The Glamour and Greed of The Great Gatsby
This post is written by one of our guest bloggers, 17-year-old Halle.
It seems like The Great Gatsby is everywhere these days, making special appearances (with LeVar Burton!) on The Colbert Report and starring in terrible Jezebel movie reviews. I don’t mind. I love The Great Gatsby. I read the book by F. Scott Fitzgerald in school a few months ago and I was fairly certain that I’d like it, but I never expected to enjoy it as much as I did because in my experience, school makes reading books — especially classic literature — way less fun than it should be. As it turns out, though, I actually loved The Great Gatsby and ended up thinking Fitzgerald is a genius, an amazing writer, and a brilliant storyteller. I was very excited to see Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, which I did — in 3D — on opening night.
First, the book
Narrated by Nick Carraway, Gatsby is a book full of weighty sentences and great, creative description and metaphors. I mean, check out some of my favorite quotes:
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
This is a valley of ashes — a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat…
Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor.
The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.
In Gatsby, Fitzgerald glorifies and condemns consumerism. Beneath the surface, this book is really about the American Dream and what the pursuit of that dream did to society during the 1920’s. Most people, especially the rich, discarded their morals and values in return for a kind of superficial happiness. During this time, people felt the way to happiness was through money, and lots of it, and it seems everyone in Gatsby is materialistic, greedy, drunk, and self-centered.
One of my favorite things about the book is the characters; they’re all very intriguing, and psychoanalyzing them is always fun, for me at least. My two favorite characters to analyze are Jay Gatsby, and his love, Daisy Buchanan. The reason that Gatsby is my favorite character is because he is very sweet and means well. I’ve heard people say that he is basically a creepy stalker — and I suppose that’s one way you could look at it — and there’s no denying that he clearly has a some minor psychological issues, but to be fair, he’s had a pretty hard life and has no friends. He is very lonely. Gatsby is constantly throwing these lavish and chaotic parties with thousands of people, but none of them ever take the time to get to know Gatsby. In fact, they spread vicious lies about him and don’t care whether the lies are true or not. His guests party all night, trash his house, drink all of his alcohol, and never bother to get to know him. Poor Gatsby.
Gatsby is thrilled when Nick moves in next door because he’s hoping for a new friend. Some people think that Gatsby just sucks up to Nick to get to Daisy, but if he really wanted to he could just talk to Jordan or one of Daisy’s other friends. Gatsby tries to form a relationship with Nick because he wants a new friend, someone he can talk to, and trust. Everyone “knows” Gatsby, but he is really very alone. That said, Gatsby definitely has some psychological issues. He’s very self-conscious and way too concerned with what everyone thinks of him — especially Daisy. He is too optimistic and too hopeful, so much in fact that it clouds his reality, making it difficult for him to face the hard facts of life. He sees Daisy as nothing but perfect, when in reality she’s far from it. Gatsby would do, and does do, everything for her, as well as everything to protect her from things he does not like about his world and his life; he even takes the blame for the accidental murder of Myrtle. But he always means well, and truly loves Daisy.
Daisy herself is actually my least favorite character, but, like Gatsby, she is very fun to analyze. On the surface, Daisy is a likeable person: she’s beautiful, nice, charming, and fun to be around, the kind of person you want to like. I have decided that I really dislike her, though. Daisy is a coward. She married Tom when she didn’t really love him, which was a pretty cruel thing to do, and in all the years that they were married, she never once told him that she had, or even used to have, feelings for Gatsby. Not to mention her actual affair with Gatsby despite being married.
Daisy is very vain and very selfish. She decided not to wait for Gatsby when he left for the war even though she supposedly loved him because he was poor at the time and Tom was rich. But once Gatsby and Daisy are reunited, and she realizes how much money he has and that he’s still in love with her, then she’s interested in him again, and decides to pursue a relationship with him. Another example of Daisy’s cowardice and selfishness is when she accidentally kills Myrtle and lets Gatsby take the blame which (SPOILER ALERT!) results in him being shot and killed by Wilson, Myrtle’s husband. More than anything, though, Daisy’s most cowardly and selfish act — and the one I find the most appalling — is at the end when she stays married to Tom and doesn’t even bother to attend Gatsby’s funeral or send a card or a flower. Coward.
Just as in the book, the characters in Baz Luhrmann’s movie The Great Gatsby wonderfully exemplify the staggering amount of greed and consumerism in the city and in the characters themselves. The movie does a brilliant and very entertaining job of showing the audience the flamboyant and flashy ways of the city, and the crazy, reckless ways of those who inhabited it. I thought Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan were perfect for these roles, especially Leonardo DiCaprio! (*swoon*). Jay Gatsby is definitely my favorite character in the book, and Leonardo DiCaprio is the perfect Gatsby — I can’t think of anyone better to play him. DiCaprio does an amazing and flawless job.
For example, when Daisy is invited to Nick’s for tea, Gatsby has his servants and landscapers spend the whole morning re-doing Nick’s front yard, putting in grass and decorative flower pots and tons of flowers in a plethora of assorted colors. Bushels of flowers and cakes are also delivered to Nick’s house, and Gatsby does this simply because he is afraid that Nick’s cheap, old house is going to be a reflection on him somehow. During the minutes prior to Daisy’s arrival, Gatsby is very, very nervous and DiCaprio is amazing at conveying Gatsby’s anguish. This was one of my favorite scenes of the film.
I’ve seen Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, also by directed by Baz Luhrmann, and the style of his films is very recognizable: they’re entertaining, unique, and at times quite comical. Every scene is beautiful, over the top, wild. One of my favorite aspects of this movie was the visual effects. I didn’t think I’d enjoy seeing this movie in 3D, but it was truly amazing, especially the scenes where excerpts from the book floated up onto the screen as Carraway spoke them. I also love the way the movie depicted the Valley of Ashes since it was portrayed just as I imagined it when reading the book, especially the billboard with the watching eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg.
Another one of my favorite scenes for its fabulous effects and imagery is when Nick attends one of Gatsby’s flamboyant parties for the first time. This scene is so very entertaining to watch because of all the flash and pizzazz of the party itself and the reckless nature of the partiers. There’s loud music, sparkly confetti, and bootlegger-alcohol served round the clock. There are so many people in attendance that hardly anyone can move. During this scene we also see how people from all walks of life came to Gatsby’s parties — gangsters, flappers, ministers, actors, stock brokers, police commissioners, and teenagers are all immersed in greed, materialism, and the pursuit of their idea of happiness.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is definitely one of the best books I have ever read, and the movie by Baz Luhrmann is the best movie I have seen this year. I think I enjoyed the movie more than the book because of the amazing visual effects, the wonderful music, and, of course, Leonardo DiCaprio. I loved the flash and craziness, the glimpse into the chaotic party life of those flappers, millionaires, and bachelors. What makes Fitzgerald’s story so great is the mix of romance, mystery, and glamor that coats the underlying realities of greed and consumerism that were very prominent in 1920’s America. It’s a story that still resonates in 2013, and it’s definitely a book I’ll be reading again and a movie I’ll be seeing again.
Halle Blue M. is a 17-year-old student at Mountain View High School in Utah. She loves Star Wars, Pride & Prejudice, The Beatles, and comics. She loves to dance, write, and play video games and is also a crazy cat-lady with an obsession for Robert Downey Jr. and Thai food.