Throughout two of F Scott Fitzgerald’s books, The Great Gatsby’ and Tender is the Night’, comparisons can be made between the themes that are dealt with in each book. These themes that are portrayed, include materialism, the corruption of dreams and idealism, which all come under the larger theme of searching for human fulfilment. Materialism is a theme that is very common through both of the books. In The Great Gatsby’ we are constantly seeing characters living a hedonistic lifestyle, where the importance of reaching their full potential is over-shadowed by the trend to live life to the fullest by the partying constantly and having fun.
Many character’s in The Great Gatsby could be labelled as being materialistic. Tom, Daisy, Jordan and Myrtle all seem to value materialistic possessions. They all believe that success comes from the way you appear to others and how much money you have in you wallet. An example of when a character does something solely to keep up appearances, is when Myrtle says to Tom as they are driving past a man selling dogs I want one of those dogs’, she says “I want one of those for the apartment’.
This comment shows her irresponsible behaviour towards possessions as well as her need to give a certain image to others. In “Tender is the Night’, although not as obvious, materialism is also a major aspect to the book. The initial description of the characters lazing around on the shore of the French Riviera without any sign of direction in their lives, shows that the character’s within Tender is the Night’ are also very hedonistic. Abe North’s drinking problem symbolised that lack of direction in life, and Mrs McKisco’s somewhat nosy’ attitude shows that the character’s had very little to do.
Many times through the book, you find that Dick and Nicole have returned to the French Riviera or are in some other part of the world relaxing and having a great time. The difference between Dick and Nicole and the corrupt character’s in The Great Gatsby’ however, is that they believe that they are doing something. Dick is constantly talking about the book that he is writing, but it is all talk. He is only ever bragging about it to others so that they will respect him; he never actually puts in the effort to complete his book.
This book that Dick is writing also symbolises the corruption of dreams and the idealism. Dick’s ideal, was to marry the perfect woman, Nicole, write his fantastic book psychology for psychiatrists’ and be the best psychiatrist in the world. At the beginning of his career all of these things were attainable, but slowly each one of these things slipped away to falter his life. These things were not only just an ideal or a plan in life, they were a necessity for Dick. He dreamed of them all and it was from then on that it became an obsession.
This lead to Dick’s belief that his life couldn’t be fulfilled unless all of these things were obtained. Nicole, although beautiful and elegant, was flawed. Described by Dick as a beautiful empty shell’, she was the object of Dick Diver’s romantic imagination. He took it upon himself, to obtain this beautiful shell’, despite the obvious problems and warnings from his associates. Looking at his need’ for her, it wasn’t just love; it was also the need for a challenge and he put his entire effort into proving that Nicole could be changed. When he met Rosemary, things started to look up.
Finally he had met a woman, although not as beautiful as Nicole, that was stable and independent. He took advantage of her love for him to experience what a relationship with two equal participants would be like. After he had tasted what a relationship like this was like, his dream became more and more clearer to him. The reality of what Nicole was really like suddenly dawned on him, and he realised that the dream that he had been striving for so long was impossible to achieve. It is at this point that his dream started to die and so did he.
Jay Gatsby was said to have had a romantic readiness. He devoted his life to his idealism, his faith in life’s possibilities. He refused to accept himself as he was and instead tried to portray the image of him as being the most wealthy, popular man in New York’. Like Dick however, he devoted his life to a dream that was tainted by his own obsession. Daisy represented everything that he had ever wanted. She was the woman that he loved, she was the upper class that he had fought so long to be accepted by and she was also a married woman.
Similar to Dick, Gatsby also liked a challenge. He liked the thought of obtaining a married woman, as this also represented his ultimate success in life. Daisy, just like Nicole however, was flawed. Although not through a mental illness like Nicole, Daisy was flawed in the way that she did not appreciate the attention that she received from Gatsby and basically was unable to follow a path that lead to uncertainty. This failure of Gatsby’s dream that he had devoted his life to, just like Dick, was what lead to his death, both physically and spiritually.
Another theme that is dealt with during the books through symbolism, is that of choosing not too see the truth. The billboard of Dr T. J Eckleburg in The Great Gatsby’ that intrusively watches over the decay and corruption in The Valley of Ashes, represents the way that everyone sees’ everything that is happening around them, but refuses to take any responsibility for it. This is proven in the way that Gatsby sees’ Tom and the child but refuses to believe that they will be any problem in winning Daisy over for himself, and how Daisy can see’ that Tom is having an affair but isn’t strong enough to stand up for herself and leave.
In Tender is the Night’ we have the reference of Dick saying at specific times Do you mind if I pull down the curtain? ‘ This represents the fact that Dick doesn’t want to see’ anything that could change his opinion about someone or something. Dick has a very straight forward life and always expects himself to be the one with the power. When this isn’t the case, he doesn’t want to know about it. An example of his use of this phrase is when he hears about Rosemary on the train with another man.
He can’t accept the fact that she isn’t as innocent as he first perceived her to be, and therefore says this so that he doesn’t have to accept the truth and can simply continue his relationship with the innocent’ girl that he has. Although not obvious at first, it is quite apparent that both of these books contain similar themes. Looking at the story lines, it is hard to imagine that these two books are actually similar at all. But after closer observations, you can start to notice the subtle similarities between the characters, the settings and even the language that F Scott Fitzgerald writes.