He has a ‘woman’, Myrtle in New York, and self-confesses that ‘once in a while I go off on a spree’. This exemplified by the ‘chambermaid’ on their honeymoon and Tom being ‘God knows where’ when Daisy was giving birth – suggesting to the reader that it was with another woman. In complete and stark contrast to Tom’s numerous affairs, Gatsby is totally devoted to Daisy to whom he feels ‘wed’. Tom is a largely built, self-centred man with inherited money and position, described by Fitzgerald of having a ‘cruel body’ that seems to reflect his personality and temperament in a similar way in which Bronte’s landscape reflects Heathcliff’s.
Fitzgerald directs us to have a negative and low view of Tom. This shown by him being labelled a ‘prig’ and expressing racist sentiments: ‘next they’ll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white’. Gatsby, in total contrast, is reserved, gentle, from poor beginnings; who built himself up to his current high station. We are directed by Fitzgerald to side with Gatsby, who is described as having ‘something gorgeous about him’ and it is by comparison with Tom that Gatsby’s truly endearing qualities are emphasised.
There is also an irony between Tom and Gatsby in the fact that although Tom is ‘well bred’ and Gatsby is from the lower classes of America, it is Gatsby whom we view as the better man, too good for the society he has risen into and which ultimately becomes the death of him. Heathcliff is contrasted strongly with Edgar Linton. They, just like Gatsby and Tom, share only their love for the same person, in this case Cathy. Edgar is representative of the upper class society in the nineteenth century. He is educated, slight of bearing and with a wealthy, privileged heritage.
Heathcliff is an enigma, found on the streets of Liverpool; he is subjected to violence and hardship throughout his upbringing by Hindley and this (psychologically predictably) results in a troubled adulthood. Heathcliff, as his name suggests, is closely tied to the wilderness and is indicative of the Romantic movement which emphasised the natural, and rejected society as a restricting entity. Heathcliff, unlike Fitzgerald’s Gatsby, is viewed in a mostly negative light by the reader; although it could be argued that we feel pity towards him because of what he has suffered – an abusive childhood and the loss of the only person he truly loves.
The intense agony and grief of separation is apparent throughout the novel, resulting, at the end, with Heathcliff almost willing himself to die. On the other hand, his acts of violence and vindictiveness are almost unforgivable. Heathcliff manipulates Isabella Linton’s affections for him, eventually eloping with her, to hurt Edgar for taking his Cathy. Another example of the streak of malice in his character is where he instinctively catches Hareton when he is dropped by Hindley and expresses the ‘intensest anguish at having made himself the instrument of thwarting his own revenge.
‘ This act could show however, that Heathcliff possesses an innate degree of humanity hidden from the world because he instinctively reached out to catch Hareton. This is an area of contrast between the two author’s presentation of Gatsby and Heathcliff. Fitzgerald chooses to make his protagonist favourably viewed by the reader, both through his actions and by being directed to support him by Fitzgerald through Nick. Bronte chooses to present Heathcliff as a brutal, tyrannical ‘Imp of Satan’ whom we are directed to not endear to. Fitzgerald incorporates the use of rumour in his presentation of Gatsby.
This is in contrast to presentational techniques used by Bronte. Gatsby, throughout the novel is described as ‘a nephew or cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm’s’, ‘a German spy during the war’ and is ‘thought that he killed a man once’. The plethora of rumours about Gatsby’s life and past adds to the enigmatic impression we receive of him. While Heathcliff is also an enigma Bronte chooses not to reveal or even speculate (via characters in the novel) about the source of his wealth or his biological heritage, however Nelly does suggest, in an attempt to cheer Heathcliff that ‘Who knows but your father was Emperor of China and your mother an Indian queen’.
Although Gatsby and Heathcliff are undeniably different characters they both presented by Fitzgerald and Bronte to possess a number of similar character traits and have comparable instances befall them. They are both driven with an almost insatiable desire to materially and, in the case of Gatsby socially, better themselves in pursuit of a woman possessed of greater social standing. They are also both rejected in favour of men who of greater wealth and higher station. This pursuit for their love seems to be the driving factor in both of their lives, to raise themselves up to an equal level in society to be accepted and loved.
They are both from poor backgrounds and brought up to a higher social stratum by a kind-hearted individual, Dan Cody in the case of Gatsby and Mr Earnshaw in the case of Heathcliff. Gatsby and Heathcliff are both enigmatic in regard to how they gained their money in the space of time where they were apart from their love. Gatsby is slightly less so as it is revealed to us that he set up a chain of ‘drugstores’ and that he also has dubious business ‘gonnegtions’ with Meyer Wolfsheim.
In regard to Heathcliff we know nothing; either Bronte viewed the detail to be unimportant or purposely didn’t include it to add more mystery to Heathcliff’s character. By not revealing all they create an unknown detail that is intriguing to the reader – this being another example of similar presentation by Fitzgerald and Bronte. Another similarity between the two characters is that they both seem to have a disregard for money. Heathcliff lives in squalor while Gatsby only holds his parties to entice Daisy where he can meet her again.
Finally, both characters are tragically parted by death from their love. The death of Cathy in Heathcliff’s case and Gatsby’s touching murder separating him from Daisy. In both authors’ novels, Gatsby and Heathcliff are seen to die. Eventhough they both perish as a result of indirect, or in the case of Heathcliff direct, ties with their love, the reader’s response to both of their deaths is very different. With Heathcliff we learn of his death after it has actually occurred – with Nelly recounting the details to Lockwood.
It is an incongruous description, Heathcliff is seen to almost will himself to die by refusing the bodily requirement of food. Bronte presents him as having adopted a euphoric, almost unearthly state – as if he partially enters the afterlife where Cathy resides before leaving this life. We sense feelings of peace and relief which contrasts heavily with the ‘misanthropist’ image formed at the start of the novel. In Gatsby’s case we are left with a strong sense of injustice at his death; shot by a mistaken Wilson because Tom Buchanan ruthlessly manipulates his grief.
There is also an element of tragic nobility arising from the fact that Gatsby takes the blame for Daisy: ‘but of course I’ll say I was… driving’. This nonchalant courage endears us towards Gatsby and also fuels our indignity felt at his death. There is no peace or tranquillity as experienced in ‘Wuthering Heights’, only emptiness and disgust felt by Nick, and us, towards Daisy and the rest of her affluent society which rejects Gatsby, not even attending his funeral. Here Fitzgerald is contrasting the characters, ethics and morals of the West and East of America.
New York representing the east and the land ‘full of money’ that Nick consciously abandons. Both Fitzgerald and Bronte use confrontation in their presentation of Gatsby and Heathcliff. The main clash in ‘The Great Gatsby’ is set on a stiflingly hot day in a suite of the Plaza hotel where Tom’s anger at Gatsby’s relations with his wife comes to a head. It is instigated by Tom’s words of ‘what kind of row are you trying to cause in my house anyhow? ‘ Gatsby’s intense love for Daisy is shown by Fitzgerald when he springs ‘to his feet, vivid with excitement’ this being a direct contrast to his former, ‘cool’ composure.
In the course of this altercation there is an example of how we are directed as a reader by Fitzgerald to side with Gatsby. Tom is described to be ‘Flushed with his impassioned gibberish’, almost provoking Nick to be ‘tempted to laugh’. Fitzgerald also labels Tom a ‘prig’ while in Gatsby Nick experiences ‘one of those renewals of complete faith’ because of Gatsby’s confession that he didn’t attend Oxford. Compared the Bronte’s Heathcliff we experience no such thing. In ‘Wuthering Heights’ the novels major confrontation is where Edgar Linton accosts Heathcliff at Thrushcross Grange.
Edgar describes Heathcliff’s presence as ‘a moral poison that would contaminate the most virtuous’, Bronte here presenting Heathcliff’s character through dialogue and relationship with other characters. This quote gives us an insight into Heathcliff’s nature as a ‘poison’ that could corrupt any person, even if they are ‘virtuous’. Bronte further explores Heathcliff’s personality in this confrontation when Heathcliff retorts that Cathy’s ‘lamb’ (Edgar) is ‘in danger of splitting its skull against my knuckles’ – demonstrating Heathcliff’s violent and passionate nature.
This confrontation also serves to demonstrate Bronte’s use of narrative device in having the narrator, Nelly, present in major events of the novel as when she is asked to fetch assistance for Edgar, she is thwarted in leaving by Cathy. It is in this episode that Bronte presents the characteristic among Heathcliff’s traits of him being a corrupting influence. It is Heathcliff who is usually associated with violence but during this incidence it is Edgar who strikes Heathcliff ‘full on the throat a blow that would have levelled a slighter man.
‘ Both Fitzgerald and Bronte use confrontation as a means to develop Gatsby and Heathcliff’s character. In conclusion both Bronte and Fitzgerald use a variety of techniques in their presentations of Gatsby and Heathcliff. Despite the fact that both novels were written centuries apart there are many similarities in the author’s presentation. On the other hand the periods in which the novels were written come across evidently such as the Romanticism influences in ‘Wuthering Heights’ and the insights into the jazz era in ‘The Great Gatsby’.
Gatsby is presented to be a character of noble heart, almost too good for the society into which he raises himself up to and who is ultimately, and tragically, destroyed by it. Heathcliff is presented as a ‘tyrant’, capable of cruelty and malice that is balanced out by the overwhelming grief experienced by him. Central to both novels is the theme of love and the immense acts of human ability and suffering that can stem from it. They also explore love as an all-consuming force that can act as, in Gatsby’s case a reason for living and bettering himself, or in Heathcliff’s case a reason for dying.