent wealth. Cars are part of the rapidly
changing world as they signify money and status, also death in some aspects,
which Parkinson argues as it foreshadows the deaths at the end of the novel4.  Gatsby’s car was very much a reflection on
himself as a character, something of a spectacle; “It was a rich cream colour,
bright with nickel.” The uses of colours have real connotations to luxury,
which coincides with Gatsby’s materialistic nature.  The use of the colour “cream” is significant
as it is off-white, which could portray how Gatsby, as well as society, could
be tainted by such materialism. Ironically, this colour is also described
alongside “nickel” which has connotations to money and wealth. The paired use
of these colours could emphasise how money can taint society, which could have
undertones to Fitzgerald’s own view on a capitalist society.

Both writers use different
narratives to portray varied attitudes towards the rapidly changing world.  There is a sense that the speakers have
momentarily taken a step out of society and are observing the changing society
from a clearer perspective. Fitzgerald portrays Nick as being partially
isolated from the rest of society. The ‘American Dream’ heavily influenced a
certain lifestyle within society where people felt more liberated. Fitzgerald
creates Nick as a character who is more aware of the values of money, being
from a “prominent, well to-do (p4)” family. 
Consequently, this means he is more representative of old money and
therefore, reinforcing him as an outsider to people who are representative of
new money. It
also means that he is not as easily influenced to accept Gatsby’s offer of
making ‘easy money.’ Nick seems to take his father’s beliefs into his adulthood
– “I’m inclined to reserve all judgements”, which suggests that Nick has a
moral compass, which others in society may lack. Fitzgerald portrays Nick as
being from a wealthy background as well as having morals and ethical principles,
which portrays him as an outsider of the social circle as he doesn’t appear to
indulge himself in the luxuries and excessiveness of other characters such as
Gatsby and Daisy. Similarly, Frost also portrays the speaker as an outsider of
society through his poetry. In Desert
Places, Frost seems to be in his own company watching the simpler things of
life; “The
loneliness includes me unawares,” this is suggestive that the speaker has
accepted their isolation from society. The verb “includes” implies that it
wasn’t against the speaker’s will to be included into the “loneliness” as it
was more of an invite as if Frost enjoys the isolation that he had entered.
Bell argues that Frost is very much a “minimalist” when it comes to being a
narrative poet and there is often an element of ambiguity within his work5.
This really contrasts to Fitzgerald’s style, as Nick is portrayed as being
stunned by the excessiveness of the 1920’s America lifestyle and therefore
narrates in excessive detail; “extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half
an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler’s thumb.”
This detailed description at the start of chapter three makes it seem as if
Nick is almost bewildered by the extent to which Gatsby will go to just to
impress guests, in hopes of keeping his wealthy, prosperous façade intact.
Nick’s innocence and tendency to remain true to himself isolates him from
society. Fitzgerald once stated, “all good writing is swimming underwater and
holding your breath6” which has echoes of the
narrative, as there is a real sense that Nick is portraying society from a
different perspective. The idea of Fitzgerald using a narrator who is
considered an outsider may reflect his own opinions on the
changing society.

Fitzgerald and Frost use the description of
settings in their work to portray their own concerns on the rapidly changing
world. Frost uses natural imagery and pastoral landscapes frequently in his
poetry. In the Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald
uses four main locations; West Egg, East egg, Valley of Ashes and New York
city. These places all represent a certain class, such as East egg being
associated with the wealthier, more successful people and the Valley of Ashes
as a place of social deprivation. Fitzgerald describes the Valley of Ashes as a
place of relic. This is portrayed through where Fitzgerald states, “a fantastic
farm where ashes grow like wheat… ash-grey men who move dimly and already
crumbling through the powdery air.” This has strong connotations to a declining
society as if these people are “crumbling” down in society into the unknown,
yet there is also strong links to industrial decline too. The noun “ash” links
to the concept of relic, as if the ‘Valley of Ashes’ was once seen as a place
of prosperity, however due to the changing society, it has become a place of
lost hope.  The agricultural metaphor
that Fitzgerald employs here, “farm” and “wheat”, links to the industrial
change in the world and America as it has associations to the more pastoral,
agricultural industry that America once thrived in before the more mechanical
industry took over, consequently leaving places in deprivation. This concept of
industry and the protestant work ethic is also present in Frost’s work too
which is portrayed through the use of setting, this could be due to his own
experience of living on a farm which provides him with a stronger
understanding. Frequently, Frost uses natural landscapes within his work. In ‘A Lone Striker,’ the natural imagery is
introduced towards the end of the poem, in the last stanza; “He knew another place, a wood/And in
it, tall as trees, were cliffs.” This imagery is used to contrast to the
industrial, man-made imagery used in the earlier stanzas of the poem. The
contrast in location allows the speaker to isolate themselves from the
complications of the changing world and the city lifestyle. Frost may be
expressing a concern that as a society we become so consumed in the rapidly
changing world that we forget about the simpler, more natural way of life. The
focus on pastoral landscapes also emphasises that these locations can stand
still in time and are representative of the past as well as the present,
whereas cities are forever expanding and changing throughout time. Contrastingly,
Fitzgerald focuses on the areas that are experiencing change. East Egg is the location where old money
belongs whereas West Egg is described as the place of new money. Fitzgerald
states, “I lived at West Egg… the less fashionable of the two.” This is suggestive
of it being slightly tasteless and excessive, as if new money is something that
society doesn’t fully understand which may reflect Fitzgerald’s own views of
new money. It is clear that Fitzgerald and Frost may have different experiences
to compliment the idea of industry but they still both have a sense of concern
in society’s behaviour.

Overall, it
is extremely clear that this era was extremely significant for America as
gender roles became more equal to a certain extent, industry flourished, and
society felt more liberated. Yet, Fitzgerald and Frost make their opinions of
society very clear through their work. For Fitzgerald, it seems that writers
there was a concern about society becoming too consumed in materialism and
excessiveness. Frost’s collection was published in 1937; therefore this
reflects the aftermath of the ‘Roaring Twenties.’  Fitzgerald seems to portray his female
characters of Daisy and Myrtle as being slightly more rebellious by taking part
in action against their stereotypes and expectations. Their tragic ends may
also reflect Fitzgerald’s opinion on women inspired by flappers in the 1920s.
both writers also use symbolism within their work to subtly express their
negative views of society. Yet, there does appear to be a contrast in the
writer’s perspectives of society. It seems that Frost as a more negative view
on the changing industry because of his own struggles, whereas Fitzgerald seems
to have less of a negative view. It is clear that both the writers had concerns
for the rapidly changing world through the use of similar devices such as
symbolism and characters. However, Frost’s work has more of a cautious message
as it really highlights the consequences of a society where there are no rules,
such as the society portrayed in Fitzgerald’s novel.

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