This artifact was written for my American literature course. It was a comparative analysis of two novels; F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”, and James M. Cain’s “The Postman Always Rings Twice”. The audience for this piece was my Professor and my classmates, mostly juniors and seniors. Both novels deal with ideas of love, lust and the societal dynamic that can affect both. My job was to analyze what each novel says about these ideals and how the time at which they were written dictated what each author had to say about the subjects. One aspect of the assignment that proved difficult was finding ways to tie the two novels together. While each novel deals with similar themes, what they say about them is very different. I found that both novels touch on the dysfunction of modern relationships, and I used that idea to tie them together.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby”, and James M. Cain’s novel “The Postman Always Rings Twice”, deal with very different ends of the spectrum regarding love, lust and marriage. Both novels give some treatment to each of these aspects but at their hearts, they do and say very different things about the state of human emotions and relationships. In Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby” we see unrequited love, love of material possessions, and the way that the societal dynamic may interfere with any human relationship. In James Cain’s “Postman”, we bear witness to a tumultuous affair that escapes any bounds of both rational thought and ethical singularity. Both novels paint a captivating picture of two distinctly different aspects of love and relationships in 20th century literature.
In Fitzgerald’s “Gatsby”, aside from the raucous parties and the materialism of the age, there remains an aspect of this novel that isn’t quite so focused on debauchery; the idea of courtly love. In the essay, “Gatsby in the Garden: Courtly Love and Irony” written by Elizabeth Morgan we our educated on what it means to be a courtly lover. “always abject. Obedience to his ladies slightest wish, however whimsical, and silent acquiescence in her rebukes, however unjust, are the only virtues he dares to claim” (Morgan 166). The description immediately puts in mind the character of Jay Gatsby. His love and longing for Daisy Buchanan is among the most legendary in literature. He has cared for Daisy since he met and fell in love her when he was an officer in World War II. He dreams of having enough wealth to compare with that of her current husband Tom Buchanan. He also throws these lavish parties hoping that someday Daisy will show up; initial appearance provides further proof as we meet him “as a lone, melancholy figure, trembling and stretching out his arms across the dark waters to the green light at the end of Daisy’s Dock” (Morgan 166). This quote goes a little further into explaining the very deep feelings Gatsby has for Daisy. He knows that she is essentially unobtainable yet she is still on his mind constantly. We also know that Daisy seems to be a character that is worthy of Gatsby’s affection. Morgan describes Daisy as “pure and awesome”, and marvels at the fact that she has been able to “pass unscathed through decadence (Morgan 166).
The relationship between Frank and Cora in James M. Cain’s novel, “The Postman Always Rings Twice” is both very different and very destructive (although it can be argued that Gatsby and Daisy ended destructively as well). The relationship between these two is filled with a tumultuous lust that is made even more disturbing by the aggressive and even sadomasochistic way in which they interact. During their first sexual encounter, Cora asks Frank to bite her and he does so, hard enough to draw blood.
In an essay written by David Madden entitled “James M. Cain: Overview”. According to Madden “Cain said [of Postman] he had only one story to tell: a love story” (Madden 1). In a sense I can see this idea of degenerate love in Postman. Frank and Cora come together really over the diner. Cora wants it for herself and the only thing keeping her from having it is a husband that she doesn’t love. On the other hand Frank is young and poor; he spends his days drifting from town to town looking for the next job. This presents both of them with and opportunity when Frank begins to work for Cora’s husband Nick “the Greek” Papadakis. Frank and Cora’s physical attraction is also what leads them to a mental commonality. Together they can kill Nick, make it look like and accident and live together happily ever after. Of course we know that this isn’t the case, yet these are the ideas that draw the two together. It also goes a long way to show the true lack of morality that is shared by both of them. There are similarities here to “Gatsby” as well due to the role that materialism plays in both main romantic relationships. In “Gatsby”, jay Gatsby has gained a fair amount of wealth from his illegal bootlegging and he throws lavish parties all in the hope that one day Daisy will swing by. Secondly Daisy stays with Tom, Even after he cheats on her, because of the fact that he has “old” money and it makes her life comfortable. Also in both stories one of the two characters in the main relationship dies. In “Gatsby” it is Jay Gatsby, and in “The Postman” it’s Cora.
In Thomas Charles Samuels “The Greatness of “Gatsby””, He shows the shallowness of both Daisy Buchanan and the feelings that she has for Gatsby.
Samuels, Charles Thomas. “The Greatness of “Gatsby””. The Massachusetts Review Autumn 1966: 783-794.
Morgan, Elizabeth. “Gatsby in the Garden: Courtly Love and Irony”. College Literature Vol 11 Spring 1984: 163-177.
Tanner, Bernard. “The Gospel of Gatsby”. The English Journal September 1965: 467-474.
Madden, David. “James M. Cain: Overview”. Reference Guide to American Literature. Detroit: St. James Press, 1994.
Coffin, Tristram P.. “Gatsby’s Fairy Lover”. Midwest Folklore Vol 10 Summer 1960: 79-85.