Party Time: Party Settings in Romeo and Juliet and Great Gatsby Quotes

Ah, parties. Who doesn’t love a good party? You’ve got awesome food, drinks, cool people, loud music and unrestrained hijinks abound. Beyond being an opportunity to go buck wild or to be a social animal, parties also serve a purpose of potential serendipity. What we mean is that the human celebratory party is the setting for chance interactions and fateful meet-ups. For example, you can meet the love of your life at a chance encounter during a college party, then quickly proceed into the happily ever after stage of marriage, children and even a chocolate lab. If it wasn’t for that party, you might never have had Bruno the dog.

The party setting is also a literary staple. Authors use parties in their stories because it offers an opportunity to converge two unacquainted characters or two distinctive plot lines in one place, allowing the story to advance or change its course.

Consider Shakespeare’s teen drama, Romeo and Juliet. Romeo sneaks into the Capulets lavish party, hiding his true identity because of the whole Capulet vs. Montague beef. He comes across Juliet and falls instantly in love. The party scene is a catalyst their relationship and ensuing demise. In a sense, the party becomes a fulfillment of fate for the two star-crossed lovers, a tactic used by Shakespeare not only to advance the story but to brew the formula for pending tragedy.

In other words, the party gives free rein to Shakespeare to add any elements he sees fit-logical restrictions and continuities do not readily apply. As in real life, the party allows authors to mingle their intentions for the story.

Another key example of party-filled book is, of course, The Great Gatsby. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel about the 1920s, extravagant get-togethers are symbols of excess, status and class. Most of the scenes are party-like settings, giving the novel and its occasionally deplorable characters an air of leisure and aristocracy. This feeling is essential to not only the novel’s thematic focuses, but it is also fundamental in building the novel’s social critic of wealthy people and the upper middle class. Take, for example, the title character Jay Gatsby in this select Great Gatsby quotes:

“There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and he champagne and the stars… On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains. And on Mondays eight servants, including an extra gardener, toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before.”

The exemplar of wealth and extravagance, indeed. Neighbor Nick Carraway, our narrator. Again, parties bring together individuals who might not have ever met. Yet, his parties largely define him, though he barely knows the people who show up. He throws them in the chance that Daisy, the one who got away, might show up-very a la Romeo and Juliet, even though its an attempt at planned serendipity.

Whether it’s planned or happenstance, parties are classic elements authors use when they need to bring people together, tear them apart or just make things seem fun. Except in The Raven

That guy needed a party badly.

Forget Romeo And Juliet: Hamlet’s Teen-Like Angst a Better Way to Reach Teenager Readers

For high school students, the works of William Shakespeare are not the easiest literature to grasp, much less to get them to care about. The first hurdle, of course, is the language. With all the “LOLs,” “ridics,” and “OMGs” used in a teen’s daily vernacular, Shakespearean verse such as “to be, or not to be: that is the question” can sound a lot like Charlie Brown’s teachers to the ears of adolescents. Wha wha whoamp whoamp.

The next difficulty is seeing how the complex writings of a 400-year-old dead guy with a dog collar are relevant to today’s teenager. So how can teenagers best get down with Shakespeare? One word: Hamlet.

Literary scholars love to expound upon Hamlet’s psychological struggles with mortality and madness, his inability to act or make decisions, or a perennial favorite topic of discussion: whether Hamlet has the hots for his mom. But fancy-pants critics always seem to forget that Hamlet acts a like a typical sullen teenager who has major beef with his parents, his girlfriend, and this whole thing called life. He may or may not be an actual teenager, but the Danish prince certainly wears a teenaged “trappings and the suits of woe” like a boss.

Teens can find many ways to relate to Hamlet and his existential suffering. He could be the gateway character to the score of Shakespeare’s other eternally conflicted and philosophically complex players. Hopefully, teen readers do not find common ground through the whole uncle-killing-the-dad-and-then-marrying-the-mom-thing, but perhaps they can feel comforted by the utter confusion, grief, and angst that incessantly troubles and stalls Hamlet. He’s the Elizabethan Era’s Holden Caufield. While it is such an anachronistic stretch of a comparison, the similarities between the The Catcher in The Rye protoganoist and Hamlet are there. Surely, J.D. Salinger might have had Hamlet’s nasty “Get thee to a Nunnery” speech to his gal-pal Ophelia in mind when Holden flips out over Sally Hayes (rightfully) refusing to run away with him, calling her a “royal pain in the ass.”

Moreover, both protagonists are mired in a sort of limbo in their lives, unsure of who they are and what they should be doing. Should Hamlet try to find out check up on some ghost’s claim that his uncle/stepfather poisoned his dad? Is that ghost even real or is he just going mad? What’s more, should Holden try to be human and reach out to the “phony bastards” or continue feeling lonely and abandoned, just like the ducks in the pond must feel every winter? Decisions, decisions, and neither are quick to take action.

Such similarities point to how valuable Shakespeare’s Hamlet can be to a puberty-stricken teenager grappling with the uncertainty and confusion of growing up. Forget Romeo as the quintessential Shakespearean teen role model. Of course, Romeo and Juliet is a bit more accessible, especially with a 1996 modern film remake with a young Leonardo Dicaprio cast as the dreamy Romeo. Yet, most teens do not have passionately poetic outpourings with their star-crossed lovers and get married within days of meeting each other. Hamlet, on the other hand, tackles the real problems teens face every day: parents, girlfriends, confusion, depression, loss, loneliness, and even mortality. And some also go through the wearing-all-black stage.

A Digital Brave New World That Needs a Dose of Romeo and Juliet

Aldous Huxley wrote a treatise in 1958 that explicated how his dystopian vision in Brave New World was coming true. If Huxley felt like that then, imagine what he would say about the world now. The hyper-mediation of computer technology has led to a digitized existence; iPads and iPhones have taken over communication, resulting in much less face-to-face interaction. In most cases, digital media is a huge blessing, as exemplified by educational websites like Shmoop, but there are dangers of where it could lead. While the digital revolution has not lead to the extreme mechanization of society that Huxley envisioned, it certainly raises fears of artificial intelligence and impersonal interaction. Huxley’s fictional world in which human beings are genetically manufactured and soma users, a drug that transports them to a trippy universe removed from reality, could easily be compared to post-millennium existence, in which cyborgs and virtual reality have infiltrated society (think of the more and more real possibility of The Matrix).

In Huxley’s world and perhaps in our own, the antidote is Shakespeare. Looking to classic literature that explores the depths of human nature certainly counteracts technology overload. So next time you want to turn on an episode of Bachelor Pad, try picking up Romeo and Juliet. While both don’t exactly depict reality, since neither scheming singles in a far-from-reality TV show, nor star-crossed lovers who fall in love at first sight are exactly viable scenarios, at least the latter poetically explores the essence of human nature.

That is precisely what is missing in the imagined dystopia in Brave New World. Genetic engineering and the mechanization of mass production have eliminated individuality and emotion. Naming his dystopian society the World State, Huxley intuitively prophesized globalization, which has been rapidly amplified by the World Wide Web. The World State is maintained by the application of science and math to social control. In other words, don’t underestimate the importance of AP Calculus. Applied Calculus is the basis of mechanics. For example, the Physics equation Force = Mass x Acceleration is rooted in Calculus. In addition, it is used in computer technology: digital imagery is composed of discrete values, usually integers, which are stored as a bitmap (pixel grids), making the image directly subject to computational manipulation. Images are no longer just captured, but also controlled. The next time that you think Calculus has no application to the real world, think again. A group of mad scientists, as demonstrated in Brave New World, could certainly use it to take over the world. Huxley is not necessarily condemning the advancement of science and technology, but warning against its negative power when used towards extinguishing humanity in the name of efficiency and control.

Much like Tobey Maguire convinces the citizens of Pleasantville in the film of the same name that real emotions are worth the pain, John, an outsider from the Reservation, introduces Shakespeare to the mind-controlled citizens in the World State. Helmholtz, a citizen who desires to regain his individuality, is particularly mesmerized by the beautiful lyricism of the plays, yet since he has been under the mind control of the World State his whole life, has difficulty understand their meaning. When John introduces him to Romeo and Juliet, he can’t wrap his head around why Juliet would not just tell her family outright about her affair with Romeo. In a society with complete sexual freedom and no emotions, Helmholtz guffaws at the complexity of family rivalry and forbidden love. In the world he knows, intense passions such as these do not exist. Unfortunately John’s passion is too intense for the apathetic “brave new world,” and just as Juliet, he meets a mortal end. However, he would rather be dead than a much worse fate: to live a flatlining existence.

If you happen to be in a dark room all day playing too much World of Warcraft, and look a little pale and feel slightly dead inside, it would be helpful to review Romeo and Juliet quotes to renew your vitality. Juliet eloquently asserts, “Conceit, more rich in matter than in words, brags of his substance, not of ornament: they are but beggars that can count their worth; But my true love is grown to such excess I cannot sum up sum of half my wealth” (2.6.2). In other words, love and ornament, aka passion and art, are much more valuable than conceit and wealth. In relation to Brave New World, just as the World State is obsessed with the output and consumption of products, meaning that the individual is subservient to the conceit of the state, Juliet is victim of her family’s conceit. The Montagues and Capulets are so obsessed with the reputations of their families, that they too have forgotten about what really matters: love, family, and community. Maybe Juliet’s passionate words will inspire you to approach your crush at school. Wealth, reputation, nor virtual reality can substitute for the spine tingling, heart stopping ecstasy of love.