By Jasmine Laws
'And so it was I entered the broken world To trace the visionary company of love, its voice An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled) But not for long to hold each desperate choice.' - Hart Crane, 'The Broken Tower'
In this ‘broken world’ the discovery of ‘the visionary company of love’ is as difficult and temporal as being an ‘instant in the wind’. Hart Crane’s poem was published as he entered into his first heterosexual relationship, and the disjointed nature of the poem shows how he is confused in how he feels, after being homosexual his whole life, despite never quite being able to come to terms with it, and thus the difficulty of understanding love.
Away from the conventional portrayals of romantic, fairy-tale love, The Great Gatsby and A Thousand Splendid Suns explore the difficulty in the discovery of love, whereby the ‘broken world’ of the novels derive from patriarchy. Hart Crane’s poem describes the visionary nature of love, making it almost bittersweet, for perhaps, he argues, love, once found, can be easily lost.
In The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchannan’s relationship with Myrtle, a symbol of the increasing divorce rates in the sexual revolution of the 1920s, is a reflection on the way that love is both found in places out of reach, but also how it can be lost easily. Myrtle’s death leaves Tom ‘staring around the garage with glazed eyes’, breaking down his hardened appearance of masculinity for his ‘glazed eyes’ reflect his broken heart, from the love he has lost.
It seems that in Tom’s desperation to find love, he taints his marriage, and his affair becomes a mechanism to justify his manliness. Potentially, Tom Buchannan feels inferior for not fighting in World War One. As Crane describes, love is but an ‘instant in the wind’ before it is corrupted or broken. As Tom is an epitome of megalomania, and a victim of insecurity, his affair portrays a loveless marriage, so his own suffering and insecurity prevents him from ever truly connecting with love.
In Khaled Hosseini’s novel, true love is shown through women who seem to be the only characters capable of expressing genuine love. Mariam and Laila ‘find themselves intimately connected and dependent upon one another’, for they find love in their intimate bond of friendship.
The sacrifices they make for each other signify the ‘desperate choice’ one makes for love, but once more how its company is but an instant in the wind, for the decision she makes draws an end on their relationship. It seems that ‘women’s only hope of affection or solidarity is with one another’. Due to her friendship with Laila, Mariam leaves the world as a ‘woman who had loved and been loved back’.
Maybe then, Crane’s poem, when linked with both novels, can be seen as a demonstration of how love is corrupted by patriarchy, for it is through the equalling of power, that we find the true company of love. The men who the author’s characterise with lowered masculinity are shown to be able to truly love. Nick views Gatsby as “worth the whole damn bunch put together’” when he glorifies him for having an “extraordinary gift for hope”.
Nick’s admiration for Gatsby makes him turn a blind eye on his dishonesty and obsessions, and this becomes the true indication of his love for Gatsby. Nick’s devotion is shown even after Gatsby’s death: “I found myself on Gatsby’s side, and alone”. Nick acts as a ‘spectator’ to the novel, symbolising how his insecurities cause him to draw away from the spotlight, as he feels unable to conform to society’s stereotypical romantic outlet of patriarchy.
In some readings of Fitzgerald’s famous novel, Nick is regarded as a homosexual character because the convention of the brutish masculinity and the history of discrimination of homosexuality contradicts Nick’s caring affection for Gatsby. Homosexuality was illegal throughout the US and other parts of the world in the 1920s, making his love forbidden; the fact Nick claims he “disapproved of (Gatsby)” could indicate how Nick fears his feelings isolate him from society. His disapproval of Gatsby could instead be a disapproval for his own feelings of love for Gatsby. Fitgerald’s unconforming portrayal of masculinity in his characterisation of Nick allows this oft discussed novel to portray a deep, connected love.
In navigating the patriarchy, these novels link to Crane’s ‘broken world’, for love is shown as ‘visionary’ and ‘an instant in the wind’, but equally love can be neither, and can be true, but only under the circumstances whereby the world is not ‘broken’ or corrupted. In essence, sensitivity is something to be promoted, accepted and valued, for the pressures of masculinity deny some the true and lasting ‘company of love’.
Image: Quaid Lagan, Unsplash