The Effective Use of Symbols, Images, and Allegories in The Great Gatsby, a Film by Baz Luhrmann
Baz Luhrmann takes a unique approach in his film adaptation of the novel, with the same name, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. With blockbuster stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Joel Edgerton, Lurhmann’s Gatsby does an interesting job of tackling the socioeconomic structure of post-WWI America. Set in the “Roaring 20’s”, it is easy to see why revelry is so prevalent in the film, as America had just won the biggest war (so far) of the century. There are symbols, imageries, and allegories in the film that Luhrmann did a great job of bringing to life.
In order to effectively analyze the symbols, imageries, and allegories in Gatsby, the said terms need to be defined. Symbolism, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is this, “artistic imitation or invention that is a method of revealing or suggesting immaterial, ideal, or otherwise intangible truth or states.” Imageries is defined as “figurative language.” Finally, allegories being defined as “a story in which the characters and events are symbols that stand for ideas about human life or for a political or historical situation.” Now that these terms have been defined, deciphering Lurhmann’s work will be much easier.
The first and easiest to point-out symbol is the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock, which has several imageries wrapped into one symbol. Green obviously means go, fueling Gatsby’s desire to pursue Daisy. The green light is also shown a tangible explanation for Gatsby’s determination and love for Daisy, because it is unfaltering when times are rainy and misty. When Daisy has her doubts and eventually Gatsby is destroyed by his love for Daisy, the green light is ever-shining in the distance. Perhaps as a carrot tied to a stick on a rabbits back, the green light was Gatsby’s motivation to continue and not give up on himself and Daisy.
Another symbol in Gatsby is the “eyes of T.J. Eckleburg”, which are on a billboard in the valley of ashes. The gold-wire framed glasses on an impassive face represents more than an advertisement for a doctor, they depict a God-like character in the film. Instead of using religious representation to describe an all knowing character, Fitzgerald has effectively replaced God with capitalism. This is huge, because every time the characters in the movie leave their palace-like homes and venture into New York City they have to travel through the valley of ashes, enabling the idea that the American Dream is broken.
Although this purposes a question, if Gatsby and Buchanan are both equally rich, why does Daisy not choose Gatsby in the end? The answer is simple, Gatsby did not earn his money on merit. He used a bootlegging empire to gain all of his riches, and the “old money” elite of New York did not look highly at this way of making money. Buchanan knew that Daisy still held on to her belief that status was everything, and if Buchanan could rip apart Gatsby’s reputation in a secluded apartment, anyone can. Even with all of Daisy’s disdain for Buchanan’s chauvinistic tendencies, she could not get over the fact that Gatsby was a fake, and had to choose her husband over him.
All in all, The Great Gatsby, was an excellent film that had deeper value than a “party flick”. Gatsby navigated a post-WWI America in a modern way, showing that a book written in 1925 still has weight today. Fitzgerald’s use of symbols, allegories, and imageries, plays a cautionary tale of the American Dream. “The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” -Nick Carraway
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