A comparative analysis of “In the Dubious Battle” and “The Great Gatsby”

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When we look back in time, we can’t help but see the patterns that color and characterize specific eras. For example, World War II defined the 1940s, also known as the “Fighting Forties.” The 1960s were marked by a challenge to and uprising against the status quo. Sure, this is an oversimplification, but the twentieth century’s decades often have rather readily recognizable key themes. The 1920s and the 1930s couldn’t be any different. The “Roaring Twenties” were characterized by indulgence, leisure, prosperity, and a zest for life, while the “Dirty Thirties” were characterized by economic depression, catastrophe, hopelessness, and hardship that came along with the Great Depression. Both of these two polar decades are portrayed in classic American novels, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby clearly illustrates the pursuit of pleasure that was common in the 1920s, while John Steinbeck’s In the Dubious Battle exhibits to us the hardships and suffering that was common to many Americans in the 1930s. These works of literature powerfully reflect the spirit of their time and as thus this article compares and contrasts their thematic and central ideas.

First and foremost, it is important to note the standard features that run in both novels. It is easily discernible that the two books share a common idea of the ‘American Dream’ Though the American Dream is narrated In the Dubious Battle and The Great Gatsby in its evil, as well as good ideas and the poor and the rich perspectives, the two novels, reveal some common features in multiple levels. The more the features of the two novels have a common taste, the closer the both novels stand on the indispensable American Dream theme. For instance, the novels show that the modern version of the American Dream is greatly influenced by financial success. Almost all characters in both novels acknowledge the value of material wealth as more importantly instead of the value of spiritual wealth. They possessed the belief that material prosperity and wealth would certainly bring them everlasting happiness, which they consider to be their original dream.

The Great Gatsby narrates the story of American people that highly suffered the burdens and hatred feeling of the First World War, and their minds were clouded by the desperate conditions of the war. Consecutively, what they hoped most was to get themselves sink in the happy moment and cool their min by finding some materialistic ways of enjoyment and life. The characters desired money to enjoy in the capitalistic setting of the world of horror free and lavish condition. For example, In the Dubious Battle, Jim Nolan the main protagonist has lost his parents and sisters. Regardless of the preceding, Jim joins the strike and offers leadership to it. It is a strike that aims to elevate the people from suffering to the realms of luxury. For example, the physical violence that was sustained by the father of Jim reveals the littleness of many humans. Lives of individuals do not matter in the harsh world.

“[…] My whole family has been ruined by this system. My old man, my father, was slugged so much in labor trouble that he went punch-drunk. He got an idea that he’d like to dynamite a slaughter-house where he used to work. Well, he caught a charge of buckshot in the chest from a riot gun.” (Steinbeck 6)

Both novels utilize a similar literal stylistic feature; the first-person technique of narration. Particularly; the first person narration enables the authors to limit the reader’s sympathies by craftily diverting the reader with details that effectively distracts from the hard facts of the work’s punch. For instance; John Steinbeck draws Jim Nolan as a character that is noble with great perseverance and dignity. Through the use of the first person narration; the author himself becomes psychologically and emotionally involved in the Jim Nolan’s battle for survival, with symbolic reference and existential overtones to Jim Nolan as a work of art. In The Great Gatsby, the first person narrator to a great extent is unidentified, and this enables to calmly drive his message that the people that attend Gatsby parties rarely know him home.

“It’ll show you how I’ve gotten to feel about – things. Well, she was less than an hour old, and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. ‘All right,’ I said, ‘I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” (Scott 118)

Even though both novels are contextually similar; the ideology that drives the respective authors are inherently different. John Steinbeck of In the Dubious Battle is motivated in portraying the pain and misery that is delivered to every individual that is executed or that even merely watches the whole process of capital punishment. It is a political score; a protest of the inhumanity of the capital punishment.

The full circumstances in the orchard pop when a cantankerous senior worker, Dan, falls from his ladder breaking his hips boils the men’s anger. Essentially, this is due to their poor working conditions. In sharp contrast; In The Great Gatsby is constrained to the natural course of events. It is a representation of death in its pure and unadulterated sense. It narrated the death that is not inflicted by a third force, but rather the inevitability stage and tentative character of life itself as reflected by Nick’s death.

Furthermore, the two novels have a different reflection of the California city. Fitzgerald portrays California as a city of decayed moral and social values, evidenced in its greed, overarching cynic and empty pursuit of pleasure. Notably, he candidly illustrates that the unrestricted desire for happiness and money in California evidenced by the opulent parties that Gatsby throws each and every Saturday surpassed more noble goals.

On the other hand, In the Dubious Battle, the author seeks to illustrate California in a more elevated plane of intellectualism. California is presented as a battleground for power. It is about the classic power struggle between the well-organized, large bank-account-wielding business owners and impoverished workers. For instance, Jim tries to convince Dan with the possibility of a strike. However, Dan’s experience of organized labour advocacy is amateurish.

“I joined unions,” he said. “We’d elect a president and first thing we knew, he’d be kissing the ass of the superintendent, and then he’d sell us out. We’d pay dues and the treasurer run out on us. I don’t know. Maybe young squirts like you can figure something out.” (Steinbeck 52)

Regardless of the preliminary critical analysis, the happy ends of their novels show that Steinbeck and Fitzgerald and their characters are confident of a day coming when humanity will win over the malignity of the oppressive few that are privileged. Thus it appears that Nick’s death in The Great Gatsby and Jim’s death in the Dubious Battle are symbolic since they announce that the masses are satisfied in their struggle. Though each novel was originated and narrated in the distinctively different context, they possessed a unique tempt in describing the very definition of American Dream. It is the reinvention of this dream as known and understood in the contemporary and post-modern society.

Works Cited

Scott, Francis. The Great Gatsby. CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS, 1986.

Steinbeck, John. In dubious battle. Penguin, 2006.

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