Resistance To Change, Social Upheaval, And Excess in ”The Great Gatsby”

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The Main Characters

The Great Gatsby is a novel written by Scott Fitzgerald which follows a cast characters living in the fictional town of West Egg on prosperous Long Island in the summer of 1922.

The story is about a young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his passion for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan. This movie explores themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval, and excess. It creates a portrait of the Jazz Age that has been described as a cautionary tale regarding the American Dream. I will be analyzing the old movie version.


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A Symbolic Interaction

I have watched it more than twice and I think that it is a remarkable movie. It indicates at different levels, the importance of social status, and the influence of stereotypes in our Western society. It expresses how society teaches us how to act, react and how to feel about our emotions.

The thoughts of symbolic interactionist such as Mead and Marx as a conflict theorist will be incorporated. This movie describes well our Western society, especially our capitalist concept in which power and control is emancipated.


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An Influence of Marx Theory of Alienation

This theory could be involved in situations where people are modified by their social status given by the state. The “Great Gatsby” proves the conflict within social status when it comes to personal relationships and the creation of the self. Regardless, this movie manifests the conflict of the state influencing our private life.

Hence, it illustrates how people use their front and back stage in their everyday life. For example, the description of the characters tend to transform within the movie. At first, one character can be shown as being nice then as being rude or selfish. There is an important presence of confusion in the movie but which will be clarified in the end.


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Description of the Main Characters

The story takes place with Nick as being the narrator. Nick is easy going, occasionally sarcastic and initially optimistic. Jay Gatsby is a young and mysterious millionaire with shady business connections; he used to be a bootlegger. He is not present at first in the movie. He makes everyone wonder about him.

Throughout the movie, you understand that he is interested in Daisy who is attractive and effervescent. They once had a romantic relationship together before Daisy married Tom ; as well as before Gatsby goes to war. Her choice between Gatsby and Tom is one of the central conflicts expressed in the movie.

Gastby was not a rich millionaire back then, therefore, Daisy chose to marry Tom instead; who was a millionaire living on East Egg but an imposing and arrogant man. Through the development of these characters, The Great Gatsby tells a story of glory, first preceded by conflict.


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Nick as the Narrator: The Middle Character 

Further on Nick’s description, I got to understand that as the narrator he was the outsider of the environment. He is able to report and inform anyone without using any emotional feelings. He is real, rational, humble, sincere and more concrete because his information is not based on any personal aspect. As Daisy’s cousin and the neighbour of Gatsby, his role is being described as being in the middle between those two important characters. He is not very rich and not accustomed to Daisy either the type of life she is living.

I believe that Nick is the only character who did not let the environment has an impact on his identity. Besides, he is using an omniscient point of view because he can see and report everything. Sometimes, he is able to see inside the mind and motivations of all the characters especially the ones he is close to.

Jordan is a middle character as well, because she knows things that other people don’t. For instance, she informs Nick about several statements and actions done by other people in the environment. One important statement she informs Nick about is the affair of Tom with a woman from New York.

(L-r) AMITABH BACHCHAN as Meyer Wolfshiem, TOBEY MAGUIRE as Nick Carraway and LEONARDO DiCAPRIO as Jay Gatsby in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ drama “THE GREAT GATSBY,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

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How Power & Alienation Is Expressed 

The theory of Marx on alienation and labour demonstrates how we are chosen in our society depending on our social status. Moreover, the movie allocates well the clash between rich and poor people; how they tend not to fit together because of their different ways of living and thinking.

Marx did not go further in the power of authority in personal relationships but since my research question is based on the conflict between the public and the private, I have chosen this theory to exemplify the public aspect. Marx interprets how the workers become alienated when the means of production falls into private hands, and labour is thus subject to the demands of the marketplace.

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A Powerful Revolution : Social Criticism

Even so in the scene where Gatsby meets Nick, he clearly told Nick, “ how he is not a very good host and How he does not like parties in reality”. Gatsby avoids reality by making many parties and he makes people wonder about him by not being present in them.

To explain this viewpoint of alienation, I focus on the main character, Gatsby, whose identity changes throughout the movie. In the beginning, you have the opportunity to question yourself whether he is the main character or not because you do not often see him. However, people talk about him without knowing who he is and his name is mentioned in the title of the movie. You have the opportunity to wonder and worry about who is, the Great Gatsby.

Several parties are held at his house and there are a lot of people who go there and who do not even know him. This leads to social criticism, people gossip a lot on Gatsby, the reason for malicious conditions of the society in flawed social structure has been located. People adhering to a social critic aim at a practical solution by specific measures, often consensual reform, but sometimes by powerful revolution.


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How Women Are Treated by Men Based on Their Social Status

In the movie the contrast between how Tom treats Miss Wilson (a poor married woman from New York) and how Gatsby treats Daisy (rich married woman)  is well illustrated. Tom is spoiling Miss Wilson with expensive gifts in her room in which the husband does not have the power to control her.

It is proven that a man with money can do anything he wants with any woman even with someone else’s. In contrast, they contradicted this idea of power and wealth by demonstrating Gatsby and Daisy having picnics together; both are experiencing “real” love, they are doing simple things and Daisy is only happy just by smelling Gatsby’s blouses.


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In the scene of Gatsby and Daisy, there is no sexual relationship and Gatsby respects the idea that Daisy has a husband. Nonetheless, Gatsby goes to his own parties when he started, in a fantasy way, a new relationship with Daisy. This confirms that he is not avoiding reality; reality becomes a part of his escape. In one of the parties, Gatsby and Daisy were escaping together. Tom was furious because he did not see Daisy most of the time during the party.


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A Selfish Character: Daisy

At the beginning she seems to be very nice, elegant and humble. But in the end, you realize that she is simply egocentric, egoistic, self-centred and greedy. She tells to Gatsby that “rich girls do not marry poor guys”. The fact that Gatsby was poor before did not drive her to wait for his return from the war. And she did not even bother telling him that she was pregnant for him.

She made Tom raised a child that is not his. She evidently thinks about herself only, not even how her own child could feel about her real father. Gatsby is shocked when he meets Daisy’s girl; he realized that the little girl looks like him and he made the counts based on her age. Daisy asks her to say “hi” to Gatsby and shows her how she likes him. Daisy emphasizes on the fact that she does not look like her father but mostly like her.

Tom was not present in that scene; the narrator makes sure Tom will be out of the picture at that time.  Daisy is unable to control the situation; she kisses Gatsby in front of Nick and Jordan who reminded her about the presence of Tom in the other room. She answers, “I do not care.” She insisted on going to town because it was too hot. Tom answers all her impulsive change of mind. Basically, she has two men who are willing to answer all of her desires.


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When Reality Became Gatsby’s Escape

In the scene, at the hotel room when they went to town; it is well shown that Gatsby is criticizing the marriage of Tom and Daisy. This illustrates how Gatsby learns whether he is a good player or not, whether he is successful or not. He quotes, “Daisy has never been in love with you.” Tom states, “ […] evidently she has been in love with me once […] just like I did”. This proves how Gatsby is sure that Daisy loves him not Tom.


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The “I” & the ”Me”

Gatbsy wants more by willing to do anything in order to get Daisy back. Gatsby retains the capacity to be spontaneous and even rebellious; he wants a change. Gatsby only uses the “I”  (Mead Theory) which involves the action but he did not think about the reflection of the “Me”.

The “I” is the subjective side of the self which is a manifestation of human impulses and needs. It is spontaneous, impulsive and creative.

In contrast, the “Me” is the conventional side of the self; it is a manifestation of the attitudes of others that one assumes towards oneself. Gatsby will be having the manifestation of the attitudes of Tom and surprisingly of Daisy as well who will tell him that “[he] wants too much”. In the end, Gatsby simply gave irrational impulses without allowing self-critique.


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The Power of Control

The above-mentioned analysis of the characters pays specific attention to the development of the power of control. The power of control is very much present in the movie; for instance, women cannot do what they want.  The fact that Daisy is married, Gatsby takes more precautions while Daisy is with him. He says to Nick that “he sent the workers home in order to not make gossip because Daisy comes a lot in the afternoon”.

Nonetheless, Tom did not care about his mistress’s husband who was mostly speechless. The narrator made him speechless basically because he did not have money. This relates to the theory of Marx on false consciousness. Daisy invited Gatsby to his house and Gatsby is able to eat with Tom because it is about two men with money.

Obviously, Tom is very jealous because men always tend to have that idea of controlling anything they want. It is well presented that Daisy acts like she does not care; she is a careless person. In the scene, at Daisy and Tom’s house, in the dining room, Tom says that “the sun is getting colder every year ” referring to his relationship with Daisy’s. In other words, the sun will clearly be able to come back hot and even be hotter, which proves that Tom has hope.


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The Importance of Social Class: An Alienation

Besides, the power of authority and the fact of holding on traditions are the important issues in this movie. There is also a critical image of wealth expressed. Gatsby and Daisy’s houses are very big; they have workers and butlers in their houses.

Nevertheless, it is hard to keep traditions in modernity; the fact of having a big house makes the human being alienated in his own technology and yet he/she feels lonely. Daisy and Tom barely meet in their house and they hardly see their daughter who is being taken care of by one nanny.

In comparison, Nick has a small house which is literally in Gatsby’s territory; he is yet alienated by Gatsby’s enormous house. He has no choice to hear all of his parties. This demonstrates how he is alienated by Gatsby’s wealth. In addition, Georges Wilson and Miss Wilson live in a small house in which there is their garage as well.

When Tom goes to Miss Wilson house she has to put music out loud in her room and she has to leave subtly. No matter how much Miss Wilson wants her husband to leave, he will never do and she cannot really hide from him. In the end, it is revealed that Georges had locked his wife in their bedroom because he was wondering that she was cheating on him with another man.


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A False Consciousness: One Psychological Escape

Marx says that “alienation takes place when human beings lose the connections they have to their own species since, under capitalism; labour is turned into a physical rather than a creative act”. Like animals humans are asked to perform labouring by relinquishing their conscious being.


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Based on Marx’s theories of alienation and false consciousness, for that reason human tends to escape differently. If I compare Georges Wilson and Gatsby’s type of escape, it is not very much similar. Gatsby is spending money by throwing out parties and Georges Wilson wants to escape by asking Tom money.

As well as the type of avoidance between Daisy and Miss Wilson differs. Daisy wanted to drive Gatsby’s car; I bet at that time, it could have been one of the several times she drove because women were not really driving a lot, so for me I understood that she could have been escaping by driving. And Miss Wilson, wanted to escape after being locked by her husband, then she did not succeed because she had been hit by Daisy and died.

In other words, sometimes when you are very much alienated you cannot really escape. All those examples illustrate how the poor people do not really have the choice in life and when they want to do things against the rules, they get punished very hard.


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A Corrupted Escape: Wealth

Tom and Daisy find great opportunities to escape their sins. Tom has a corruption of self throughout time by taking Daisy for granted but in the end, he wants Daisy back; he does not really care for Miss Wilson, even after her death. Miss Wilson was clearly a moment of joy for him; her death became a solution for his life and his marriage with Daisy.  He was able to make Georges Wilson cleans his mess for him just like Daisy let Gatsby handles hers. As you may know, Georges Wilson killed Gatsby at the end of the movie after Tom made him believed Gatsby was the man his wife cheated with.

Georges used the slogan written in the advertisement board next to his house, which says; “God sees everything”; it demonstrates how he wants to emphasize the idea of human not actually having any control of their lives and God will make you pay for your sins sooner or later.