, Research Paper
Contrast and Compare Black Boy and the Great Gatsby
The difference between the white Anglo Saxon, freewheeling, Charleston-dancing life of the affluent Northerners is so sharp a contrast between the fear, exploitation and general hopelessness of southern African Americans you should keep it away from small children. An example: In Black Boy almost every other paragraph is marred by a slap in the face towards someone less than 20 years of age. In Gatsby every other paragraph seems to contain a mint julep. However, the similarities between Nick Carraway and Richard Wright are striking and emotional. Both seem to be looking through binoculars even during conversation. Both seem to be dissecting the world around them. They also seem to have moral convictions that no one around them has and they don t feel is their duty to enforce on others. These similarities aside, Richard looks at a world that beats him, cons him and suffocates him. The worst Nick Carraway is subjected to is being dragged around town, playing Cameron Frye to Gatsby or Tom s Ferris Bueller. Socially, both novels profess the closed mindedness of cliques in society. In essence, despite differences in location and race both stories show that disunion occurs within minority groups.
Richard s experiences with other children, whether in the adoption clinic or in the saloons seemed to have made him somewhat calloused. He did not have a group to go to in school. He was always ready for a quick quip but as he said I was not truly among them. In religion he was not necessarily a skeptic but not in a rush to join an organization promising emotions that seemed to be lies. His abstinence from Sunday School marked his objective personality. He was told he was supposed to feel something after his baptism and yet like most of his friends wound up feeling shortchanged. The promise of being part of the community didn t appeal to him.
Richard was also able to be somewhat stoic in race relations. By adhering to his specific moral code, he was called a fool. Yet he still criticized his peers for conforming. He observed the race war with a kind of scientific naivete. He would ride with white people, where most African Americans wouldn t and got beaten for not calling one sir.
The moral code of Richard s wasn t from religion. When he was forced to steal he felt bad about it and when asked about it by an employer he thought he was being insulted. These intuitions where seen as ignorant and redundant in the African American world.
Nick Carraway is not an influential part of the group because of his class and job. While he isn t poor Nick s status leaves him a face in the crowd who happens to become friends with a million dollar playboy. In the group of Tom, Daisy, Jordan and Jay Nick is the tourist. He is watching the events of torn relationships and hypocrisy unfold and he has the best seat in the house. Unlike Richard, who is more like a spectator in a soccer riot, Nick genuinely sympathizes for a time Jay and temporarily loves Jordan. But because he is not part of the movie he has to leave them all eventually. While Nick does get involved, like when Jordan is driving, and is consequential in reuniting Daisy and Jay he obviously only pushes the proverbial sled down the hill.
I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by! the inexhaustible variety of life. Nick hung around falseness. His moral standpoint was that of a mediator. He was both disgusted by Gatsby s criminality and by Tom and Daisy s ruthless practicality. He believes in selflessness, in the ideals of his father to remember the advantages he s had before he criticizes others, which may be why he criticizes those who have more advantages than he. But the snobbery around him overshadows his judgements 10 fold.
Gatsby, the tragic figure cannot buy his way into the heirlooms of society. Richard Wright must fake faith in order to become part of a church society. Both ultimately fail. Gatsby s dreams shatter because he was never good enough for Daisy or her society, and was seen as expendable by Tom. Richard Wright eventually wins over it by simply moving and getting new friends. He was simply unable to function in that environment.
Even in the upper class and lower class minorities lie infighting. In Gatsby this is seen by the rivalry between Oxford and Yale grads and old verrucae and new verrucae. This intense rivalry represented somewhat by Tom and Jay makes little sense. After all Tom is bedding someone of lower class stature, is it so wrong that a former custodian can now live in a mansion?
African American infighting is signified brutally when Richard and his friend are eventually drawn into a fight with each other. Out of fear of whites, Richard is also brutally pummeled by his relatives out of fear of whites. The hysteria caused by a boy who refuses to be molded is extraordinary indeed.
The creation of rifts between people in groups show s transition. In Gatsby it showed how adamant about keeping the new wealthy out of society the old wealthy were. In Black Boy, in order to protect themselves and each other the African Americans had to fight the independence out of Richard. This tough love helped very little. Nature, society, and equality fluctuated in the 1920’s , meeting in certain spots only to quickly becoming nil.