F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ and Victor Hugo’s ‘The Hunch-back of Notre Dame’ plots are both motivated by the infatuation and obsessive desires caused by lust which leads to some characters’ condemnation to death. Nonetheless, love in both novels seems to be an illusion or a dream of desire in which Jay Gatsby and Claude Frollo are either already oblivious to it or allow themselves to indulge in their lust and temptations, being the principle to the chain of events that follows the novels.
In both novels, the characters undergo a change in themselves, which is driven by their lust and longing for something more which alters the way the novels are set. In TGG, Gatsby’s name change from James Gatz to Jay Gatsby was the beginning of reinvention of his life. His reasons behind this name “sprang from a Platonic conception of himself,”1 which suggests Gatsby is striving to be the perfect renovation of himself; a reborn god-like figure. This being said, the choice of the verb ‘sprang’ generates imagery dating back to the Greek gods, as Athena similarly “sprang” out of Zeus’ head, just as Gatsby new identity is portrayed as doing. Moreover, the “Platonic conception” is a reference to Plato’s Cave, which is an allegory for the world of illusions replacing the real world as the figures whose reflection are mirrored on the back of the cave are like the persona of Gatsby, they are simply not real.
Furthermore, the renewal of Gatsby, due to his lust for a better life, ties in with The American Dream. Gatsby is first seen by Nick as “he stretched out his arm towards the dark water…I could have sworn he was trembling,”2. Dr Anna Wulick suggests this could be Fitzgerald’s critique of The American Dream as it is “the idea that people are always reaching towards something greater than themselves, but it is just out of reach.”3 Gatsby “trembling” illustrates this matter; he could be trembling from reaching out for far too long and still not able to gain what he yearns or merely that he will not give up, no matter how much it may hurt.
It is said that ultimately Gatsby’s last goal, despite achieving wealth, is to win Daisy back, as his lover is the ultimate status symbol, which is seen to be impossible towards the end of the novel.Similarly, in THBoND, Claude Frollo was a rational man, particularly in looking after his younger brother Jehan and the deformed boy Quasimodo whom he took as his own. However, Frollo consciously gave in to temptation and sin due to his infatuation with La Esmeralda. Frollo examines the process of a fly being trapped in a spider’s web, in which he says “Alas, Claude! You are the spider. Claude, you are the fly too!”4 He sees himself as the “fly” caught in the web of lust that is consuming him after he withheld his sexual frustration for so long, due to being an archdeacon. The personification of the “fly” may also represent Frollo being caught in the complex web of the church. As the French monarchies began to rise in the 1830s, their allegiances to the Church declined, particularly after the French Revolution. This is like Frollo as his devotion to God deteriorates as he eventually accepts damnation and releases his sexual frustrations on to La Esmeralda.
This ties in with the personification of the “fly” as Frollo sees himself stuck within the church but he eventually becomes the “spider” who creates his “web” as traps for La Esmerelda. Moreover, Hugo uses the Cathedral as a concrete structure as well as symbolic as it illustrates further Frollo’s change driven by the longing for something more. Frollo is corrupting Notre Dame as he, later in his life, practices alchemy which is condemned by the church. He also uses the Cathedral as a base to lure and perform scandalous behaviour towards La Esmeralda.
The changes made within the Cathedral due to Frollo is a mirror representation of the changes Frollo undergo, from being a holy man to falling into his unholy lust. Furthermore, illusion vs. reality is a major theme that resides in both novels throughout, where lust plays a big role. In TGG, Fitzgerald suggests that Gatsby may be in love with the thought of Daisy and not necessarily in love with her. He lingers onto the past as he says, “I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before.
“5 His lust for Daisy is being portrayed here as he feeds on this illusion that Daisy can revert to how she was “before” and he can recreate the love they shared five summers ago. However, this goes against reality as Daisy cannot regress to her former self due to marital circumstances: “I did love him once – but I loved you too.”6 This suggests Daisy understands her relationship with Gatsby cannot be how it once was as she cries “I love you now – isn’t that enough?”7 However Gatsby does not see this as reality.
Moreover, Daisy also lives in an illusionary realm. One of the main reasons she married Tom is because of fortune, wealth and materialistic items as she was born to do. She uses these luxuries as an escape from reality: “And I hope she’ll be a fool – That’s the best thing a girl can be in this world…”8. She wishes her daughter to be a “fool” as she argues it is best to be irresponsible but beautiful rather than worrying about things that matter. This could be rooted in her due to the norms and values of the society in the 1920s, where men would take the lead and the rich women devoured in their husband’s wealth. Similarly, Roger Lewis proposes that Gatsby means of expressing his feelings for Daisy is by showing off his possessions as there is an element of love and money being intertwined in TGG. Lewis argues “Gatsby’s love for Daisy is an intense and worked-out variety of that which lovers of all ages have felt; its expression is distinctively that of post-war America, of a society that consumes.”9 This could suggest that Gatsby and Daisy’s love is merely an illusion caused by the society they now reside in where possessions and luxuries determine your love for one another.
The more possessions a man has consumed, the greater a chance of love. This is seen where Daisy cries over Gatsby’s shirts: “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such – such beautiful shirts before.”10 Similarly, Frollo’s reality was a simple one: “This young brother, without mother or father, this little child which had fallen abruptly from heaven into his arms, made a new man of him.”11 However, his illusion of La Esmeralda being only his drives his reality away as in turn his actions set out the death of Jehan and Quasimodo.
Moreover, it could also be suggested that Frollo uses fate as justification for his actions towards La Esmeralda, “It was Fate that caught you…”12 This proposes that none of the characters has free will and that the events that panned out is all because of fate, which Frollo uses as his own defence. However, Frollo eventually admits that “all depends on your will.
Whatever you want shall be done.”13 This exemplifies Frollo’s’ assertions about fate as he uses it to refuse to act the way he should, i.e.
by letting La Esmeralda go. This also demonstrates his illusions as he knows he has free will but refuses to acknowledge that his ‘love’ for La Esmeralda cannot be a reality, thereby blaming fate. However, it could be argued that this was always his reality in the end, after losing his parents to the plague and perhaps he craved someone else, for instance, La Esmeralda, to look after him as he has done to others throughout his life. 1 The Great Gatsby, Chapter 4, Page 982 The Great Gatsby, Chapter 1, Page 33 Dr. Anna Wulick – https://blog.
prepscholar.com/the-great-gatsby-american-dream4 The Hunchback of Notre Dame, VII.V.295 The Great Gatsby, Chapter, Page 1106 The Great Gatsby, Chapter 7, Page 2617 The Great Gatsby, Chapter 7, Page 2618 The Great Gatsby, Chapter, Page 1189 Roger Lewis: Money, Love and Aspiration in The Great Gatsby – http://fitzgerald.narod.ru/critics-eng/lewis-moneylove.html10 The Great Gatsby.
Chapter 5, Page 118-11911 The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Part 4 Chapter 2 Page12 The Hunchback of Notre Dame, VIII.IV.5713 The Hunchback of Notre Dame, XI.I.49