Essay, 10 pages (2500 words)

Carol ann duffy’s rapture and f scott fitzgerald’s

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As love is a main theme in Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘ Rapture’ and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘ The Great Gatsby’ it is no surprise that many methods are used by both authors to discuss the way love is felt and used by people, including the language used, and the confusion that can be caused by the written word and speech. In ‘ The Great Gatsby,’ the character of Gatsby is in love with Daisy, almost to the stage of obsession. This love is the thing that eventually pulls them apart. And the basis of ‘ Rapture’ is from the beginning to the end of a love affair.

The poems analyzed – ‘ Quickdraw,’ ‘ Finding the Words,’ ‘ Write,’ and ‘ Syntax’ – are placed throughout the collection, each of them indicating a different stage in the persona’s relationship with their significant other. Michael Woods, in his critical essay regarding the works of Duffy, ‘ Translation, reflection and refraction in the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy,’ used the opening quote to summarise what he is reflecting about in his essay, and it is a near perfect summation of Duffy’s, and to some extent Fitzgerald’s, discussion of love, and the language of love.

The main aspect of love discussed in both texts is the way you see yourself and your lover in the relationship. This view of yourself and the idealised view of your lover, from your state of mind, romanticises the people that you have feelings. This is a major theme throughout ‘ The Great Gatsby. ‘ Gatsby’s ultimate recreation of himself to fit what he believes Daisy wants, that image of him that Jordan discusses with Nick, ultimately pulls Gatsby and Daisy apart due to the evident difference between them, though they do not like to admit it. This gives an overriding sense through the novel of the gap between the signifier and the signified.

Gatsby’s failed attempts to signify his love for Daisy show the apparent gap between them, that later becomes evident through the story. He attempts to get on her level through the way he dresses, acts and speaks to Daisy. ‘ I keep it full of interesting people, night and day. People who do interesting things. Celebrated people. ‘ Though from his first vocal appearance his act is slightly off. ‘ Want to go with me, old sport? ‘ This use of the very informal ‘ old sport’ to Nick, a man who until a few lines further doesn’t even know his name, is obviously wrong, and it is clear to the reader, breaking down his facade at the very beginning.

And this is completely evident when discussing his past with Nick. ‘ Little Montenegro! ‘ This threadbare version of a personality through ‘ Gatsby’ lines up with what Duffy discusses at the beginning of ‘ Rapture. ‘ She tells of the change a person goes through when they have met someone special. The persona, as Gatsby does, changes the version of them to suit what they think the other person needs/wants. And this happens every time you fall in love, so you are always learning from experience for new relationships, yet never staying the same person. Yet we still say the same words in every relationship we are in. I Love You. ‘

How can these words mean the same thing to two different people, relationships, and years, apart? In ‘ Finding the Words’ Duffy contemplates this train of thought. ‘ I found the words at the back of a draw,’ ‘ I had held them before, years ago. ‘ These two lines sum up the entire thought, we use the same words no matter who we are talking to, we just expect them to mean differently, as the receiver is different. Though it is not even the speaker who puts the meaning on the words, it is how the receiver takes them, and understands them.

This can lead to a gap between the two people in the relationship, showing Duffy’s discussion of the gap between the signifier and the signified. A theme further explored in ‘ Text’ and ‘ Quickdraw. ‘ Both revolve around mobile phones, and the problems caused by them, though this is a cover for the discussion of language that Duffy puts across in these texts. Nowadays phones play a major part in relationships with the ability to instantly speak to someone, though they can cause problems. Speaking over the phone is usually alright, as the phonocentric strength of words usually gives a strong meaning on what is being said.

The love, or pain, from the speaker can usually be fully appreciated by the receiver. ‘ You ring, Quickdraw, your voice a pellet in my ear, and hear me groan. ‘ Whereas the logocentric form of texting, where words play the main part, can lead to confusion between the signifier and the signified. When someone texts ‘ I Love You’ do they mean it, or is it sarcasm, or a joke? Only the sender knows the true meaning of his intentions. Even in spoken form this is true, though the lack of any emotion or inflection on an electronic message utterly reduces the reader to speculation.

As Michael Woods puts across in his critical essay, this agrees with what Raman Selden, and many other literate philosophers, said: ‘ Phonocentrism treats the written word is a contaminated form of speech, and that it is only there to archive the spoken word. ‘ This is clearly evident in love. In ‘ Syntax’ Duffy discusses the choice of words in love and the use of them. ‘ I want to call you thou, the sound of the shape of a start of a kiss. ‘ This outlines the fact that the physical formation of words, such as ‘ thou’ give much more sensual pleasure than the act of writing them down.

The mouth movements even follow the shape of forming a kiss, giving a sense that the spoken word is a much more powerful tool for really showing true emotions, leading to a smaller gap between the signifier and signified. Woods talks about ‘ a position that doubts the capacity of words to mean at all, and this is articulated in the early poem, ‘ Saying Something’ (Standing Female Nude) in which the persona signals the apparent inability of language to access real meaning: ‘ The dreams we have / no phrases for slip through the fingers like smoke’ (lines 5-6).

She negotiates this difficulty, in part, by oscillating between poems such as ‘ The Grammar of Light’ that seek to construct, in her own terms, wordless languages, and those such as ‘ Prayer’ which do appear to place more trust in words and their ability to name and console. ‘ This agrees with the idea of ‘ differance’ which Duffy interrogates to champion difference, paraphrasing Woods’ essay. Fitzgerald uses Phonocentrism and Logocentrism to great effect in Gatsby to show how central identity is, and how the lack of it truly ruins people.

The character of Gatsby, as mentioned above, is an identity created to fulfil his aims. He is a very vocal character, with hardly any written word in the novel. The entire picture the reader gets of Gatsby is through Nick’s narrative, and Gatsby’s speech. His speech, as mentioned above, appears fine on the surface, yet is slightly off, the ‘ old sport? ‘ as mentioned. This shows us Gatsby’s already apparent shadiness from his first vocal appearance, showing the power of the phonocentric form of language. He can get away with his faux-personality at the beginning, though he cannot keep it up through the novel.

The logocentric form of Gatsby is only evident at a few points in the novel. Nick’s ‘ narrativisation’ of Gatsby is the view we get of him, and it is though Nick that we see the so called ‘ centre’ of Gatsby’s character. As the written word supposedly shows us the centre of the subject, only Nick sees this of Gatsby, making his character basically transparent to everyone else. The logocentric form of Gatsby is the letter that his father shows Nick regarding his schedule. This shows the ‘ true’ Gatsby, and the ‘ centre’ of his real life, and the base for every one of his identities.

As the novel is written after Gatsby’s death, Nick already knows this true personality of him, and so can ‘ narrativise’ his wanted version of Gatsby to create the person he wants to be able to like. The transparent version that Daisy knows is the version that Gatsby creates for her, shedding his skin from his past experiences. He is struck in the moment that Jordan describes to Nick. ‘ The officer looked at Daisy while she was speaking, in a way that every young girl wants to be looked at some time. ‘

This stuck in time moment is mirrored when Gatsby knocks the clock off the mantelpiece in Nick’s house. Luckily the clock took this moment to tilt dangerously at the pressure of his head, whereupon he turned and caught it with trembling fingers, and set it back in place. ‘ Whereas Daisy has moved on, married and is living her life. This creates the largest gap in the storyline – the metaphorical gap that will always be between them, even in the most physically intimate scenes. The basis of the signifier versus signified problem stems from the fact that we only have meaning for words as we have applied meanings to them.

And when in love we speak what we feel using words and phrases we know will be understood by the significant other – looking for the ultimate goal of having our love for someone reciprocated by them. This is where ‘ differance’ comes in. Differance is the problem that no word has a true meaning and that to understand language we move from the word onto its synonyms to get a firm ground for what it could mean – ending with a chain of similar words with similar meanings. This can cause a problem between the signifier and the signified as one person can be thinking about one synonym whereas the other is thinking about another.

Throughout ‘ Rapture’ Duffy interrogates our use of language in relationships, questioning, but often accepting for lack of alternative, the words we use. ‘ Write’ and ‘ Quickdraw’ are less prone to the use of obvious idioms and they often, as in ‘ Write,’ try to extend our lexis for the feelings we have. ‘ The river held me close in its arms. ‘ Though in a moment of passion, such as in ‘ Write,’ you would never start a poem, leaving it until later. Therefore, when looking back over the moment, you will ‘ narrativise,’ such as Nick does to Gatsby, the feelings you had, embellishing them to try and validate the feelings you had.

Woods explains this point, referring to the poem ‘ Away and See,’ though he same can be said in reference to the general idea of remembering a moment in text. ‘ In writing the poem, she celebrates what language is able to do but also draws attention to the way a poetic construct as a snapshot of ‘ reality’ undermines itself; the words of which it is made are in an unstable relationship with one another, never mind with a world ‘ out there’ that we might hope they may make sense of.

Here is a clear example, then, of the poet’s recognition that the artist can only be an interpreter of experience, rather than an unacknowledged legislator, who offers a translation of ‘ what it is like in words. ‘ Interpreting the experience, as Woods puts it, is the role of Nick in ‘ The Great Gatsby,’ and the role of the poet in poetry written from experience. Whereas ‘ Finding the Words’ and ‘ Syntax’ are in line with use of common words and idioms of the English language, unlike the other two poems. ‘ I love you, I love you, I love you – as though they were new. This repetition emphasises how much we will use the same phrases, again and again, even if we try to stay away from the norms. It is putting our feelings for someone in a way that they will understand.

The question ‘ can you love if you don’t understand the language of love? ‘ is an important one to think about in these poems. How can someone express their feelings if they do not know the common mannerisms for doing so. You learn from experience, ‘ I had held them before, years ago, then put them away, forgetting whatever it was I could use them to say. Without using them, Duffy accepts that we forget love, which agrees with the question. Though Michael Woods uses ‘ Away and See’ again to ‘ concentrate on the actual experience of things rather than worrying too much about what name to give them. We are able to derive ‘ meaning’ from sensory detail in a much more direct way. Language is, after all, a code we use to articulate that very experience and, as such, could be seen to have secondary importance outside the normal need to communicate with others.

There is, though, the residual problem that we think almost exclusively with reference to linguistic structures. This agrees with the use of idioms and common language as the reader knows what is being said, leaving them time to think about the experience, rather than spending time trying to understand a never heard phrase. The language of love, as a main theme in both texts, is discussed from various stands. The idea of the idealised self in ‘ The Great Gatsby’ leads onto the gap between the signified and signifier by placing the two characters that are in love in two different social classes, and in two metaphorically different time frames (Gatsby’s moment of realisation).

When Daisy says with sadness that ‘ It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such – such beautiful shirts before. ‘ It shows that the gap between her and Gatsby is still there, although he has done everything in his power to change himself to suit her. This romance ultimately shows us the despair and pain that can come from a relationship where neither person is true to themselves, let alone their significant other. Whereas the idea of the idealised self in ‘ Rapture’ studies the fact that when in love, one version of yourself, the version that is the others epitome of you, envelopes all other versions in the hope of your love been reciprocated.

Though when that relationship falls through, you go back to how you were before, in the same physical body, and this will keep recurring. As is the idea of Eternal Return put across by Friedrich Nietzsche. The study of the gap between the signifier and the signified is presented in the use of language in ‘ Rapture,’ rather than through the story as in ‘ The Great Gatsby. ‘ The strength of the phonocentric form of language over the weakness presented in the logocentric form shows the gap and the problems that this can cause in a relationship.

Especially when comparing various meanings of the same words, as is the case of differance, when in the logocentric form. The other aspect of language questioned is the repetitiveness of specific language – the ‘ language of love’ as such. As Lewis Carroll put across in ‘ Through the Looking Glass:’ ‘ When I use a word it means just what I want choose it to mean – neither more nor less. ‘ Though this causes a severe problem if the receiver of your words doesn’t take your meaning as theirs.

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