"The Great Gatsby" and "Call Me by Your Name"
The prevalence of infatuation as a thematic concern in Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and Aciman’s “Call Me by Your Name” is beyond all doubt. Be it the religious idolatry of another within Call Me by Your Name or the illusion of love which fuels desire within The Great Gatsby, what we may take for certain, in both novels is that what infatuation fuels is something forbidden with regard to both contexts. Gatsby’s desire is fuelled by the forbidden nature of Daisy, a married woman now, with which his affair would’ve been scandalous within American society in the 1920s the desire of Gatsby’s love is shown through their separation and his obsession with the “green light” expressing the inability to achieve his American dream Daisy.
Where-as, in Call Me By Your Name Aciman presents forbidden love through the nature of a same-sex relationship set in Italy in the 1980s where same-sex marriages would only become legal in 2016, the obsession is presented through the worship of Oliver who is represented a “moment in heaven” for Elio, highlighting the inability to disregard obsession as a catalytic force.
Nonetheless, obsession is the fuel for both relationships within The Great Gatsby and Call Me by Your Name, with which the relationships are dependent upon for them to exist
Within The Great Gatsby Fitzgerald presents Gatsby’s infatuation through his dependence on the “green light” which symbolizes his desire of love for Daisy – a symbol of the “ideal he has created”. The “green light” hangs at the end of Daisy’s dock, and Gatsby bought his house in order to be able to see it each night, the green light most obviously symbolizes his unwavering love for Daisy. After Gatsby revealed his knowledge of the significance of the “green light” to Daisy after their reunion it could be regarded the “the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever”. Daisy’s unawareness to the light suggests that the light was only a symbol of what could’ve been and provided Gatsby with a reminder of their existence together in one world a possibility for them to be connected. But, now the symbol of the “green light” is more important to Gatsby than Daisy herself as she “could ever approximate the platonic ideal he has invented” (Pearson) but also now the significance which the light withholds represents more than love, almost an unquestionable devotion and worship to a source which could never be fulfilled by Daisy with which he will continually struggle to reconcile with this dream throughout. The use of the colour “green” is also significant of Fitzgerald as it could symbolize money to the reader, therefore the “green light” symbolizes the wealth Gatsby feels he needs to attain to be able to win Daisy back from Tom, however, Fitzgerald makes Gatsby completely unaware to the clear distinction between wealth and class within the 20th century, as even though he has been able to make his own money he will always represent the class of new money whereas Tom and Daisy represent that of old money something which Gatsby can never achieve and will always be shut out of the upper classes by those who were born into wealth. Whilst the green light is symbolized with wealth and money, Daisy is often referred to being gold or silver by Fitzgerald, as she is seen as being the “golden girl” and seen as “gleaming like silver” expressing a more safe, enduring and strong source of wealth than that of Gatsby’s, as the money of Gatsby is represented by the green light which resembles his desire to do anything to achieve it whereas the inherited money of Daisy and Tom is out of reach. Furthermore, as well as the green light representing of new and old money Fitzgerald may have used it to symbolize the American Dream – the idea that people from a lower-class background can move up the social class ladder by working hard. Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald focuses on the idea whether the promise of the American dream is a reality, for Gatsby it is rather unfulfilling even though he has moved from lower-class background to the highest class in New York on his own accord. However, Fitzgerald within The Great Gatsby presents Gatsby as representative of the hollowness of the American Dream as he is still unable to achieve his goal of Daisy, which here we could suggest that the green light offers Gatsby a suitably inaccessible focus for his yearning (Tanner) – highlighting the green light as the ideal representative ideal of having Daisy and provides him with almost an alternate universe where this fantasy does actually exist. Within the novel, Gatsby is continually mocked by Tom Bucanan for his lower-class beginnings calling him a common swindler who’d have to steal the ring he put on (Daisy’s) finger implying that the American Dream can never be fulfilling to Gatsby or fit the ideal he has created as there is a sense of forbidden love between those who are of new money and those of old money, expressing those of the new money or lower class backgrounds will never be accepted by those of old money such as Daisy and Tom, and that the chances these two classes can mix is just an allusion, similarly to Gatsby’s allusion of who Daisy is. However, Gatsby’s infatuation with the green light can be seen as highly unattainable through the car crash, whereas a result the lower-class characters die whereas the upper-class characters survive. The upper-class characters as able to stay immune from the consequences of their actions, Fitzgerald may be trying to suggest that although those from the lower class are able to rise they will be pawns to the upper class who will continuously assert their dominance and power of those of the lower class. Furthermore, Fitzgerald states Gatsby believes in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes us expressing the American dream is not a reality is just a dream of an ideal situation, but also expressing Gatsby’s infatuation for Daisy can never be achieved as she recedes before him, whilst he is wanting to become the person he thinks she will want him to become he is only pushing her away as she is just an image of the platonic ideal he has created. The reality of Gatsby’s American Dream of Daisy is that he isn’t in love with her as much as he was in love with the idea of her and the green light symbolizes this ideal, his infatuation is just a “focus for his yearning” (Tanner) of Daisy.
Furthermore, within Call Me By Your Name Aciman presents Elio’s infatuation through his longing desire for continuous physical intimacy with Oliver becoming infatuated by every part of him, similarly to The Great Gatsby Elio is reliant upon on idea of what he imagines Oliver is similarly to Gatsby’s ideal of Daisy. Aciman presents Elio’s infatuation through his admiration of Oliver, whom his continuously observes. Elio becomes obsessed with the Star of David around Oliver neck, Aciman present the confidence it brings to Oliver and it represents his Jewish identity which is “timeless, ancestral, immortal” a sense of belonging which Elio could be envious for what Oliver is experiencing and what he may have been able to achieve through his Jewish identity, Oliver is “ok” with accepting his Jewish heritage whereas Elio isn’t he admires this strength of Oliver and the individuality of him sparks his infatuation further. Elio however, unlike Oliver is taught to be a Jew of discretion by his mother – not showing their Jewish identity but also not hiding it, similarly to Elio’s feelings for Oliver as they must be repressed to suit the expectations of the time. Elio is shocked with Oliver okay with being Jewish as he lets his Star of David hang loose from his t shirt and whilst Oliver is accepting of his religious identity this sparks admiration and only furthers his infatuation as “he was okay with being himself” the self-confidence which Oliver has is such a shock to Elio because he cannot accept either his religious identity or his own sexual identity. His infatuation strives from Oliver being “okay” with everything, a source of an ideal he has created almost Gatsby but rather than wanting Oliver as a lover his infatuation almost suggest he wants to be Oliver. Therefore, the Star of David and Elio’s and Oliver’s shared beliefs in Judaism could be an analogy for their shared ambiguous sexuality. The symbol of the Star of David is also significant to Aciman’s own Jewish background, as he grew up a religious minority in Egypt, a central theme to his biographical work, Out of Egypt. Furthermore, within Call Me by Your Name Aciman further uses religious imagery to express Elio’s idolatry for Oliver – which can also be seen through Gatsby’s ideal of what Daisy is and him worshipping this false sense of an ideal he has created in order to fulfill the void of her within his life. Elio worship’s Oliver continually throughout the novel as he is completely infatuated by him his body, his personality and the way he acts- as Elio wishes to have touched, caressed, worshipped that scrape expressing to the reader that Elio’s infatuation stems from Oliver’s body which his ultimate reason and hope in life. Timothy Keller remarks idolatry happens when we take good things and make them ultimate things which can link to Elio’s presentation and obsession with Oliver as he becomes his ultimate thing as he is “heaven” a source of almost God-like perfection to which Oliver has become Elio’s God whom he idolizes and gives him a sense of purpose something which he never thought he’d be worthy of or able to achieve. But also, the idea of relating Oliver of a God could express the idea that he is the provider of a home, unconditional love, and safety. Also significant is the relationship between Elio and Oliver which is created by Aciman as they are in a homosexual relationship that would have been forbidden in Italy during the 1980s and only became legal in 2016. But also, the use of a gay relationship within a highly Catholic Country would’ve have also proved significant as it is ironic as Oliver is presented as Elio’s “God” figure. This sense of a forbidden relationship can also be represented within The Great Gatsby as Daisy is a married woman and Gatsby’s love for her would be considered as unacceptable during the 1920s, but also it could be considered as forbidden due to times limitations upon their relationship.
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