Comparative Studies Essay - The King’s Speech, The Plough & The Stars, The Great Gatsby

November 6, 2017

Each individual's circumstances are often driven by societal norms, though we sometimes meet a character who defies the odds. For my comparative course, I have studied the following texts: the novel, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the play,The Plough and the Stars by Sean O’Casey and finally, the film, The King’s Speechdirected by Tom Hooper. I will refer to them as ‘GG’, ‘PS’ and ‘KS’ respectively throughout my essay from this point forward.

All three texts make various references to war. I think that war leaves a large possibility for social change and demolishes many deep-seated attitudes and expectation in society. This is evident in all three texts. For example, ‘GG’ depicts a society that recently went through The Great War; this contributes to the "vast carelessness" of the age. Everyone is mostly concerned with having a good time.

In contrast, in ‘KS’, the impending Second World War seems to bring people together. This is seen in the various cuts Hooper presents us with during Bertie’s speech. People all over seem to be gathering to listen to their king. The intensity of Bertie's struggle to change his speech is similar to that of Gatsby's personal improbable social leap. While Gatsby's fight is driven by infatuation, Bertie's is driven by his sense of duty to his “peoples” in a difficult time. The image of Logue arriving at the palace with a gas mask, an indicator of how society lived during the war, is a far cry from the flowing champagne of ‘GG’.

Meanwhile, war fosters a sense of fear in ‘PS’: Fluther describes the ICA as “a few hundred lads with guns and rosary beads.” There is little or no hope associated with the rebellion, but the turmoil of the age cuts the barriers of political differences, as is demonstrated at the end of the play when Bessie, a loyalist, seems to have taken over Nora’s role of caregiver in the tenements as she lapses into insanity.

Politics is a prominent part of the cultural context, yet there are many conflicting views within these texts. Each character seems to be so deeply set in their political beliefs that there is little possibility for change within their own social groupings. In ‘KS’, when Bertie appeals to his brother, David, then King, about the spread of communism across Europe, he simply responds, “Herr Hitler will sort them out,” Bertie is startled at his brother’s indifference to current affairs; “And who will sort out Herr Hitler?”

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