3 feb. 2009

Tensions between private passions and social demands in The Awakening by Kate Chopin and The Great Gastby by Scott Fiztgerald

Tensions between private passions and social demands in The Awakening by Kate Chopin and The Great Gastby by Scott Fiztgerald

If we take into account our own life, we may often encounter several instances in which there is tension between our private passions and the social demands we have to face. This topic has been illustrated by so many novelists in their texts that even when it seems pretty simple at first sight, it hides many complexities. In order to portray the tension between private passions and social constraints, we are going to analyze Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and Scott Fiztgerald’s The Great Gastby.

In the novel by Chopin, private passions and social demands and mostly comprised in the character of Edna. At first, she represents and ideal wife and then, because of her passion she turns into a rebel in society. At the beginning of Chopin’s novel, Edna struggles to keep appearances by organizing parties and trying to be a typical housewife, but little by little she realizes that that is not what she wants for her life, and she gets to a point in which “even her children appeared before her like antagonists who had overcome her”. In her process of “awakening” she finds out and recognizes “her relations as an individual to the world whitin and about her”. However, Edna’s awakening encounter many clashes between what her private wished represented when she awoke and what society expected from her. During this process that for many is seen as a “rebellion”, she gets to know Robert, who ends up being her lover. Robert also represents a tense situation for her between what she wantes and what she was supposed to do. Edna was married and had children, but she said she would give up the unessential for them but she was not prepared to give up herself. Edna’s passions were so strong that she even set aside not only her social duties but also her children, adding to this the fact that “there was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert!". For Edna, private passions were above everything else, even her children. She was willing to give everything to achieve them to the point ofcommiting suicide after realizing that society was not willing to accept her that way.

In the novel by Scott Fitzgerald, the tension between private passions and social constraints is mainly illustrated in the character of Daisy Buchanan. Daisy is Nick’s cousin (the narrator of the story). She is a beautiful youn lady who stands for the perfect housewife and the rich class who lives in East Egg. Daisy has chosen Tom to be her husband even though she had promised Jay she would marry him. After many years, Daisy and Jay get together again in a love affair. However, for Daisy Buchanan her social demands are more important than her private passions. She is not ready to give up her social status for Gay Gastby, even when she loves him. According to her, their love affair represents passion, curiosity, attraction but true love. For Gastby, Daisy is the woman he wants. He even gave his life for her when taking up the responsibility for having killed Mrs. Wilson with the car Daisy was driving. What is more, Daisy was not willing to make sacrifices since she moves houses after the incident even knowing that Gastby’s funeral was taking place. Daisy represents her class, her wealthy and the vices of the American society in the 20s. She strongly desires to keep appearances whenever she experiences the tensions between her private and social duties.

These two novels present different instances in which private needs exceed or go beyond social demands or constraints. However, it depends on how the author has constructed his/her character, the way his/her character would approach the topic. In the case of Chopin, she decided that the character of Edna would go deep into her soul and passions even if that meant her life. But in the case of Fitzgerald, he chose to depict a character interested in what society expected from her. Anyway, both characters, Edna and Daisy, were characterized as weak ones and in the end, none of them could stand their choices: Edna commited suicide, Daisy went back to normalcy.