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Friday, June 21, 2013

The Great Gatsby Reflects Life in the Streets: A Villain is a Villain Regardless of the Intention

Posted By on Fri, Jun 21, 2013 at 7:41 AM

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My problem with this story resides in the fact that most people reading it don't acknowledge the villainous aspects of James Gatsby. He got rich in a relatively quick time frame, and he wasn't necessarily a choir boy. By all means the guy is a gangster, a mysterious compulsive power-hungry personality. He didn't live a humble lifestyle whatsoever. He's gung-ho on trying to relive the past and has convinced himself this woman feels the same regardless of the fact that she's never verbally admitted she does.To me she becomes more so an object to acquire for James and his gaudy lifestyle.

The guy is a maniac in every sense of the word, but he's also a very ambitious person. His ambition is the most admirable quality he holds. He's pursuing a married woman he once dated and he throws these extravagant, over-the-top parties every weekend just to get her attention. If this were real and we knew the characters involved, most of us wouldn't romanticize this story. James Gatsby is basically a charismatic criminal with a rags to riches story, but since he's in love it doesn't really matter and he's the greatest man that walked the Earth since Moses.

I can't understand this, and I left the movie not really knowing why no one else saw the villainous qualities of his character. His love interest in this story clearly has a thing for compulsive men. James has a more philosophical approach to life than her husband; I think this is primarily because he's a dreamer and his dreams eventually pushed him to achieve the impossible. His ambition is amazing, but he's still a very cynical figure. Adolf Hitler was ambitious, so ambition isn't necessarily the primary quality we should use to define a person's intentions. I'm not comparing Gatsby's actions to Hitler's (of course not) but these two overly ambitious characters have a few small things in common.

The takeaway seems to be if there's something you want, or if you have a particular vision of the world, do everything possible to make this vision a reality. No matter how distorted your vision is, the moral compass for your actions is basically defined by society's perception of your story. As Americans, we love ambitious people, but certain things are deal-breakers for us as a society and certain things aren't. Scarface was a drug lord, egotistical coke addict. To some people he's a hero and a symbol of possibility. He was ambitious and charismatic. He didn't live his life in the name of finding his true love, however, so he's not Gatsby.

I think this is just how we function as a society. We blind ourselves to the obvious wrong-doings as long as the right story is attached to the situation. It's okay to bomb innocent people and kill them as long as we're doing it to keep them from eventually bombing us. We're not killers, we're heroes, because we spilled blood for the "right" reasons. But the guy that walks into the subway and shoots innocent people is a killer and should get the death penalty. It's okay to date a married a woman as long as you have a good back story attached to your pursuit of her. It's also okay to be a self-absorbed person with the world at your fingertips and knack for abusing your power, as long as you're in love and and overly consumed by the fact that the woman that loves you won't marry you if you don't give her the world. The moral components of this story are all jacked up, and my friends argued with me that I was the crazy person because I didn't see how wholesome and in love this guy was.

Long story short, Gatsby dies and doesn't get the girl. No one comes to his funeral and he dies a lonely death. He tried to buy friends and admiration. He made a lot of fast money under the table and off the radar. In a sense, he was a Robin Hood-like figure. But he was also a very demanding personality type with a quick temper. He was murdered in cold blood and the story ends. In my world, this is how people like James Gatsby actually die. I wasn't shocked, nor was I saddened by his untimely death, because people like him die prematurely. It's called Karma. He was an over-the-top dreamer and schemer. True enough, he didn't do these things to hurt people, but this doesn't erase the fact that he wasn't a saint. He has a side of him that reminds you of your childhood. He's a dreamer and he thinks the world can be swayed to his liking. He was a crooked businessman but his intentions were to live the sweet American dream. He was very specific about everything he did, and he wanted this one and only woman to be his.

My problem is, even though Gatsby was such admirable soul that we felt his love for this woman ourselves, he wasn't handing out turkeys to the homeless. He was rich and sitting high on the hog while throwing money into alcohol, partying, influencing law enforcement and politicians. He was drunk off power, and by this point in his life the word "no" basically meant just throw some money at it and get it done.Through all of this there is indeed an element of innocence and bliss attached to James Gatsby; he lived in a world with infinite possibilities and he believed in true love.

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