Published:  12:00 AM, 15 December 2016

Who was a greater sinner Jay Gatsby or Clyde Griffiths?

(part -II, continuing from last week's issue)

Who was a greater sinner Jay Gatsby or Clyde Griffiths?
We see how devotedly Gatsby loved Daisy, how careful, cautious and committed he was. He felt as though he would not get her hurt even by the delicate stroke of a pigeon feather. On the night following the afternoon of the accident, Gatsby was keeping on vigil in front of Daisy's house if Tom would attempt any rude and rough treatment towards her. He tried by all means to save her from such hard treatment from Tom. He endured numerous insults and taunts and scathing attack from Tom only because of Daisy. Silently he digested those bites of insults only because he did not want to get Daisy hurt. 

We also know that Daisy, despite her natural proclivity for money and luxury, did not have any special fascination for Gatsby's money: she was a divided soul - she wished to belong both to Tom and to Gatsby; she was a puzzled and fumbled soul. Tom was her husband but Gatsby was more than the husband. Gatsby's death was primarily caused by Daisy.     

Let us now consider the death case of Clyde Griffiths. Clyde, born into a poverty-smitten religious family craved for both love and money. He fell in a desperate love with Roberta Alden, impregnated her and later on tried to ignore and discard her. For, he more passionately fell in love with Sondra, the daughter of a wealthy family. But Clyde calculated on the scheme for killing Roberta as she exerted pressure on him to marry. To him Roberta appeared just an unbearable burden that posed to destabilize his social stand and demolish his entire future. He tried by all means to free himself from the blameworthy charge of Roberta's pregnancy by aborting the child but failed. Once Roberta sincerely proposed for marriage that would absolve all the crises but Clyde was determined never to marry her. When Roberta's recurrent pressure appeared unbearable, then he hit upon the plan for her murder.

We see that he was pulled by a stronger force by Sondra in whom Clyde found his entire future. He saw that he would not be able to win Sondra unless Roberta could be removed from the way. The most basic point of Clyde's sin - as was revealed later -- was his cool-headed scheme of killing Roberta, not the reason why he did not go forward to save her as she cried for help in the Big Bittern Lake where she was drowned to death.  

Clyde Griffiths was essentially a criminal who followed his operative steps like an expert sinner and tried to elude all the eyes of the society. From his early life Clyde was a staunch atheist: he was not at all interested in the processional preaching the parents used to follow in the city streets (Kansas City). About Clyde we read: "The boy moved restlessly from one foot to the other, keeping his eyes down, and for the most part only half singing. A tall and as yet slight figure, surmounted by an interesting head and face - white skin, dark hair - he seemed more keenly observant and decidedly more sensitive than most of the others - appeared indeed to resent and even to suffer from the position in which he found himself. Plainly pagan rather than religious, life interested him, although as yet he was not fully aware of this. All that could be truly said of him now was that there was no definite appeal in all this for him. He was too young, his mind much too responsive to phases of beauty and pleasure which had little, if anything, to do with the remote and cloudy romance which swayed the minds of his mother and father."

His line of criminality can be traced from his early life: he fled to Lycurgus and corresponded with mother under a fake name (Harry Tenet) to cheat police and public eye; similarly he used false names for himself and Roberta (as Mr. Howard and Mrs. Ruth Howard) while they were trying to abort the baby Roberta conceived), and she was registered as Mrs. Clifford and Clyde as Mr. Clifford Golden, at a hotel on way to the Lake Big Bittern. In another occasion he used another fake name Carl Graham in a hotel register. Clyde maneuvered all a twisted and zigzag path since he started working at Green-Davidson hotel up to the killing of Roberta followed by the legal interrogations. In the interrogation with Mr. Mason, the lawyer that he had any camera with him, he denied that he hit on Roberta's head with the camera and that he "intentionally" neglected to advance towards Roberta to help her out while she was drowning and crying for his help. We are astonished to see that Clyde was thinking of running away from his death-cell if any chance could be availed. He never confessed his sin, even till the moment of his death. Clyde had a natural proclivity towards evil-doping that he manipulated just for selfish mundane demands; there had been not a single event, concern episode or comment that might stand for his slightest nobility or generosity; he fell a victim of "Evil Giant Ifrit" that propelled him forward to execute his scheme for killing Roberta.  He never showed any noble consideration or action during the entire course.

His greed for money, pomp and glamour added to sex constituted his basic character over which his parents or his own control or governance was zero.  He ran after all those un-bridled passion and greed that eventually molded him a damned liar, a confirmed fraud and a cool-headed murderer. Clyde's criminal case and death penalty that has so meticulously presented in the novel overwhelmingly shows that crime must be paid with the due reward; his case establishes both the principle of poetic justice and the human justice that is simply inescapable in American judiciary tradition.   (concluded)


The writer is a Professor, Department of English, Daffodil International University, Dhaka

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