Compare and contrast the presentations of masculinity in the novel The Great Gatsby and in Les Murray's poem "An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow."

In the poem, masculinity is not described as weak; instead, it is viewed as a more natural state of being. In The Great Gatsby, masculinity is associated with power and aggression. Both works suggest that masculinity does not have to be aggressive in order to be acceptable.

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BothThe Great Gatsby and "An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow" question what masculinity really means.

In "An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow," the crying man draws quite a crowd. People press toward him, captivated by a man who "does not cover" his grief. And, somehow, this is also a dignified portrait of masculinity...

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Both The Great Gatsby and "An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow" question what masculinity really means.

In "An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow," the crying man draws quite a crowd. People press toward him, captivated by a man who "does not cover" his grief. And, somehow, this is also a dignified portrait of masculinity that "holds [the crowd] back from his space." Interestingly, this display of emotion is not seen as detracting from masculinity. Instead, it is noted that he sobs "like a man."

The ability to connect with his raw sorrow and to feel no need to "declaim it" presents this man as existing in a natural state. Masculinity therefore embraces the totality of the human experience and does not seek the approval of society. The man makes no attempt to explain himself and ignores the reactions of those around him.

In The Great Gatsby, Tom is the stereotypical representation of masculinity. Yet Nick frequently condemns Tom's attitudes and lifestyle. Tom possesses power, physical strength, and an advantaged economic status, yet Nick describes him as "arrogant" and "aggressive." By comparison, Nick is much more complimentary of Gatsby, who is a kinder, gentler type of man. Gatsby loves passionately and has spent years concocting a grandiose scheme to win Daisy's heart. It is Gatsby whom Nick labels as "great" in the end, partly for his romanticized beliefs about love and friendship.

It's important to note that in the end, Gatsby dies as a direct result of Tom's interference. Tom gives Wilson, a grief-stricken husband, Gatsby's name; Wilson kills Gatsby and then himself because Tom intentionally misleads him. Tom, the stereotypical male, emerges unscathed, which suggests that masculine physical aggression ultimately overpowers traits such as gentleness and affection. In the poem, however, the crying man is the one who walks away from those who have become his "believers," suggesting that gentleness has had a direct impact on those who have witnessed his public display of sorrow.

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