Comparative Study – Cultural Context
My three comparative texts are: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (code ‘G’), All My Sons by Arthur Miller (code ‘S’) and Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock (code ‘R’).
Respond to the Question here
Cultural context is the world in which a story takes place. That is, the setting, the time period and the characters around whom the story revolves. My three texts all take place in America in the first half of the 20th century, but they all encompass different types of characters. ‘G’ concerns members of the upper-class during the Jazz Age. ‘S’ concerns a working-class all-American family. ‘R’ revolves around an injury-stricken middle-class photographer.
‘G’ revolves around members of the upper class in America, specifically the Long Island portion of the North-East. It is set during Prohibition and just before The Great Depression. Post-World War I America created disillusionment in society. People felt lost at having to return to normality after the atrocities of the war. This serves the story of ‘G’, which deals with false-opulence and the bourgeois of this society. The Jazz Age created an attitude of licentiousness within the people who attended the jazz clubs, an attitude akin to the equites of Ancient Roman society. The socialites around whom the plot centres perfectly exemplify the caustic nature of Fitzgerald’s work.
‘S’ tells the story of a grief-stricken working-class all-American family. It is set just after the end of World War II. Many Americans felt lost at this time, just like in ‘G’, for the war was fought on mainland Europe which was far enough away from America for people not to understand the reason for America’s involvement. The Keller family in ‘S’ run a factory line for cylinder heads to be installed in combat aircraft. Miller shows the grittiness of everyday life for America’s proletariat by putting the Keller family through two intense, prolonged periods of grief. Many families faced similar periods after the war.
‘R’ centres around an injured photographer who thinks he witnesses a murder. It is set in post-war Greenwich Village in New York. His partner longs to be a doyenne of Fifth Avenue and attend the types of parties Jay Gatsby would host. This is one of many similarities between this text and ‘G’. The overriding them of voyeurism is another. This theme predated paparazzi and the prying into other people’s lives that ravages modern society. After the war, many men struggled to re-adapt themselves to the diurnal rhythms of life and were struggling with post-traumatic-stress-disorder and other afflictions.
Social status and its supposed importance is the main facet of ‘G’. It is first shown when Nick Carraway attends a party hosted by his neighbour, Jay Gatsby. Carraway is looking in on the enigmatic Gatsby’s sheltered life as if he wants a piece of it. He believes this lifestyle will give him power and happiness. He believes their dissipation is something to be desired. Carra...