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The Similarities Between The Great Gatsby and "Casablanca"(1942)

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F. Scott Fitzgerald's influential novel The Great Gatsby and Hal B. Wallis' cinematic masterpiece "Casablanca" (1942) both explore similar themes in very aesthetic and original ways. The Great Gatsby is always listed at the top of lists of the greatest novels of all time, and "Casablanca" is also often listed near the top of lists of the greatest films of all time. Both are critically acclaimed and endearing love stories about star-crossed lovers who ultimately do not reconcile. Key ideas like the weather, imagery, symbolism and use of characterization are expressed in both "The Great Gatsby" and "Casablanca", and make these two stories not only holistic and complete, but also applicable to human lives.

The characters in both "Casablanca" and The Great Gatsby are parallel and well-crafted. Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby possesses similar personality traits to those of Rick Blaine, the protagonist of "Casablanca". At a first impression and distance, both men are thought to be cynical, hollow-hearted, aloof and indifferent. Gatsby is the enigmatic host of the glittering and decadent parties thrown weekly at his ornate mansion. He is the "talk of the town" and his mansion buzzes with powerful men and beautiful women drinking, dancing and discussing his mystifying persona. Although the surface of his life shimmers and he appears to be surrounded by spectacular luxury, another side of Gatsby lurks behind his facade of cynicism. Similarly, Rick owns an upscale nightclub/gambling den in Casablanca which attracts many different types of people. Although neither his nightclub nor his customers compare to the opulence of Gatsby's parties, Rick is surrounded by multitudes of people and like Gatsby, is shrouded in mystery. Likewise, both men are terse, solitary, and self-involved.

Both men have silent longings that cannot be easily fulfilled, and both longings are subsequently revealed as the plots thicken. When Ilsa, Rick's lover, sees him for the first time in years, Rick experiences a flashback of the time he spent with Ilsa in Paris. This propels the audience to gain insight to how light-hearted and madly in love Rick was while he was with Ilsa. Similarly, when Gatsby and Daisy "reconcile" after many arduous years of waiting and dreaming, Gatsby's carefully constructed facade of neutrality and indifference is blown to smithereens, and he immediately emerges as his true self. Rick's and Gatsby's passions for Ilsa and Daisy are conveyed very clearly: Rick sacrifices a possible future with Ilsa so that Ilsa's husband can live a safe and happy life whilst continuing his vital political career. This heroism is also shown in The Great Gatsby when Gatsby's love for Daisy leads to his taking the blame for her murder of Myrtle Wilson in a car accident, resulting in him being shot by Myrtle's infuriated husband, George. Both men have pined for their ex-lovers only to realize that they are married to other men, Tom Buchanan (The Great Gatsby) and Victor Laszlo ("Casablanca"). However, after speaking to their lover, each protagonist discovers that their lover has always been in love with him despite the fact that she is married to someone else. This results in infidelity on the woman's part, as each woman sees her lover in secret. And most powerfully, both men have experienced heartbreak; Rick becomes aloof and distant after Ilsa stands him up at a train station, while Gatsby becomes the apathetic soul he is once he discovers that Daisy married Tom Buchanan despite promising to wait for him after the war ended.

Ilsa Lund and Daisy Buchanan possess the similar characteristics as well. Both women are not only very beautiful and attractive, but also appear to be fiercely loyal to their husbands. However, both women cheat on their husbands with their lovers, and this unfaithfulness on their part showcases their flippant and fickle traits. Daisy promises to wait for Gatsby when the war ends but chooses to marry Tom Buchanan for his wealth and prominence. A minor difference in "Casablanca" is that Ilsa was married prior to her meeting with Rick in Paris. However, as her husband was rumoured to be arrested and dead, she falls in love with Rick before realizing that she has no choice but to leave him when she discovers that her husband is still alive. Years later, during a period of war and chaos, Ilsa and Rick meet up again and she falls for him once more, only to leave him in the film's climactic and poignant denouement. This is parallel to the storyline of The Great Gatsby. Both women claim to love both their husband and their lover; with Daisy blatantly saying "I did love him once - but I loved you too" (133, Puffin Edition). And most significantly, the personalities and actions of both women are regarded with ambivalence and more often, disgust. When Ilsa tells Rick that she loves him in Casablanca, the audience feels that this passionate outburst is shadowy as she is desperate for the transit letters in his possession. Similarly, Daisy's sense of justice and moral values are often criticized or questioned, for towards the end of the novel, she allows Gatsby to take the blame for her killing of Myrtle Wilson. The audience, in addition to The Great Gatsby's narrator, Nick, are revolted by this choice of hers, and they regard it to be a ploy to blot out her own wrongdoings.

The time of day and the weather are also symbolic in both "Casablanca" and The Great Gatsby. Rain plays a significant role both stories. When Ilsa stands Rick up at a train station,he leaves on the train and tosses her breakup letter onto the train tracks while he watches the rain drizzling before his eyes. This is symbolic as it fuses melancholic and desolate emotions, leaving the viewer to visualize Rick's world tearing at the seams and shattering in minuscule pieces. In The Great Gatsby, Daisy and Gatsby reunite in the rain, and their love reawakens just as the sun emerges and brightens up the town. The rain serves as a symbol for the dreary, dark days Gatsby spent lamenting over Daisy's broken promise, while the sun emerging symbolizes the reconciliation of two passionate lovers. Various motifs and symbols recur throughout The Great Gatsby and "Casablanca". In "Casablanca", a spotlight shines from a tall tower and illuminates the city of Casablanca, giving one the feeling that he or she is always watched. When Rick and Ilsa embrace in his apartment in Casablanca, the spotlight reappears, indirectly indicating that their star-crossed romance is always under scrutiny, as the pandemonium of war has changed the way their love used to be. This is also parallel with the final conclusion when Rick gives up any shard of hope of ending up with Ilsa, by setting her free (from the spotlight) to America. In The Great Gatsby, the eyes of Dr. TJ Eckleburg serve as an important symbol. These eyes are a pair of bespectacled eyes painted on a billboard, and can hint God or a deity looking down and judging American culture and civilization as a moral wasteland, for at the time, people indulged themselves in decadence and gluttony and attended opulent parties week after week. This thirst for pleasure, money and enjoyment led to a decline in American values and a corruption of the American Dream. This bears resemblance to the spotlight in "Casablanca" as both symbols give people the feeling that they are being spied on. Two other symbols bearing uncanny similarities are the green light from The Great Gatsby and the exit papers from "Casablanca". The green light represents Gatsby's wishes and dreams, and Gatsby uses it to guide him to his goal to reconcile with Daisy. Similarly, the letters of transit, or the exit papers symbolize the golden tickets out of Casablanca, a war-ridden city which many people wanted to escape from. The transit papers are what Victor Laszlo and Ilsa yearn for, as their sole dream is to escape the plight and brutality of the war in Casablanca. When Rick gives Ilsa and her husband these transit letters, they can depart on a plane to America, which can also symbolize a cheap ride to freedom.

Although The Great Gatsby is a novel which takes place during a glamorous, lavish and dizzyingly extravagant period of time, and "Casablanca" is a film which takes place during a very sombre and bleak era, both masterpieces incorporate similar symbolism, imagery,character personalities and love stories. On the surface, these are stories about lovers whose passion is thwarted by outside forces. However, these are more than just love stories - they are epic pieces of fiction, encompassing realistic themes of dreams, politics, war, infidelity and sacrifice. They are so deeply embedded in worldwide culture and society, and have impacted the lives of millions. Yes, they are epic pieces of fiction, epic pieces which deserve to be lauded and cherished as time goes by.




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