Male Perspective of Love in Literature
Compare and contrast the ways writers use form, structure and language to portray the male perspective of love in Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’, Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ and the Poetry of Robert Browning. The male perspective of love is interesting to look at when looking at different texts in comparison. Although they have been written in different literary movements male characters portray very similar attitudes and reflect the same aspects towards love and relationships.
This essay concerns the male perspective of love, however it is important to analyse the factors that cause these interpretations of love that the writers have created for the male characters.
For example a reoccurring perspective is the need for dominance over their significant other for example in Shakespeare’s Othello, Othello establishes his dominance over Desdemona by murdering her, similarly in the poetry of Robert Browning his poems ‘My Last Duchess’ and ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ where they also kill their lovers in order to reinforce their male dominance over their partner.
In The Great Gatsby Daisy’s partner Tom displays his dominance over Daisy when he abuses her by punching her in the face. The male perspective of love is understood when looking at the theories of causation. As stated one of the most prominent male perspective of love conveys the need and desire to be dominant over their partner. In the Shakespearian play ‘Othello’ set in 16th century Venice looks at the idea of unconditional love despite the fact that Othello and his love Desdemona are from two completely different worlds. Othello is a Moore which refers to the Islamic – Arabic inhabitants of North Africa, whereas Desdemona is a Venetian.
Contextually their love for one another would be seen as highly controversial and taboo, however despite Desdemona insists that she marries Othello. ‘To you, preferring you before her father, so much I challenge that I may profess due to the Moor my lord. ’ Here Desdemona recognises that her duty is divided, however her honesty with her father shows how willingly loyal she is. A literary interpretation of Othello’s character would suggest that Othello feels the need to dominate over Desdemona due to his much insecurity as a character, directly associated with the idea that he is not of the Venetian culture.
Leavis views that Othello is a ‘weak and stupid character’ that doesn’t understand himself or Desdemona, Othello is an outsider to the Venetian community where as Cassio isn’t, hence his insecurities structure between Cassio and Desdemona when Iago suggests that they are having an affair together. As a result Othello may realise that to maintain his prestige and respect as a soldier he must justify what has been done on him by killing Desdemona.
To some extent I do agree more with the analysis that Leavis’ creates as looking within the context of the time although Othello and his achievements have been celebrated he evidently is a cultural and racial outsider. In addition to insecurities that Othello it is also a possibility that Othello is threatened by Desdemona’s sexual nature, as a character she is very flirtatious and friendly with most of Othello’s comrades including his lieutenant Cassio, whom has suspicion of sleeping with his wife. Desdemona’s supposed infidelity and unfaithfulness to her husband has caused her death.
In the patriarchal Venetian society, women were told to remain submissive and meek at all times. However, in ‘Othello’, the women express independence, though in private, and Emilia, Desdemona’s maid, presents us with feminist opinions when she warns that “the ills we do, their ills instruct us so”. Feminist readings of ‘Othello’ suggest that even though women are shown to be submissive, possessions and are even called ‘whores’, when they do express their feelings and disobey their husband, as is the case with Emilia when she tells Othello of the handkerchief and Iago, she is killed.
This, similar to what happened to the Duchess and Desdemona, shows that any sign of independence from their husband is unwelcome and they are quickly eliminated. This demonstrates my argument that destruction is caused by the male need to control the womenThis could be seen as a threat to Othello as not only is he a cultural outsider; his wife could be potentially having an affair with another man who is of the culture.
Additionally Desdemona is of a higher class status than Othello, which also contribute to his insecurities this links with the novel ‘The Great Gatsby’ by Fitzgerald this text also portrays various conflict issues with class, for example when Daisy proclaims that she would rather be with her unfaithful husband rather than Gatsby. There are some very strong comparisons between Othello and some other texts also for example the poem Porphyria’s Lover and My Last Duchess by Robert Browning presents similar male perspectives of love.
Porphyria’s Lover, the Duke and Othello all feel that they are losing control of their significant other and the power in the relationship. Feminist interpretations would suggest that that these characters are somehow threatened by the sexual nature of their partner, they feel that they should be the dominant in the relationship therefore to maintain that level of power they need so they kill their lovers, it would also indicate that the male characters of these texts are highly insecure.
For example Desdemona’s sexual identity is a threat to Othello’s status, if he kills Desdemona however he can still maintain his prestige without fear of embarrassment [PEE]. This is also similar to the poem My Last Duchess the duke was also threatened by the sexual nature of his wife [PEE]. There are also some comparisons between Othello and the Great Gatsby; they both have similar conflicting issues with class and status.
For instance Desdemona is of higher status than Othello, this also adds to Othello’s insecurities as not only is Desdemona very flirtatious, she is also very wealthy. PEE] Othello is also warned from the beginning of the play by Brabantio, Desdemona’s father to be cautious of her [PEE] Another interpretation made by Bradley who rejects this view and presents an overwhelming positive analysis of Othello whom he sees as relatively blameless for his actions. On the other hand Bradley suggests that it is indeed the manipulative language used by Iago that had caused Othello to develop these insecurities that ultimately lead to his downfall.
This theory seems evident in Act 3, Scene 3 also known as ‘the corruption scene’. This is the scene where the initial manipulation begins, Iago begins to manipulate Othello firstly by making that he is someone trustworthy and reliable therefore he forms a friendship with Othello. Iago had been turned down from the role as Othello’s lieutenant which has explained why he may have some resentment towards Othello; however despite this there is no clear indication to why Iago manipulates Othello in such a way.
Some people have interpreted this as a homosexual affection that Iago shows for Othello in which he is jealous of the love Desdemona and Othello have for each other, therefore he convinces Othello to ultimately kill her in attempt for a chance with Othello. One such interpretation is that Iago is motivated by jealousy of Othello’s love for Desdemona, and is maddened by a repressed homosexual desire. There is a hint of this in Act 3, Scene 3, as Iago, pledging his loyalty to his general, tells Othello, “I am your own forever”.
Iago’s chosen word’s perhaps express more than soldierly devotion, and possess a distinctly romantic tone not too dissimilar to the language of a marriage vow However in some aspects it would seem clear that Othello has already chosen to kill Desdemona almost out of his own will, nothing that anyone says will make a difference at all. ‘Yet she must die, else she’ll betray more men’. The dialog is full of legalistic language as if Othello has tried her and is now sentencing her.
The novel The Great Gatsby is set during the American Jazz Age of the early 1920’s, this was a time jazz music became increasingly popular and played a significant part in wider cultural changes during this period. This was also a time where the American Dream also played an important part in people’s lives; people would immigrate to America in order to achieve this ‘American Dream’. The idea of unrequited love is a prominent theme.
Narrated by Nick Carraway the story tells of Jay Gatsby’s quest for Daisy Buchanan, Nick writes from Gatsby’s point of view as he is writing the novel two years after the story actually happens, so much Gatsby’s point of view is the point of view from Nick, although a trustworthy third party he can sometimes also be unreliable. Nick is determined to make himself seem trustworthy, claiming to be “one of the few honest people that [he has] ever known”. He also claims not to be judgemental, yet he tells Gatsby that “They’re a rotten crowd….
You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together”. This line shows Nick’s judgemental side, proving him to be an untrustworthy narrator. Gatsby’s perspective of love is that in order for him and Daisy to unite he must change, therefore he gained the wealth and prestige in order to win her heart, however Daisy is now married with Tom Buchanan an upper class socialite and had married daisy even though she had promised herself to Gatsby, despite that Tom is unfaithful to her.
Like Othello and the protagonists of ‘My Last Duchess’ and ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ Tom Buchanan is also the self-proclaimed ‘alpha-male’ and feels like he too needs to establish his authority over his love interests for example when he strikes Myrtle in the mouth for speaking ill of his and Daisy’s relationship. The Great Gatsby also shows a portrayal of love and money Gatsby gained his wealth illegally by selling alcohol in an era when alcohol was prohibited. Dishonesty becomes his nature, displayed when he tells Nick that he is “the son of some wealthy people in the Midwest” and lies about being “brought up in America, but, educated in Oxford”.
Daisy’s immorality is also evident when she allows Gatsby to take the blame for her crime, an act that ultimately results in his death. Unlike Othello and the Browning poetry which was written in a much different era to Gatsby, the novel portrays contrasting perspectives of love. Such as going after your lover, and changing yourself rather than trying to change your partner. The Browning poetry was also written in a similar era to Othello, and therefore the correlation between love and dominance are a reoccurring aspect.
For example in the poem ‘My Last Duchess’ the poem is one huge monologue to the audience about a Duke talking to a painter about his last Duchess like Othello the female protagonist is portrayed someone of a sexual and flirtatious nature. Ingersoll describes the character of the Duke as a dominating character with strong will and purpose but as a narcissist who has an insecure need to construct a self-important image of himself which could be seen as a similar interpretation to Leavis’ analysis of Othello.
The Duke is also portrayed by browning as someone who has complete desire to gain over control over every aspect in his life for example all that remains of the duchess is a painting concealed under a pull curtain, ultimately the duke decided who sees her and who doesn’t, or if she is even showed at all. The duke shows satisfaction in this by almost boasting about how he was able to control this young girl. Tucker argues that not only does the power give him pleasure, but by reducing the Duchess to a painting, he reduces her to something he can understand and in turn, control.
The male need to control women by reducing them to ‘art’ is also visible in ‘Othello’ when he asks, “Was this fair paper, this most goodly book,/ Made to write “whore” upon? ”, referring to Desdemona and her suspected infidelity. The poem ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ also portrays a similar message; this is also a monologue that is violent and abrupt: a working man, the lover of a middle class girl, murders her when she comes to his cottage, strangling her with her hair. At the end of the poem he sits, apparently calmly, with her corpse in some kind of pseudo embrace.
Like Gatsby and Othello the protagonist is again threatened by the idea of their significant other having some sort of control over them. Ingersoll believes that “In his own mad fashion, the Lover has read that text in order to escape being positioned as ‘feminine’ i. e. A loved object to be abandoned again as she may have many times before. He reaffirms her ‘feminine’ position as one too weak to break those ‘vainer ties’ to a world in which he can have no presence. Torn between moments of passionate possession of her and inevitable abandonment or ‘loss’, he has murdered her n order to turn her into a fetishistic object which can never leave”.
This also links with Gatsby as they both deal with conflict issues regarding class, however Daisy would never have a relationship with someone that is of a lower class than her, however the female protagonist against all odds rejects this sociological concept and has relations with a man of lower status regardless, however like Othello this causes the male protagonists to become insecure and weak in their relationship, therefore to restore that order they get rid of their loved ones completely. Stuck on conclusion.
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