Bleak House Literary Analysis

Sunday, January 23, 2022 12:38:09 PM

Bleak House Literary Analysis



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100 books you MUST read - BLEAK HOUSE by Charles Dickens

However, definitely consider the fact that in the traditional American Dream, people achieve their goals through honest hard work, but in Gatsby's case, he very quickly acquires a large amount of money through crime. Gatsby does attempt the hard work approach, through his years of service to Dan Cody, but that doesn't work out since Cody's ex-wife ends up with the entire inheritance. So instead he turns to crime, and only then does he manage to achieve his desired wealth. So while Gatsby's story arc resembles a traditional rags-to-riches tale, the fact that he gained his money immorally complicates the idea that he is a perfect avatar for the American Dream. Furthermore, his success obviously doesn't last—he still pines for Daisy and loses everything in his attempt to get her back.

In other words, Gatsby's huge dreams, all precariously wedded to Daisy "He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God" 6. This couple also represents people aiming at the dream— George owns his own shop and is doing his best to get business, though is increasingly worn down by the harsh demands of his life, while Myrtle chases after wealth and status through an affair with Tom. Both are disempowered due to the lack of money at their own disposal —Myrtle certainly has access to some of the "finer things" through Tom but has to deal with his abuse, while George is unable to leave his current life and move West since he doesn't have the funds available.

He even has to make himself servile to Tom in an attempt to get Tom to sell his car, a fact that could even cause him to overlook the evidence of his wife's affair. So neither character is on the upward trajectory that the American Dream promises, at least during the novel. In the end, everything goes horribly wrong for both George and Myrtle, suggesting that in this world, it's dangerous to strive for more than you're given. George and Myrtle's deadly fates, along with Gatsby's, help illustrate the novel's pessimistic attitude toward the American Dream. After all, how unfair is it that the couple working to improve their position in society George and Myrtle both end up dead, while Tom, who dragged Myrtle into an increasingly dangerous situation, and Daisy, who killed her, don't face any consequences?

And on top of that they are fabulously wealthy? The American Dream certainly is not alive and well for the poor Wilsons. We've talked quite a bit already about Gatsby, George, and Myrtle—the three characters who come from humble roots and try to climb the ranks in s New York. But what about the other major characters, especially the ones born with money? What is their relationship to the American Dream? Specifically, Tom and Daisy have old money, and thus they don't need the American Dream, since they were born with America already at their feet.

Perhaps because of this, they seem to directly antagonize the dream—Daisy by refusing Gatsby, and Tom by helping to drag the Wilsons into tragedy. This is especially interesting because unlike Gatsby, Myrtle, and George, who actively hope and dream of a better life, Daisy and Tom are described as bored and "careless," and end up instigating a large amount of tragedy through their own recklessness. In other words, income inequality and the vastly different starts in life the characters have strongly affected their outcomes.

The way they choose to live their lives, their morality or lack thereof , and how much they dream doesn't seem to matter. This, of course, is tragic and antithetical to the idea of the American Dream, which claims that class should be irrelevant and anyone can rise to the top. As we discuss in our post on money and materialism in The Great Gatsby , Daisy's voice is explicitly tied to money by Gatsby:. That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money--that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it. High in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl. If Daisy's voice promises money, and the American Dream is explicitly linked to wealth, it's not hard to argue that Daisy herself—along with the green light at the end of her dock —stands in for the American Dream.

In fact, as Nick goes on to describe Daisy as "High in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl," he also seems to literally describe Daisy as a prize, much like the princess at the end of a fairy tale or even Princess Peach at the end of a Mario game! But Daisy, of course, is only human—flawed, flighty, and ultimately unable to embody the huge fantasy Gatsby projects onto her. So this, in turn, means that the American Dream itself is just a fantasy, a concept too flimsy to actually hold weight, especially in the fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world of s America.

Furthermore, you should definitely consider the tension between the fact that Daisy represents Gatsby's ultimate goal, but at the same time as we discussed above , her actual life is the opposite of the American Dream : she is born with money and privilege, likely dies with it all intact, and there are no consequences to how she chooses to live her life in between. Finally, it's interesting to compare and contrast some of the female characters using the lens of the American Dream. Let's start with Daisy, who is unhappy in her marriage and, despite a brief attempt to leave it, remains with Tom, unwilling to give up the status and security their marriage provides. At first, it may seem like Daisy doesn't dream at all, so of course she ends up unhappy.

But consider the fact that Daisy was already born into the highest level of American society. The expectation placed on her, as a wealthy woman, was never to pursue something greater, but simply to maintain her status. She did that by marrying Tom, and it's understandable why she wouldn't risk the uncertainty and loss of status that would come through divorce and marriage to a bootlegger. Again, Daisy seems to typify the "anti-American" dream, in that she was born into a kind of aristocracy and simply has to maintain her position, not fight for something better. In contrast, Myrtle, aside from Gatsby, seems to be the most ambitiously in pursuit of getting more than she was given in life.

She parlays her affair with Tom into an apartment, nice clothes, and parties, and seems to revel in her newfound status. But of course, she is knocked down the hardest, killed for her involvement with the Buchanans, and specifically for wrongfully assuming she had value to them. Considering that Gatsby did have a chance to leave New York and distance himself from the unfolding tragedy, but Myrtle was the first to be killed, you could argue the novel presents an even bleaker view of the American Dream where women are concerned. Even Jordan Baker , who seems to be living out a kind of dream by playing golf and being relatively independent, is tied to her family's money and insulated from consequences by it , making her a pretty poor representation of the dream.

And of course, since her end game also seems to be marriage, she doesn't push the boundaries of women's roles as far as she might wish. So while the women all push the boundaries of society's expectations of them in certain ways, they either fall in line or are killed, which definitely undermines the rosy of idea that anyone, regardless of gender, can make it in America. The American Dream as shown in Gatsby becomes even more pessimistic through the lens of the female characters.

Focusing the lens on the women is predictably depressing. Was all the work, time, and patience worth it for him? Like me, you might immediately think "of course it wasn't worth it! Gatsby lost everything, not to mention the Wilsons got caught up in the tragedy and ended up dead! However, you could definitely take the less obvious route and argue that Gatsby's dream was worth it, despite the tragic end. First of all, consider Jay's unique characterization in the story: "He was a son of God--a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that--and he must be about His Father's Business, the service of a vast, vulgar and meretricious beauty" 6.

In other words, Gatsby has a larger-than-life persona and he never would have been content to remain in North Dakota to be poor farmers like his parents. Even if he ends up living a shorter life, he certainly lived a full one full of adventure. His dreams of wealth and status took him all over the world on Dan Cody's yacht, to Louisville where he met and fell in love with Daisy, to the battlefields of WWI, to the halls of Oxford University, and then to the fast-paced world of Manhattan in the early s, when he earned a fortune as a bootlegger. In fact, it seems Jay lived several lives in the space of just half a normal lifespan. In short, to argue that Gatsby's dream was worth it, you should point to his larger-than-life conception of himself and the fact that he could have only sought happiness through striving for something greater than himself, even if that ended up being deadly in the end.

How does Fitzgerald examine this issue of deferred dreams? What do you think are the effects of postponing our dreams? How can you apply this lesson to your own life? If you're thinking about "deferred dreams" in The Great Gatsby , the big one is obviously Gatsby's deferred dream for Daisy—nearly five years pass between his initial infatuation and his attempt in the novel to win her back, an attempt that obviously backfires. You can examine various aspects of Gatsby's dream—the flashbacks to his first memories of Daisy in Chapter 8 , the moment when they reunite in Chapter 5 , or the disastrous consequences of the confrontation of Chapter 7 —to illustrate Gatsby's deferred dream. You could also look at George Wilson's postponed dream of going West, or Myrtle's dream of marrying a wealthy man of "breeding"—George never gets the funds to go West, and is instead mired in the Valley of Ashes, while Myrtle's attempt to achieve her dream after 12 years of marriage through an affair ends in tragedy.

Apparently, dreams deferred are dreams doomed to fail. As Nick Carraway says, "you can't repeat the past"—the novel seems to imply there is a small window for certain dreams, and when the window closes, they can no longer be attained. This is pretty pessimistic, and for the prompt's personal reflection aspect, I wouldn't say you should necessarily "apply this lesson to your own life" straightforwardly. Any prompt like this one which has a section of more personal reflection gives you freedom to tie in your own experiences and point of view, so be thoughtful and think of good examples from your own life! Want to write the perfect college application essay? Get professional help from PrepScholar.

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Is the main theme of Gatsby indeed "the withering American Dream"? What does the novel offer about American identity? In this prompt, another one that zeroes in on the dead or dying American Dream, you could discuss how the destruction of three lives Gatsby, George, Myrtle and the cynical portrayal of the old money crowd illustrates a dead, or dying American Dream.

After all, if the characters who dream end up dead, and the ones who were born into life with money and privilege get to keep it without consequence, is there any room at all for the idea that less-privileged people can work their way up? In terms of what the novel says about American identity, there are a few threads you could pick up—one is Nick's comment in Chapter 9 about the novel really being a story about mid westerners trying and failing to go East : "I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all--Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life" 9.

This observation suggests an American identity that is determined by birthplace, and that within the American identity there are smaller, inescapable points of identification. Furthermore, for those in the novel not born into money, the American identity seems to be about striving to end up with more wealth and status. But in terms of the portrayal of the old money set, particularly Daisy, Tom, and Jordan, the novel presents a segment of American society that is essentially aristocratic—you have to be born into it. In that regard, too, the novel presents a fractured American identity, with different lives possible based on how much money you are born with. In short, I think the novel disrupts the idea of a unified American identity or American dream, by instead presenting a tragic, fractured, and rigid American society, one that is divided based on both geographic location and social class.

Explain how characters' American Dreams cause them to have pain when they could have been content with more modest ambitions. Gatsby is an obvious choice here—his pursuit of money and status, particularly through Daisy, leads him to ruin. There were many points when perhaps Gatsby ;could have been happy with what he achieved especially after his apparently successful endeavors in the war, if he had remained at Oxford, or even after amassing a great amount of wealth as a bootlegger but instead he kept striving upward, which ultimately lead to his downfall.

You can flesh this argument out with the quotations in Chapters 6 and 8 about Gatsby's past, along with his tragic death. Myrtle would be another good choice for this type of prompt. In a sense, she seems to be living her ideal life in her affair with Tom—she has a fancy NYC apartment, hosts parties, and gets to act sophisticated—but these pleasures end up gravely hurting George, and of course her association with Tom Buchanan gets her killed. Nick, too, if he had been happy with his family's respectable fortune and his girlfriend out west, might have avoided the pain of knowing Gatsby and the general sense of despair he was left with. You might be wondering about George—after all, isn't he someone also dreaming of a better life? However, there aren't many instances of George taking his dreams of an ideal life "too far.

Also, given that his current situation in the Valley of Ashes is quite bleak, it's hard to say that striving upward gave him pain. Discuss this theme, incorporating the conflicts of East Egg vs. West Egg and old money vs. What does the American dream mean to Gatsby? What did the American Dream mean to Fitzgerald? How does morality fit into achieving the American dream? This prompt allows you to consider pretty broadly the novel's attitude toward the American Dream, with emphasis on "sobering and even ominous" commentary. Note that Fitzgerald seems to be specifically mocking the stereotypical rags to riches story here—;especially since he draws the Dan Cody narrative almost note for note from the work of someone like Horatio Alger, whose books were almost universally about rich men schooling young, entrepreneurial boys in the ways of the world.

In other words, you should discuss how the Great Gatsby seems to turn the idea of the American Dream as described in the quote on its head: Gatsby does achieve a rags-to-riches rise, but it doesn't last. All of Gatsby's hard work for Dan Cody, after all, didn't pay off since he lost the inheritance. So instead, Gatsby turned to crime after the war to quickly gain a ton of money. Especially since Gatsby finally achieves his great wealth through dubious means, the novel further undermines the classic image of someone working hard and honestly to go from rags to riches.

If you're addressing this prompt or a similar one, make sure to focus on the darker aspects of the American Dream, including the dark conclusion to the novel and Daisy and Tom's protection from any real consequences. This would also allow you to considering morality, and how morally bankrupt the characters are. This is a more outward-looking prompt, that allows you to consider current events today to either be generally optimistic the American dream is alive and well or pessimistic it's as dead as it is in The Great Gatsby. You have dozens of potential current events to use as evidence for either argument, but consider especially immigration and immigration reform, mass incarceration, income inequality, education, and health care in America as good potential examples to use as you argue about the current state of the American Dream.

Your writing will be especially powerful if you can point to some specific current events to support your argument. In this post, we discussed how important money is to the novel's version of the American Dream. You can read even more about money and materialism in The Great Gatsby right here. Chesterton made a hero out of a short, rotund and badly dressed Catholic priest. His Father Brown certainly lacks the glamour of the US hard-boiled tradition, much less the elegance of Holmes or Poirot, but like the aforementioned he always got his man. His trump card was intuition. Not for him logic, clues and deduction, Brown would put himself in the place of the murderer and seek to understand who had the clear motive to commit the crime.

It was a handy shtick that made Father Brown endure for 25 years of writing and beyond. The mysterious Continental Op is not only an enigma because the reader never learns his name. His duplicitous nature and the cold manner in which he goes about his work means this forerunner of the hard-boiled school of detective fiction is something of an antihero. Perry Mason, so memorably played by Raymond Burr on the long-running TV series, was not actually a detective in the real sense of the word. He was a lawyer, but the manner in which he solved the cases brought before him involved a master class in deduction and detection. A medieval Franciscan friar and his young sidekick might not sound like a crime-fighting duo to equal Batman and Robin, but there was probably less need for endless kapows and biffs in 14th Century Italian monasteries.

Sean Connery portrayed William in the big screen adaptation. That way madness lies. Speaking of salad dodging sleuths. Kurt Wallander is an overweight, disillusioned, miserable shell of a man. Not all sleuths can be the strong, mysterious type. Sometimes you need reliable, kindly folk who you can set your clock by. From his sturdy old-fashioned Christian name, to his endearingly traditional dress sense, Wexford is a no-nonsense, intelligent policeman who in his own unfussy way solves cases with as much efficiency as Spade, Holmes and co.

I Warshawski is one lass worth celebrating, though. As tough and edgy as any of her male counterparts, Warshawski operates in the bad lands of Southside Chicago. Across seven novels — to date - Arkady Renko has witnessed sweeping changes in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia. None of them particularly edifying. Nonetheless, Renko displays heroic tendencies in his adventures, although, according to his critics, these visions of himself may be misplaced.

As ever, the detective in this case is something of a misfit when compared to the rest of society. Adam Dalgliesh is an archetype of a classic staple of British detective fiction, the gentleman detective. Coming from well-bred stock his dad was a rector in Norfolk , Dalgliesh is imbued with an appreciation of the classics — he writes poetry and drives a Jaguar similar to Morse in more ways than one then. He is intensely private, driven and dedicated to his job. Another loner in other words. Hammer by name, and, by the standards in which lauded crime writer Mickey Spillane first penned his Mike Hammer novels, certainly Hammer by nature. Not many of our super sleuths are erudite men of letters ok, a certain Mr Sherlock Holmes definitely displays a refined sense of learning , which, we guess makes Chinese detective Chen Cao something of a unique case.

Not only does he quote from poetry, he translates Western detective novels into Chinese, all the while solving mysteries involving serial killers. A quintessentially English private eye from the upper crust. One for the Dickens purists. The manner in which Dickens drew the ostensibly ordinary detective who solves the mystery at the heart of Bleak House came to define how many saw law enforcement agents in the 19th Century. Rather than rely on any instinctive flashes of deducible genius, Bucket observed, collected the available evidence and made his judgements thereafter. Smilla Qaaviqaaq Jaspersen is another loner — notice a pattern emerging here?

The product of a doomed alliance between an urbane Danish father and her native Greenland Inuit mother, as an adult Smilla develops a friendship with a young boy Isaiah, who is found dead, the result, it seems, of falling off a roof. No matter what. Nick Stefanos is in many ways the spiritual heir of Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade and co; in much the same way that writer George Pelecanos can trace his writing chops back to James Ellroy and Elmore Leonard.

Sometime marketing executive-cum-barman, Stefanos also dabbles in private investigation with remarkably — given his alcohol intake — successful results. Not that makes him a happy chap mind. If Sam Spade is the detective real life detectives wish they were, then Meyer Landsmen is probably the detective they really are. Dedicated to his job undoubtedly, the rest of his life is something of a car crash. A borderline alcoholic; separated from the only woman foolish enough to take him on and, to compound matters, a Yiddish detective living in a Jewish settlement in Alaska that is about to revert back to America. A compelling creation of Chabon, Landsman is a tour de force of equal parts hard-boiled and comic traits. Martin Amis has never shied away from shining a light from the murkier aspects of life and the human condition.

In Night Train he flicks the switch on full beam and allows the decidedly unfeminine sounding female detective Mike Hoolihan to take centre stage. An alcoholic whose professional career has fallen on hard times, she attempts to crack an apparently open and shut case of suicide at the behest of her former boss. Heat, despite his hi-octane name, is emblematic of a bureaucracy attempting to stifle honest goodness and seditious activities plaguing society.

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