Analysis of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Baz Luhrmann's Gatsby

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“The Great Gatsby” is a novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925 while the movie adaptation, “Gatsby,” was released in 2013. The film is entertaining and captivating. The film’s producer and director, Luhrmann, appeals to the pop culture audience by including hip-hop soundtracks, yet Fitzgerald wrote his book in the 1920s before hip-hop was popular (Haghanipour 17). As much as the movie and the book have similarities in the characterization and plot, they also have significant differences (Haghanipour 5).

“The Great Gatsby” versus “Gatsby”

The film respects the fact that the story is told as a narrative by Nick Carraway, Daisy’s cousin (the woman Gatsby is in love with). In both, the narrator, Nick Carraway, tells a story about Gatsby, a wealthy, young man who frequently throws parties (Haghanipour 3). Gatsby and Daisy had a romance in the past, but they broke up, and she married Tom. However, Gatsby wants Daisy to leave her husband, but she declines his offer. Tom has an affair with Myrtle, a married woman. One day after one of Gatsby’s parties, Myrtle is killed in an accident, and Tom blames Gatsby since he does not like him. Myrtle’s husband then kills Gatsby believing that he had an affair with his wife.

Both the novel and the book include the apartment parties in their plots. Tom threw a spontaneous party from Myrtle Wilson, his mistress. The film depicts Nick sitting in the living room while the two engage in loud, sexual acts in the bedroom. However, Fitzgerald does not provide an explicit description of what Tom and Myrtle Wilson do in the bedroom. The novel states that Myrtle and Tom appear then reappear before other guests arrive at the party (Fitzgerald 18). Luhrmann also shows Catherine, Myrtle’s sister, giving Nick a pill, which she claims she acquired from a physician in Queens. Nick then wakes up in his house, half-dressed, not sure how he reached there. In the book, there is no mention of Nick being drugged. Fitzgerald indicates that Nick goes into an apartment owned by one of the party guests, which is downstairs from Myrtle and Tom’s place, the heads to Penn Station where he takes the four o’clock train to his house.

The movie slightly differs from the book in its characterization. The film features the character Wolfshiem who is based on the Jewish gangster, Arnold Rothstein, from the book (Fitzgerald 38). However, Wolfshiem is of Indian descent. Critics have complained that Luhrmann has not stuck to the book’s script by using a character of a different race. However, the movie’s director defends his decision by saying that casting a Jewish character would insinuate that he is anti-Semitic. Also, Fitzgerald characterization of the Jews was offensive to some Jewish people as Rothstein had a big head, thick hair in both nostrils, and a small, flat nose (Haglund). As such, using a different character preserves respect for the Jewish people.

Another difference in characterization entails individuals who are scrapped from the movie but are present in the book are Ella Kaye and the Finnish woman. The novel mentions Ella Kaye, a manipulative woman who snags Dan Cody’s inheritance; Cody is a wealthy, drunken yachtsman (Fitzgerald 51). According to the movie, Cody’s riches go to his family. The book also mentions a Finnish woman in Nick’s house. She made the bed and cooked his breakfast and muttered Finish wisdom as she worked on the stove. The film does not mention the Finnish woman.

The movie also differs from the book regarding some sections of the plot. At the beginning of the book, the narrator, Nick Carraway, checked into a sanatorium and was diagnosed with morbid alcoholism by a doctor. Fitzgerald, the author, mentions Gatsby as the man who gave his name to the book. However, Luhrmann fails to mention this fact; he does not say that “The Great Gatsby” was written by Nick. Luhrmann includes sections in his movie, which are not mentioned in the book. He shows Nick writing using his hands, then typing, and lastly compiling his final manuscript. At first, the title is “Gatsby” and “The Great” is added by hand. In the novel, Nick claims of having only two drunken moments in his life, yet the book states that he is in denial by suggesting that he drank more than he says (Haglund).

Additionally, the movie does not include one of the side stories in the novel, i.e., the affair between Jordan Baker and Nick. Baker is Daisy’s friend from Louisville and a famous golfer. Daisy makes a promise to set the two up and push them in linen closets “accidentally” into the sea in a boat. However, in the film, Nick does not mention the affair and states that Nick found Jordan scary. The movie also includes a scene where a male companion takes Jordan away from Nick; this does not occur in the book. The novel states that the two become a couple but split up towards the end of summer (Haglund).

The novel and the film also differ in the depiction of Gatsby’s demise and funeral. Towards the end of the book, George Wilson kills Gatsby since he believes that he killed his wife. According to Wilson, Gatsby was having an affair with his wife, yet it was Tom. In the novel, Fitzgerald does not give a clear depiction of Gatsby’s death. The author says that Gatsby took a pneumatic mattress (a floater) and went to his swimming pool, then his chauffer heard gunshots. In both the movie and the book, Gatsby waits for Daisy to call her (Haglund). However, the film shows Nick calling Gatsby who gets out of the swimming pool upon hearing the phone call. He gets shot and dies believing that Daisy was going to leave Tom for him. These events do not occur in the book. Both the novel and the film reveals that Gatsby died a lonely man (Fitzgerald 95). Nonetheless, the movie exaggerates the matter. In the book, Gatsby’s father attends his funeral at the last minute, as well as a man who Nick met in Gatsby’s office. The same man also compliments Gatsby by saying that he has real books. Nonetheless, the film does not indicate him talking about Gatsby’s books.


“Gatsby,” directed and produced by Baz Luhrmann is a film adaptation of the book “The Great Gatsby” written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The film respects the use of a narrator to describe the events of the story. In both, the character Gatsby is a wealthy man who is in love with a woman, Daisy, who refuses to leave her husband for him. He later dies a lonely man. The difference between the novel and the movie are seen in some elements of the plot and the characterization. The film does not include certain characters from the book and changes the ethnicity of one character. The film also has additional scenes, which are not mentioned in the novel.

Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. "The Great Gatsby." 2013. .

Haghanipour, Melodi. "The Great Gatsby – Novel into the Movie." 2014.

Haglund, David. How Faithful Is The Great Gatsby? 2013. .

August 21, 2023




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