In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, an classic American novel about a young man in the pursuit of love during the 1920’s or “Roaring 20s” in New York City. This novel is nominated as one of America’s most iconic stories. Many film adaptations of this classic story have been produced with the first being a 1926 silent film (now lost) created a year after Fitzgerald published the book, and the most recent and well-known one being Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the protagonist Jay Gatsby. The story is centered around the ambitious and relentless character of Jay Gatsby, a man who tries to cajole his old love, Daisy Buchanan who is now a married woman, with his new exceptional wealth and status. More than a simple love story, The Great Gatsby challenges the spirit of “The American Dream” and the nature of people in the Roaring 20s, more specifically, the social difference between new money and old wealth, and the prestige and power that comes along with it.
Fitzgerald writes vicariously through the main narrative voice of Nick Carraway who tells the story from a peripheral perspective. This narrative projects Gatsby as a man who worked hard to achieve this American dream concept of acquiring wealth, status, class, respect, etc. and become a gentleman among the top social tier all for appealing or being good enough for Daisy to go against her marriage for. Carraway beings to realize that although Gatsby has achieved the highest means of the American dream to extraordinary lengths, he never found contentment with himself as he avoids confronting who he was before he met Daisy and who he wanted to be after Jaber 2 he fell in love with her. This identity struggle between his authentic and inauthentic background is well depicted by DiCaprio in the 2013 film adaptation as he impatiently tells Carraway, played by Toby Maguire, his scripted story of how he was entitled to his wealth.
Luhrmann had cinematically recreated some of the important settings of the original novel as written by Fitzgerald. For example, the Valley of Ashes, a setting in the book that represented the lowest tier in society, an imagination opposite to the American dream, a “fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens, where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and are already crumbling through the powdery air,” (Fitzgerald). Although, Baz Luhrmann replicated the novel with a 21st century touch, the book and movie have parallel descriptions which makes this setting correspond to the imagination created by the book. In both, it is intently referred to the ashes through repetition. Yet, in the movie the display of ashes is rather limited, whereas the eyes are very much the focus point. The movie has successfully followed the very detailed description of the book. Throughout this specific scene in the novel and movie, Fitzgerald’s vivid imagery represents the vital theme of corruption and unfaithfulness is clearly evoked and this is vital to our understanding of the messages included in the story. While reading the book and watching the movie afterwards, I felt as though the movie includes a very detailed display of the Valley of Ashes while the book keeps it short, which therefore movie resonated with me more than the novel.
The director intended viewers to notice the movie set, creating it to be a symbolic setting within the novel as it symbolizes the moral and social values that fade away as someone relentlessly searches for wealth and power, as the rich give regard to nothing other than their own pleasure. It is a colorless, deserted area as a result of it being a dumping ground for ashes. Jaber 3 This novel and movie can be applied to my own design process by creating a setting that is detailed with not only objects but with a concept that will mentally and physically attract people. The novel used a design that is gloomy and depressing. Allowing readers and viewers to understand the motif of their story line, using symbols such as images, sounds, and words. Applying this to my thesis project I will create a concept with a storyline that will exceed people’s imagination to make them feel and visualize the end goal of my design.
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