Idealism and Realism in Sonnets from the Portuguese and the Great Gatsby

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Both texts revel the tension between idealism and reality. Analyse and compare how this shared idea is represented in the texts and evaluate the extent to which it is impacted by the composers’ context. When does our attainable dream of love, become an idealised fantasy? The universal conceptualization of love is a subject explored throughout history and literature. Elizabeth Barrett-Browning’s sonnet sequence Sonnets from the Portugeuse, explores the experence of idealised love in the patriarchal confines of the Victorian era, juxtaposed against F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, which comments on the unatanability of idealised love due to the corruption of the American dream. Through an exploration of love, both composers subvert societies preconcieved attitutdes to love through the reccurring motif of ‘Plato’s ladder of love’. Barrett-Browning’s poems highlight the realities of a spiritual, connected love, contrasting to Fitzgeralds commentary on the illusionary goals of ‘true’ platonic love in the post WWI hedonistic, materialistic society. Barrett-Browning conveys the Romantic ideals of platonic love, against the prudish rationalism of the Victorian era. The Petrarchan sonnet form has an inbuilt dialectic structure, enabling her to have a progressive narrative, which follows the path of the Platonic system. Barrett-Browning subverts the traditional conventions of such a controlled poetry style, which reflects the era, by creating a feminine voice, which juxtaposed against her conservative era, gives a voice to women, and thus highlights the equality of Platonic love. The greco-allusion “how Theocractes had sung…” references the 3rd century BC greek poet, depicting a mourning of the loss of the renaissance passion, in culture and in love. The powerful sensory physical images of “drew me backward by the hair”, accentuates the phsyicality of
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