The Great Gatsby hits theaters this Friday, and we’ve created an excellent guide which includes details about the main characters, and its symbolism in a mostly spoiler-free guide for those who wish to brush up on the classic novel before seeing it in theaters. (Minor spoilers)
Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is the fifth film adaptation of Fitzgerald’s novel. The most recent adaptation was in 2000, the most famous being the 1974 film. This 2013 adaptation with Leonardo DiCaprio as “The Great Gatsby” will undoubtedly be the most modern relative to the era it was created. Due to technological advances, and with rapper Jay-Z as the executive producer of the score – this should give the film a more unique, 21st-century feel to the 1920s story.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is one of the most famous and beloved pieces of American literature. Although Fitzgerald only wrote four novels, The Great Gatsby is undoubtedly the most famous, and still just as breathtaking as it was when it was first published in 1925. Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby as a social commentary and criticism of the rich in the 1920s – yet makes the basic plot relatable regardless of the historical context.
Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) – The narrator, the entire story is told from his perspective. He is a former Yale student and World War I veteran. He lives outside of New York in West Egg (Long Island) selling bonds, and is Gatsby’s next door neighbor. Although in many scenes he is merely a fly on the wall, the entire sequence of the story wouldn’t have occurred if he didn’t move to New York.
Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) – Nick’s second-cousin once removed who lives across the bay from NIck in East Egg. A young, carefree, and beautiful flapper, she had a romantic relationship with Gatsby prior to marrying her husband, Tom Buchanan.
Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) – Daisy’s husband and Nick’s former classmate from Yale. An arrogant and highly tempered millionaire, he cheats on Daisy throughout the story with many other woman.
Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) – A very mysterious millionaire and the next-door neighbor of Nick. Throwing extravagant parties that are stereotypical of the 1920s, Gatsby is obsessed with Daisy since he first met her five years earlier when he was stationed in the South during World War I.
Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki) – Daisy’s best friend and a professional golfer. In the novel, she is Nick’s girlfriend for most of the book, and provides Nick company when situations get sticky between Daisy, Tom, and Gatsby. Jordan is also considered a cheat, as Nick describes her as not just a golf cheat, but a cheat at life.
Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher) – One of Tom’s main mistresses, she is promiscuous and finds refuge in Tom from her husband, George. Myrtle is the character who essentially intertwines the entire story together. Nearly every character is connected to her in some significant way.
George Wilson (Jason Clarke) – Myrtle’s husband and the owner of a garage between Long Island and New York City. Although somewhat unaware of his wife’s affair and not the smartest person who lived, he loves Myrtle and is faithful to her.
Meyer Wolfsheim (Amitabh Bachchan) – A powerful gangster, Gatsby tells Nick that he fixed the 1919 World Series. We don’t ever know a whole lot about Meyer. Beyond the fact that he’s a business associate and a close friend of Gatsby’s, all we know is that he’s an inhabitant of New York’s underworld.
“Owl-eyes” (Max Cullen) – A man that Nick meets in Gatsby’s library during the first party Nick attends. He claims Gatsby is a hoax, and there is no real person of Gatsby. Owl Eyes simply cannot believe that Gatsby has real books in his library, and he seems to have a real fascination for his lifestyle.
The Valley of Ashes – The Valley of Ashes lays between West Egg (where Nick and Gatsby live) and New York City; thus, they pass through the valley when traveling between their homes and the city. It’s a grey and dreary area full of industrial workers, which represents the gradual decay and emptiness of the wealthy class.
The Eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg – These eyes behind a gold-rimmed pair of glasses are painted on a billboard that sits above the Valley of Ashes. Because Fitzgerald didn’t clearly define what they stand for, the meaning of the eyes is open-ended and which lead to a few possible answers. They could represent God watching over all of society and judging the rich and the poor – anytime a character goes to or from the city and acts in sinful ways, they always drive past Eckleburg’s ever-watchful eyes. However, they also represent the loss of morals and shift to commercialism and obsession with wealth in the 1920s America. The eyes literally advertise an optometrist promoting his business, hence the shift in measuring success in terms of wealth, as demonstrated throughout Gatsby. The old billboard in the desolate Valley of Ashes, just like human morals and values in the rich class in the 1920s, is neglected.
The Green Light – Gatsby’s mansion is directly across the bay from Daisy’s house. There is a green light that flashes at the end of her dock that Gatsby sees every night. The light is a symbol of working towards dreams and holding onto hope, yet the grand dream in reality will never be as pleasant as imagined. The green light is not only symbolic for Gatsby trying to win Daisy, but also for the quest to achieve the American dream.
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