The sample essay on Differences Between The Great Gatsby Book And Movie deals with a framework of research-based facts, approaches and arguments concerning this theme. To see the essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, read on.
A good story can be told in many different ways. That is what happens with our oral narrative. It goes from mouth to mouth and each narrator gives to it a teaspoon of personal taste. The same occurs when a novel is transformed into a script for a movie.
Movies give us the chance to see with our physical eyes what we have pictured in our minds. Words take human form and carry us along the story. Yet, what we see is very limited, our approach to the characters and events is determined by the purpose of the director; what we see is what he wants us to see.
In the case of The Great Gatsby, the story is followed very loyally, but emphasis is put on different aspects, for the movie differs in its objective, and appeals to a different audience.
There is a clear difference between Fitzgerald’s purpose and the one of Jack Clayton. For the former one, The Great Gatsby is an instrument to criticize the American dream and uncover the shallowness of society. While he introduces Gatsby as someone who respresented “everything for which I have an unaffected scorn”, he still finds that “there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity for the promises of life”(p8).
For the director of the movie, Gatsby is more literally a man with a “romantic readiness” that distinguishes himself from the rest.
He is a tragic heroe, someone whose romantic blindness finds no place in society. Yet, the movie does not blame society for Gatsby’s destruction; no- he is a dreamer, he is deaf to a reality that speaks loud enough. Fitzgerald, through Nick’s voice, condemns society very clearly since the beginning and with the most cruel words.
Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and shortwide elations of men. “(p8). While the writer uses the characters as a bridge to discovering Gatsby’s life and as an instrument of disillusion, Clayton puts emphasis on each character as an individual; he embodies in an abstraction what Fitzgerald describes with an artistic pastiche of actions and reactions. In the book, everything we see is seen through the eyes of Nick Carraway.
An evidence, and an excellent literary technique, is when Nick has had some many drinks and images in his memory start to be blurred: “It was nine o’clock- almost immediately afterward I looked at my watch and found it was ten. ” (p38). The movie, on the other hand, shows us images we can decipher for ourselves. We can see, or at least assume, Nick is tipsy because we see how many drinks he has had, and we observe in his face the lost look of someone who is starting to feel the effect of alcohol. When Nick describes the whiteness of the house and the dresses, he loads his description with similies and visual images.
Clayton, on the other side, creates this image phisically; everything in the setting is horribly white, and with a short glance he substitutes the magic of Fitzgerald’s words. Nevertheless, his method is not less effective in its purpose, though it is a different one. The book appeals to hypocrisy through the contrast between white and the immorality with which everyone is stained. The movie stays with the superficial meaning of white as the dream in which Gatsby is submerged, the whiteness he creates by filling Nick’s house with white daisies and dressing in a white suit.
Although the story in the movie is presented by Nick in first person narrative, the movie’s structure has more to do with the structure of a comic series, where the narrator is only an introduction to the setting and/or the action taking place. Whilst in the book Nick is a filter through which we receive an account on the events, in the movie his intervention between us and the story is very little; he abandons his “outsider” perspective and plays here a character in his own. This is a resource used by Clayton to emphasize again the importance of each character, including his narrator, as an individual.
When drunk, sad or happy, it is not through his voice (internal) that we get to know about his state, but through observing externally his actions and judging for ourselves. Whenever he makes an assumption in the book “Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one” (p90), Clayton replaces that thought for an action in itslef, an action in which Nick has no intervention, the sad look in Gatsby’s eyes is something we become aware ourselves, with no need for words.
This happens very often, another example is when Nick narrates the moment when, five years ago, “he kissed her”(p107). Clayton replaces this thoroughly described moment and all its mistery with a romantic dreamlike environment created by Gatsby and Daisy in their moments of reminiscense: D:-“I wish you had your uniform G:-“I do still have my uniform D:-“Then, you are a sentimental man”. Yet, everything we see is as imagined by the director, the visual image is therefore imposed on us, in contrast to the image we create ourselves from the reading of the book.
Another difference in structure is the chronology of the story. Both of them apply a retrospective view. Yet, the movie follows a circular construction, starting with a walk through Gatsby’s house once he is dead, glancing at the collection of pictures and articles of Daisy’s life, breathing the still air of a house that has held its last party. Then the whole story is told from the beginning, when Nick arrives in Daisy’s house till we are driven back to the empty house with its lugubrious stillness. This is, once more, a choice made by Clayton to achieve his aim, to portray the romantic aspect of the story.
The book on the other hand, is a deliberate criticism born in the interior of a man’s soul. It is more of a psychological structure, a telling of the story as it comes to mind, “Reading over what I have written so far, I see I have given the impression that the events of three nights severa weeks apart were all that absorbed me” (p56), as it makes sense. Nick admits this when he says: “He told me all this very much later, but I’ve put it down here with the idea of exploding those first wild rumours about his antecedents… (p97). Symbols play an important role in both book and movie. Yet, the latter neglects some of the symbols originally found in Fitzgerald’s piece. This is the case of the clock that represented the passing of time that Gatsby so foolishly denied. “Luckily the clock took this moment to tilt dangerously at the pressure of his head, whereupon he turned and caught it with trembling fingers, and set it back in place”, then he said “I am sorry about the clock” (p84). In the movie, however, the clock never falls.
The reason for this is that this symbol does not satisfy the director’s purpose. Instead, a bird is presented as a symbol of the love between Daisy and Jay. This feathered creature appears when both of them are together in the poolside. Its second appearance is toward the end, when Daisy is gone forever. Gatsby turns back hoping to find her there, he calls out her name, but the dream is over; the bird flies away abruptly. There is a saying in my country: “bird that ate, flew away”. This could be a second interpretation, although not as romantic.
Movie and book tell the very same story in very different ways, making emphasis in what will contribute to achieving their respective purposes. Both of them are very successful in that and, whatever the choices and changes made by Clayton, they can be easily indulged for he presents to us another aspect of Great Gatsby: the greatness of his individuality. Gatsby dies and is purified, he is a romantic heroe that needs no excuse for he has lived a life in pursue of a dream, which he owns. Both writer and director condemn this illusion: one sceptically calls it hope, the other very superficially calls it love.
Fitzgerald lies the blame on society: society killed Gatsby’s dream and with it, everything that Gatsby meant. Clayton portrays him as this romantic figure who gives up everything for an illusion. Yet, his means to reach that blind illusion that has no shape nor content any more, that something that was but will never be again, are very distorted in the context of his humanity. What makes him such a special individual is, ironically, what erases any individuality in him, what in the end, kills him for he has no aim any more.