What is the significance of setting in The Great Gatsby?
There are multiple significant locations in The Great Gatsby. Nick and Gatsby live in West Egg, a part of the North Shore of Long Island. West Egg is said to be a place where people with newer wealth buy property, thus outlining the ways that Gatsby is more "new money." As we find out, Gatsby is not as aristocratic as he purports to be, as he got his wealth from being a bootlegger. Contrastingly, East Egg is where Daisy and Tom Buchanan live. Their mansion is also excessively large and grand, but it is meant to appear much more tasteful, representing the old and staid quality of the Buchanan fortune. Gatsby puts all of his wealth on display whereas The Buchanans aren't as extravagant in expressing their wealth, which gives them even more class status. Contrasting with both of these locations is the Valley of Ashes, a dingy and dusty place completely devoid of wealth, where hard-working blue collar citizens fight to stay alive. The various locales in the movie illuminate the wealth disparity of the United States in this period. While some people monopolized all of the wealth, hardly working at all, others had nothing.
How does our perception of Daisy change in the film?
At the beginning Daisy is portrayed in a positive and romanticized way. When Nick first sees her at the Buchanan estate, he describes her as "the golden girl," before describing her further: "Breathless warmth flowed from her, a promise that there was no one else she so wanted to see." She is described by Nick as being endlessly charming and inviting. Indeed, Gatsby has dedicated his life to building up his house and creating all these things in the hope he will be reunited with her. He, too, idealizes Daisy. Gatsby's devotion shows that she must be an incredibly special woman. Initially, she is portrayed as a woman trapped in a loveless marriage to Tom Buchanan, with a passionate desire to be reunited with Gatsby.
However, as the film progresses, Daisy is revealed to the audience to be more selfish than she first appeared. A child of wealth and privilege, who has only been further buoyed by her marriage to a Buchanan, Daisy ignores the consequences of her actions. The fact that she cannot take responsibility for the affair she is having with Gatsby, and remains indecisive and manipulative in the moment of decision at the Plaza, shows her weakness of character. Additionally, the fact that she is willing to run away and ignore both her commitment to Gatsby and her murder of Myrtle, shows that she is actually unreliable, unethical, and carelessly cruel.
What is the significance of the title "The Great Gatsby"?
The title is both ironic and genuine. Indeed, Gatsby is a markedly complicated character, plagued by contradictions. Gatsby has a good heart and a great deal of integrity, particularly in his personal relationships. Everything he does for Daisy and his romantic dreams to reunite with her are admirable and endear him to the viewer. Additionally, his resilience and relentless hope are undeniably likable traits. In contrast to Tom Buchanan, who consistently shirks accountability, and wields his privilege with a malevolent disregard, Gatsby has an ethical sense of how to treat others. However, Gatsby's wealth comes from crime, he seeks to break up a marriage, and he asks for more than Daisy is able to give him. Rather than accept the fact that Daisy may have loved Tom when she married him, he insists that she tell Tom—in his presence no less—that she never loved him. Gatsby's single-mindednes is almost pathological. Furthermore, he dies a tragic death, and never achieves the greatness of which he dreamed. Therefore, the title invokes the peculiar contradiction of Gatsby; while Nick asserts that Gatsby's integrity is far superior to the spineless Buchanans, Gatsby is not especially redeemable or heroic either. The title suggests a kind of ambivalence that Nick feels about all of the events that took place. Even the addition of "The Great" on the manuscript that he has written is a last-minute attempt to valorize a complicated and deeply flawed man.
Discuss the film's direction and its use of the visual and the vivid to tell the story.
The film won two Academy Awards, for its production design and its costume design, and one can see why. The film is a visual feast, with lavish and impressive art design, incredible costumes, sets, and an elaborate aesthetic world that pulls the viewer in whether they like it or not. One of the main ways that director Baz Luhrmann sets the scene of the film is in the way that he films the party scenes. The parties in the film are raucous, manic, and filled with modern flourishes that create a parallel between contemporary party aesthetics and the roaring 20s. Characters are dressed as flappers and in tuxedos, yet the soundtrack is a curious mix of jazz, hip-hop, and pop. This creates a dynamic dissonance between the past and the present, as if to show the parallels between the decadence of the early 20th century and the excess and materialism of the current moment.
Is the film faithful to the novel on which it is based?
In large part, the film tells the story of the novel faithfully, employing many of the most famous lines F. Scott Fitzgerald's prose and interpolating them in the film. The framing device is that Nick Carraway is in a sanatarium, and is advised by a doctor to write down what happened to him in order to recover from alcoholism (among other ailments). This framing device is not in the novel. Apart from this divergence, however, most plot points are taken directly from the novel. While many elements are embellished, such as the scale of the parties, the soundtrack, and certain cinematic moments, most plot points, lines, and characterizations are true to the book. Luhrmann told an interviewer that he sought to keep the essentials and get rid of certain unessential parts of the novel, but for the most part the film is faithful.