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Thread: Comparing Kane (the film) to Gatsby (the book)

  1. #1
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    Comparing Kane (the film) to Gatsby (the book)

    This is an essay I wrote for my English class. I love sharing this stuff with you guys because your feedback is most helpful. Here she is:

    Stories transcend the common medium. They can be told in many forms, be they paintings, novels, or films. They can, in addition, cross paths in many forms and create a valuable comparison. A stupendous example of this tradition lies within classic demonstrations of their respective media. Citizen Kane, a film made in 1941, and The Great Gatsby, a novel written in the 1920s, are prime specimens for picking apart and analyzing in such a demonstration. The subjects are most similar within their major flawed characters, human beings tortured by the need for human contact, wealth, and the desire to uphold the undying human spirit.
    The protagonist of The Great Gatsby is one Nick Carraway, a quiet man with a taste for observation. He spends his time just watching his friends laugh, bicker, and weep over seemingly menial distractions. He believes that “[r]eserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope” (5). Thus, he lives a blissful and poignant lifestyle, punctuated by the occasional social episode that, for once, actually means something. Literary junkies have referred to him as a godlike figure. A similar character runs within Citizen Kane. He is Thompson, a reporter, simply wanting to learn the truth about a man by observing stories and objects throughout several persons’ own lives. His face is always masked in shadow, almost as if he does not exist in this realm or simply does not want to. In the end, he is as complacent as he was in the beginning, almost as though he were omniscient himself.
    Jay Gatsby is a man running from his own self and attempting to mask it with the lives of others. His wealth allows his to create mass festivities at his own New York mansion, where he strives to blend in with the crowd so his disheartened mind can be at rest without the pain of someone noticing. He produces this façade with “one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life.” Charles Foster Kane also surrounds himself with masses. This newspaper owner and brief political figure molds himself, externally, to be a man for the people. His true intentions, however, lie in the fact that he only wants people to love him so that he can better camouflage his own insecurities. He also does this through purchasing vast amounts of whatever fills his luxurious estate and makes him look so rich that he could not have a trace of a lack of confidence within him.
    These two groups of men contrast each other in a conservative fashion. While Nick and Thompson separate themselves from all others of the community, Kane and Gatsby embrace their culture, all in an attempt to defy their own personal boundaries and regulations. This, in effect, ultimately destroys them, as their self-absorption fails to have a perfect counterbalance; in essence, their understanding of large groups of people as well as “forty-nine acres of nothing but scenery and statues” only pushes them farther away.
    Wealth is a shallow concept that consumes one and makes one want to fill the void with more emptiness. It is a circular affair that always ends in peril and chaos. In order for a better tomorrow, the prospect of capitalism over the current market must be quelled so that the Kanes and Gatsbys of the world may live their lives in tranquil.
    "So I'm a heel, so what of it?"
    --Renaldo the Heel, from Crimewave

  2. #2
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    Knipp is the lit guy 'round these parts. I was waiting for him to respond to your request for feedback. For what it's worth...
    *This title would be more accurate: Comparing Characters from...
    *I'd have mentioned F. Scott Fitzgerald and Orson Welles once.
    *Two or three sentences could be edited for clarity. I don't know if you'd want us to be more specific.
    *Your ideas have weight and your text contains no factual errors.
    *Your punctuation is flawless.

  3. #3
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    I just stumbled upon this nice essay...will add a few brief comments.

    First of all, it's an interesting topic to compare the media of film versus literature. Perhaps if the essay were expanded to a greater length, you could go into greater detail about how each "author" used his medium to achieve his intended result. For instance, one of the most striking scenes in Citizen Kane is at the end, where the camera pans back to show the vast storage room with its countless (infinite?) number of now-useless artifacts. Through this image, Welles' intention was indeed probably to show that "Wealth is a shallow concept that consumes one and makes one want to fill the void with more emptiness." So, as a comparison, how did Fitzgerald accomplish such a similar objective, and what, if any, is the difference in effect on the reader / viewer?

    Also, as a note, I don't normally think of Kane and Gatsby as necessarily being in parallel type situations, though there are indeed similarities. What I took from Kane was his megalomania, his intense desire for power and wealth. He got that, but then was left with nothing else - no friends, no love. Whereas, Gatsby really was seeking out such relationships, only in a "higher" social class than what he grew up in. In his naivete, he let himself be vulnerable. He ended up alone (and dead), Fitzgerald says, because of the superficiality and fickleness of the New York high society. Here's a quote I have underlined in my copy of Gatsby, "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made..."

    Keep reading, keep writing!

  4. #4
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    You're on the right track Tree.
    It seems like you understand Gatsby and Kane.

    It's sorta like this:

    You wanna be a millionaire? billionaire?
    How many people are you willing to step on, crush, shove out of the way or kill?

    It's the only way to do it without inheriting it or winning the lottery.


    Viva the Realm of the Relative!
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  5. #5
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    That's an interesting way to put it, Johann. I kind of feel that Kane never really hurt anybody; his original intent was to help everyone. While he didn't accomplish this, the only person he ever really crushed was himself.
    "So I'm a heel, so what of it?"
    --Renaldo the Heel, from Crimewave

  6. #6
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    I wasn't really speaking about Kane specifically, it was more of a comment on wealthy people in general.

    Kane's downfall was all his own, true. That's why Hearst didn't like it. It seemed like Welles was taking a swipe at San Simeon ( he was) and the man didn't like it.

    That's why I love Michael Moore. He had the balls (and the sweet righteousness) to aim his cinematic sights on a man who is far too big for his britches.

    More people should do it. As Buddha said: balance is all.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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