Compare and Contrast Essay on The Great Gatsby: Film and Novel Analysis

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The book, The Great Gatsby is a 1925 classic by Scott Fitzgerald that highlights the jazz age period in New York. This novel is one of Fitzgerald’s greatest achievements in his stellar career. This book has been acclaimed by various readers even in the present day despite being first published in 1922 (Corrigan 6). The Great Gatsby is magnificently written and contains one of the greatest prose in published works. The novel’s readability makes it appealing to readers of all ages like school kids, working people, and the elderly. The 2013 Great Gatsby film was influenced by the novel. The film starred movie stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and received praise and criticism in equal measure. Even though both the film and the movie have a close resemblance in the plots as well as the characters used, the film seems flashy and a theatrical celebration of the sad story of the novel.

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Differences Between the Great Gatsby Film and Book

As you would expect for a movie adaptation of a novel, the plots are perfectly similar. The movie begins with Nick Carraway undergoing treatment at a psychiatric hospital for alcoholism (Fitzgerald 1). Nick writes his thoughts down especially about Gatsby who he describes as the most hopeful man he has met. Nick, therefore, assumes the role of Fitzgerald by being the narrator in the film. The plots of both the film and the novel are based on the romantic relationships of Gatsby and Daisy, Tom and his wife Daisy as well as his extra-marital affair with Myrtle. Besides, the affair between George Wilson and his wife, Myrtle, who is Tom’s mistress, also contributes to the melodrama of both the film and the movie. The film ends tragically, just like the novel, with George killing Gatsby in his swimming pool.

The Great Gatsby Character Analysis Book vs Film

The characters of both the film and the novel have some similarities. For instance, Nick Carraway is the narrator of the film, therefore, takes the role of Fitzgerald. He undergoes alcoholism treatment just like Fitzgerald. In addition, he is well educated having schooled in Yale (French). DiCaprio fits perfectly for Gatsby, who is mysterious, young, rich, and party-loving. Gatsby is a passionate and hopeful young man depicting the American optimism of the 1920s. Besides, Tom Buchanan, who acted as Joel Edgerton in the film, is a bully and bigot supporting the racist pseudoscience of the 1920s. The film, therefore, applies like-for-like cast members to represent the characters in the novel.

The Performance Cast in the Great Gatsby Movie

Carey Mulligan fits vocally and physically perfectly for Daisy Buchanan. Scott elaborates that Carey’s character seems fitting for the novel’s description of her character having a voice like money. However, the film does not seem to romanticize her as other characters such as Gatsby and Nick often do. Nonetheless, Carey’s role as Daisy is overmatched by Joel Edgerton’s Tom. He fits the description in the novel as a hulking character depicting the jovial arrogance of a thug. The film also casts out some of the small roles well such as Elizabeth Debick assuming the role of Jordan Baker. The actor’s roles and performance show that the director was genuinely interested in depicting the movie to be as close to the novel as possible.

The film’s director, Mr. Luhrmann, in a bid to make the movie as close to the novel as possible, makes the movies lose a sense of escalation, especially in the party scenes. The guests in Gatsby’s parties do not look real but rather obviously directed. The gatherings engage in a Dionysian lust, hero-worship, and the booze taking in a manner that things do not occur in real parties. Viewers can see the use of CGI- assisted cameras in shooting these scenes. Moreover, the anachronistic soundtrack mix-up of modern hip-hop tunes and ragtime piano also makes the party scenes far from reality.

Scott, writing for the New York Times, elaborates that both the novel and the film fail to critique American materialism at a time when it was at its all-time high. The novel sheds light on the materialism during the jazz period such as endless and lavish partying. Fitzgerald falls a victim of hedonism and extravagance in his depiction of rich people such as Gatsby. In the novel, Gatsby has money hence, lives a lavish lifestyle spending big on everything including cars and exotic drinks. The film also upholds materialism by fusing the dressing of the characters to contain both the 1920s decadence with the modern-day hip-hop culture of consumerism (Scott).

Despite the similarities between the film and the novel, adaptation of the novel also caused some differences. The film is a flashy and brightly colored rendering of a sad story about Gatsby, the West Egg, and Long Island. French explains that although the director tries to make the film as close to the novel as possible by lifting some dialogue and narration directly from the novel, the film is slightly different from the novel. The film’s director had the prerogative of altering the novel’s plot according to his artistic sensibility to reflect the different moods that Fitzgerald expounds in his novel. As a result, the film is not a conventional movie adaptation of the novel, but a splashy and theatrical celebration of the deceit, hopelessness, as well as emotional and material extravagance of the rich that Fitzgerald surveyed in the novel.

Corrigan (56) explains that although every occurrence in the novel is connected to the theme of romanticism, Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship is not a perfect love story. Having lost Daisy while serving as a military officer, Gatsby decided to do everything to win back her love. Since Gatsby lost Daisy because he was penniless, he resorted to engaging in illegal activities such as bootlegging alcohol to be rich. However, despite his millions, endless parties, and gothic mansion, Gatsby and Daisy's romantic relationship is far from perfect. However, the film makes this relationship look perfect. This is evident in one scene in the film at the Plaza Hotel when the film’s music stops and the camera highlights the faces of those in attendance. At this point, the movie lays bare the emotional and romantic side of the movie. The movie, in the process, exaggerates the romantic relationship between Gatsby and Daisy.

French writes that Mr. Luhrmann, therefore, fails to make a smaller, and square adaptation of a serious novel that has a lot of cultural significance. The movie comes out as immense and overwrought due to the director’s eagerness to produce an entertaining movie. The commercial side of producing the movie hence creates a distraction from the themes that Fitzgerald elaborated with ambiance. The film lumbers across the screen and comes across as flashy and trashy. As a result, the cultural significance of the novel such as the classic jazz age period of 1920s New York is lost.


The 2013 film The Great Gatsby was inspired by the Scots novel. The film received positive reviews for its closeness with one of the greatest literary works elaborating the classical jazz period. Both the film and the novel have similar plots and like-for-like characters. Besides, they both fail to criticize American materialism which is one of the themes in the novel. However, the film is a flashy and theatrical depiction of Gatsby’s sad story. Besides, the film exaggerates Gatsby and Daisy’s romantic relationship despite it not being a perfect love story.

Works Cited

A.O Scott. Shimmying off the Literary Mantle. The Great Gatsby is Interpreted by Baz Luhrmann. The New York Times: New York, NY. 2013. Print.

Corrigan, Maureen. So We Read On: How the Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures. Back Bay Books: New York, NY: 2015. Print.

Fitzgerald, Scott. The Great Gatsby. Dead Dodo Vintage. New York, NY: 2013. Print.

French Philip. The Great Gatsby-Review. The Guardian. 2013. Print.

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