Great Gatsby and War and Peace:what Do They Have in Common?
I will discuss during the course of this essay the above theme in the two following books – The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and War and Peace, written by Leo Tolstoy. Much has been written in each of the two books on this theme. Very briefly I will describe how. . .
The Great Gatsby is a book with a main character who is almost disgustingly rich, and possesses an almost inhuman ability to focus on one thing throughout his life – the accumulation of vast quantities of money this is his love for a female character who is known by the name of Daisy throughout the book War and Peace “Up to now historical science in its relation to humanity’s inquiry is like money in circulation – bank-notes and coin. The biographies and national histories are the paper money. They may pass and circulate and fulfil their function without mischief to anyone, and even to advantage, so long as no question arises as to the security behind them. One has only to forget to ask how the will of heroes produces events and the histories of Thiers and his fellows will be interesting, instructive and not without their touch of poetry. But in exactly the same way as doubts of the real value of bank-notes arise either because, being, easy to manufacture, too many of them get made, or because people try to exchange them for gold, so doubts concerning the real value of histories of this kind arise either because too many of them are written or because someone in the simplicity of his heart inquires: What force enabled Napoleon to do that? – that is, wants to exchange the current paper money for the pure gold of true understanding.
The writers of universal histories and the history of culture are like people who, recognising the defects of paper money, decide to substitute for it coin of some metal inferior to gold. Their money will be ‘hard coin’, no doubt; but while paper money may deceive, the ignorant coin of inferior metal will deceive no-one. Just as gold is gold only where it is employable not merely for barter but also for the real use of gold, so too the universal historians will only rank as gold when they are able to answer the cardinal question of history: What constitutes power? The universal historians give contradictory replies to this question, while the historians of culture thrust it aside altogether and answer something quite different. And as imitation gold counters can only be used among a community of persons who agree to accept them for gold or who are ignorant of the nature of gold, so the universal historians and historians of culture who fail to answer the essential questions of humanity only serve as currency for sundry purposes of their own – in the universities and among the legions who go in for ‘serious’ reading, as they are pleased to call it.” “Though he was the most absent minded and forgetful of men, with the aid of a list his wife drew up he had bought everything, not forgetting his mother – and brother-in-law’s commissions, nor the presents of a dress for Mademoiselle Byelov and toys for his nephews. In the early days of marriage it had seemed strange to him that his wife should expect him to remember all the items he had undertaken to buy, and he had been taken aback by her serious annoyance when he returned after his first absence, having forgotten everything. But in time he had grown used to this.
Knowing that Natasha never asked him to get anything thing for herself, and only gave him commissions for others when he himself volunteered, he now found an unforeseen and childlike pleasure in this purchase of presents for the whole household and never forgot anything. If he incurred Natasha’s censure now, it was only for buying and spending too much. To her other defects (as most people thought them but which to Pierre were virtues) of untidiness and neglect of herself Natasha certainly added that of thriftiness.
From the time that Pierre set up as a family man on a scale entailing heavy expenditure he had noticed to his astonishment that he spent only half as much as in the past, and that his circumstances, somewhat straitened latterly (mainly owing to his first wife’s debts) were beginning to improve. Living was cheaper because it was circumscribed: that most expensive of luxuries, the sort of life which allows of going somewhere else or doing something different at a moment’s notice, was his no longer, nor did he have any desire for it. He felt that his manner of life was determined now, once and for all, till death, and that to alter it was not in his power, and so that order of life proved economical. With a jovial, smiling face Pierre was unpacking his purchases. ‘What do you think of this?’ he cried, unrolling a length of material like a shopman. Natasha, who was sitting opposite him with her eldest daughter on her knee, turned her sparkling eyes from her husband to the things he was showing her. ‘Is that for Mademoiselle Byelov? Splendid!’ She felt the quality of the material. ‘A rouble a yard, I suppose?’ Pierre told her the price. ‘Very dear,’ remarked Natasha. ‘However, how pleased the children and maman will be! Only you shouldn’t have bought me this,’ she added, unable to suppress a smile as she admired the gold comb set with pearls, in a style just then coming into fashion.” The Great Gatsby ” ‘He’s a bootlegger,’ said the young ladies, moving somewhere between his cocktails and his flowers. ‘One time he killed a man who had found out that he was nephew to Von Hindenburg and second cousin to the devil.
Reach me a rose, honey, and pour me a last drop into that there crystal glass.’ ” “There was music from my neighbour’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft, or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motor boats slit the water off the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam. On weekends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered past like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains. And on Mondays eight servants, including an extra gardener, toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and garden-shear repairing the ravages of the night before.
Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York – every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves. There was a machine in the kitchen which could 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. At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred fleet of canvas and enough coloured lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a darts gold. In the main hall a bar with real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another.”
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