Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Parallels Between The Great Gatsby and A Mercy

      The Great Gatsby, a book I studied in sophomore year, describes the fall from grace of Jay Gatz, a soldier turned entrepreneur that remains fixated on his boyhood sweetheart. This tragic character actually exhibits parallels with one of the many protagonists present in Toni Morrison's A Mercy, Jacob Vaark. Both men are willing to compromise their moral values in the pursuit of reaching an object of fixation.
       Gatsby, in order to reclaim a part of his past, Daisy, resorts to bootlegging and a criminal lifestyle in the pursuit of accruing enough wealth to validate himself in her eyes. Similarly, after gazing upon Jublio, D'Ortega's estate, Vaark mimics the same "pagan excess" of which he had previously been so critical. Vaark constantly criticizes Catholics for their decadence and extensive opulence, yet his visit to Jublio instills within him a desire to build an enormous property, similar to Jublio. However, Gatsby and Vaark differ in the degree to which they are cognizant of their compromise of values. Whereas Jacob constantly rationalizes both his construction of his new estate and his conscription of slaves, Gatsby seems to be amoral, not recognizing the consequences of his actions. Gatsby is solely focused on reaching Daisy's ideal of success.
       In both The Great Gatsby and A Mercy  there are objects important to Vaark and Gatsby that are symbolic of the ideal that they are attempting to reach. Gatsby constantly stares across the bay adjacent to his house at a green searchlight, representative of his hope to change the past, so to speak, and become worthy of Daisy's love. Vaark has a similar object in the form of his final house, representative of his moral compromise, descent into the very decadence that he criticized, and general hypocrisy.