Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby was published. He portrays the “Jazz Age” in such a romantic and syndical light. The depiction of riches and behaviors of a group of New Yorkers demonstrates the shallowness of characters navigating various dynamic circumstances. He employs characters and vocabulary to illustrate various forms of symbolism that can only be understood by an older generation. The storyline is also very entertaining and fast-paced.
Washington Square, on the other hand, is a short novel penned by Henry James and first published in 1880. The plot is straightforward, and it depicts an old-fashioned life drama. Henry shows how love and loyalty are answered with betrayal. Additionally, He reminisces about the New York he had come to know 30 years before as he talks about Catherine Sloper and her suitor Morris Townsend.
Both novels are similar as they use New York City as the setting. Moreover, the two authors also strive to show social attitudes from both male and female characters concerning relationships and morality.
Daisy Buchanan and Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby
Daisy and Tom are a married couple. Tom is illustrated as a hulking imposing man who is not only rich but also a blatant adulterer as he has a mistress by the name Myrtle Wilson. On the other hand, Daisy is a beautiful, charming but selfish and shallow minded lady. Although Fitzgerald builds her character with an association of purity and innocence, she eventually turns out to be the opposite (Fitzgerald, F. Scott, 12-50).
Their relationship appears to be driven by love. The reason is that even after Tom finds out about the affair between Gatsby and Daisy from their affection, he doesn’t leave her physically and continues to be with her. Additionally, they both mysteriously go for a trip after Gatsby’s death.
Initially, Daisy appears to be quite in love with Tom, but this wears out after his multiple affairs. Despite her luxurious lifestyle and outward happiness, she gives the impression of being depressed with her situation. In chapter one, during her conversation with Nick, she goes on to say “You see I think everything’s terrible anyhow,” she went on in a convinced way. “Everybody thinks so—the most advanced people. And I know. I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.” Her eyes flashed around her in a defiant way, rather like Tom’s, and she laughed with thrilling scorn. “Sophisticated—God, I’m sophisticated!” (Fitzgerald, F. Scott, 12-50). It appears she wishes that her life was better than it was. The argument is also supported by the fact that even after opening up to Nick, she still goes back to be with Tom opposite
Instead of confronting the problems in their marriage, both of them pull away from each other. Tom expects Daisy to remain loyal to him despite having numerous affairs. In chapter seven, Tom confronts Daisy about her relationship with Nick: “I never loved him,” she said, with perceptible reluctance.”
“Not at Kapiolani?” demanded Tom suddenly.”
Daisy appears to expect Tom to stand by her after she kills his lover. This factor becomes evident after they both hurry for a trip out of town opposite (Fitzgerald, F. Scott, 100-175).
Catherine Sloper and Morris Townsend in The Washington square
Henry James portrays Morris as a villain. He is a poor man trying to win Catherine’s love. He eventually ends up winning her heart, but Dr. Sloper, Catherine’s father, doesn’t approve their relationship. He even claims that Morris is only interested in their money when he says: “Young men of his class never do anything for themselves that they can get other people to do for them, and it is the infatuation, the devotion, the superstition of others that keeps them going.” (James, Henry, 24-76)
Catherine expects Morris to love her sincerely, but he fails to prove his love for her numerous times. When Mrs. Penniman ask him whether he liked money more than Catherine, he diverts from the topic. In another instance, Catherine asks Morris if he indeed loved her and here, he proceeds to ask her if she doubts his love for her (James, Henry, 53-99).
Morris appears to only be in search of material gain from Catherine. The quote depicts his love for a luxurious lifestyle at Washington square: “It became for him a club with a single member.” Also, he appears to be a man who is willing to take advantage of other people’s generosity. Later on, he is reluctant to marry Catherine. In page 106, he even wriggles himself out of his engagement with Catherine in a mid to avoid further emotional entanglement: “The natural way to work it out was by marrying Catherine, but in mathematics, there are no shortcuts, and Morris was not without hope that he should yet discover one.”
Henry James and Scott Fitzgerald Characterization
In the novel Washington Square, Henry James avoids the use of violence while Fitzgerald uses vehemence to strengthen the characterization of Tom Buchanan personality. His violent character becomes evident when he breaks Myrtle’s nose.
Henry also uses dialogue throughout to demonstrate the relationship between the characters through emotional processes like suspicion, anxiety, and awareness. The themes in the Washington Square revolve around family and betrayal, home, truth, deception and imagination whereas the central issues in The Great Gatsby majors on the decline of the American dream, the hollowness of upper-class and gender (James, Henry, 12-80).
I feel like Fitzgerald does a better in characterization than Henry James. He outlines how the different genders view the different dynamics of life like love, deception, marriage. For instance, despite Daisy and Tom marriage being dysfunctional and marred by disloyalty, other factors like wealth and murder ends up uniting them (Fitzgerald, F. Scott, 100-175).
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1950.
James, Henry. Washington Square. Leipzig, B. Tauchnitz, 1881.