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Essay: The Great Gatsby – differences and similarities between film and book

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  • Published: 24 August 2019*
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After reading the book, and watching the film there are many differences and similarities that I was able to determine. One of the major differences between both of the works is the meeting between Jay Gatsby, protagonist, and Nick Carraway, narrator. However, the similarities were much more substantial than differences.
Gatsby and Nick met at a party that Gatsby had thrown at his mansion. Nick was invited due to the fact that he was Gatsby’s next door neighbor. The plot in the book is the same as the movie, although some of the details are inconsistent in one over the other. In the text, Jordan Baker and Nick bump into each other at one of Gatsby’s extravaganzas, and Jordan goes off to search for her friend Gatsby, who she wanted Nick to meet. They aren’t able to find him. At another point in the story, they end up sitting at a table with some other people. “We were sitting at a table with a man of about my age…’Your face is familiar,’ he said politely” (51).
The two men began talking about the war until the conversation turned towards the party. “This is an unusual party for me. I haven’t even seen the host. I live over there… and this man named Gatsby sent over his chauffeur with an invitation… ‘I’m Gatsby,’ he said suddenly (52). The meeting in the movie, however, occurred much differently. They were still at one of Gatsby’s parties, but Gatsby had met Nick in a crowd of people. It appeared as though Gatsby had been searching for him, and when they met, Gatsby knew exactly who Nick was. In the novel, this did not happen.
A second major difference that we experience between the movie and the book was the relationship between Daisy and Gatsby. In both works, the two were reintroduced through Nick. They both had attended the tea party at Nick’s and their love was rekindled during that event. Gatsby asked Jordan to suggest to Nick the tea party. “‘He wants to know-‘ continued Jordan ‘-if you’ll invite Daisy to your house some afternoon and then let him come over'” (83). “She’s not to know about it. Gatsby doesn’t want her to know. You’re just supposed to invite her to tea” (85). After the invitation was extended to Daisy, some light began to shed upon the small differences. In the movie, Jay Gatsby is already waiting in Nick’s house when Daisy arrives. In the book, Gatsby shows up later on. “An hour later the front door opened nervously and Gatsby in a white flannel suit, silver shirt and gold colored tie hurried in” (89). From this point, Daisy and Gatsby began to see each other. In the book, not all encounters were elaborated upon, but the excessive amount of time they spent with each other was implied. “[Daisy’s husband] was evidently perturbed at Daisy’s running around alone, for on the following Saturday night he came with her to Gatsby’s party” (110). There were several scenes in the movie of Nick and Daisy having tea together, going into town together, and going to a park together. The subtle relationship they had was described in the novel as well as the film, but it was certainly elaborated more in the movie version.
Finally, the last difference can be found within the final incidents of the Great Gatsby. The ending of the story is full of deaths. The first one we encounter is Myrtle, Tom’s mistress. The events leading up to her final moments are described in the novel with a substantial amount of detail. “‘I’ve got my wife locked up in there,’ explained Wilson calmly. ‘She’s going to stay there till the day after tomorrow and then we’re going to move away…. A moment later [Myrtle] rushed out into the dusk, waving her hands and shouting; before he could move away from his door the business was over… [The car] didn’t stop… Michaelis and this man reached her first but when they had torn open her shirtwaist… they saw that her left breast was swinging loose like a flap and there was no need to listen for the heart beneath. The mouth was wide open and ripped at the corners as though she had choked a little…” (143-145). The movie, on the other hand, did not provide as much information about the death as the book did. The film shows a crowd around Myrtle’s dead body, but the accident is not shown in as much detail as we read about. After George Wilson, Myrtle’s husband, was exposed to the fact that the car that killed his wife belonged to Jay Gatsby, he immediately sets out on a manhunt for Gatsby. He arrives at Gatsby’s with a loaded revolver. The movie shows the scene where Gatsby is swimming in his pool, feeling uneasy waiting for Daisy to call him about their plans together. He keeps looking at the patio and chanting Daisy’s name. WIlson hides behind a curtain on the patio and proceeds to aim his gun at Gatsby’s back. He pulls the trigger, and Gatsby falls back into his pool. Another gunshot is fired when Wilson decides to bite the bullet as well. In the novel, Gatsby’s death is not described as much as it is in the movie. It’s barely mentioned that they found him in the pool with blood floating around him and “…the gardener saw Wilson’s body a little way off in the grass…” (170), rather than in the patio.
The Great Gatsby we watched in class followed the novel very closely. There were some minor parts that were made different because in the novel the events were all from Nick Carraway’s point of view. Although not 100% detailed, I think the movie is an exceptional representation of the novel. At the time of reading, it was hard to put faces on the characters but the movie helped me fill in that blank spot.

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