Significant Connections Essay
Introduction: Do you like your reality? Are you enjoying yourself sitting here reading these words I have written? Do you wish you were somewhere else, somewhat else or someone else? If you do than you have something in common with four characters from the following four texts; The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Doll’s House by Katherine Mansfield, Spiderman Homecoming by director Jon Watt and The Landlady by Roald Dahl. These characters show the art of illusion, perceived through a false persona which they’d rather confide in than living the truth of their reality. In this essay I will discuss the significant connections that these texts have with each other, linking the idea of illusion in these particular characters and how they try to hide their reality.
Body 1: My first text I have chosen is “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, in which the character Jay Gatsby represents illusion in that he pretends to be someone he is not and through this illusion, manages to escape his true reality, that he’s in fact a poor farmboy named James Gatz. After escaping his lower class lifestyle, James Gatz decides to change his entire life to form this persona which his seventeen-year old self desires to be, in this process sacrificing family, friends, his name and his memories to live a lie, all in order to achieve an unobtainable dream of reuniting with his long lost lover Daisy and to feel on top of the world. Before achieving this dream, “James Gatz—that was really, or at least legally, his name… changed… at the age of seventeen… at the specific moment that witnessed the beginning of his career—when he saw Dan Cody’s yacht drop anchor over the most insidious flat on Lake Superior.” James Gatz envied the upper class life, only really conspiring on how to achieve this desired dream and not appreciating love from family and friendships, and once his transformation into Jay Gatsby is complete realises that he envies the lower class, mourns on these sacrifices he made after living such an irreversible illusion. Once Dan Cody had dropped this anchor, James Gatz dropped dead with it, and whilst meeting Dan Cody, this yacht sailed him into a “superior” lifestyle, seemingly full, yet so empty. This brings us to the end, his realisation when “…he must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about… like that ashen, fantastic figures gliding towards him through the amorphous trees.” Due to Daisy not calling him before he climbs into his pool, and not returning back this ever growing obsession that Gatsby had developed for her, Gatsby realises that this dream was a failure, even false or unattainable because it was merely an illusion to begin with. Gatsby realises that once this dream has collapsed over him and his lustrous enchantments have stopped shimmering green. That his reality has caught up to his illusion, only recognizing this when consequently reaching the end of his road and seeing this world of illusion in new lights. This world is so unfamiliar, it’s frightening and raw, his true reality turns it’s cold back on him and he is forced to drift among the poor ghosts whose lust for dreams had poisoned their ambitious souls. He’s reunited with the same James Gatz whose thirsty dreams to be ” The Great Gatsby” had ultimately stabbed him in the back. To conclude Gatsby displays illusion in that he forms a false persona rather than living his reality due to this obsession of chasing Daisy and to be one with the superior and upper class.
Body 2: My second text I have chosen is “The Doll’s House” by Katherine Mansfield, in which the character Kezia, who in a school mixed with lower and upper classes, is forced to live an illusion of a character who despises the lower class characters, who in this story are called “the Kelveys”. Being included in one of the higher class families, she is forced to live a lie, to blend in with characters such as Isabel and Aunt Beryl, who are filled with hatred for the lower class. In reality she has a special place in her heart for the lower class and empathises with the Kelveys when nobody would even attempt to break this barrier that is placed by society. When encountering the Kelveys towards the end of the story, Kezia says “You can come and see our doll’s house if you want to,” … and she dragged one toe on the ground…”. This signifies a change in heart for this character and that she would rather not live this illusion that she is forced to display. You can tell she feels very nervous and uncertain of this action and how it will cost her, because of this toe dragging mannerism. By letting them see this dollshouse she opens a gate into this possibility of breaking free from this restrictive illusion and living the truth of herself, as someone who holds a secretive place in her heart for the lower class. After showing the Kelveys the dollshouse, Kezia is scolded by Aunt Beryl who is disgraced by her actions to invite the Kelveys into their house, calling her a “Wicked, disobedient little girl!” By being punished for straying away from this illusion she is forced to continue to live a lie for the acceptance of others. Because of her upper class heritage she cannot live the truth of her character showing that a character’s illusion is hard to break away from once formed. With this being said I can relate this idea of illusion in a character with “The Great Gatsby” in that like Gatsby, Kezia would rather live an illusion for others to perceive than the truth of her reality, due to this fear of not being accepted by her upper-class associates. Gatsby lives this illusion in order to impress Daisy and the other upper class characters, while Kezia is afraid of not being accepted for her liking of the lower-class therefore lives her illusion.
Body 3: My third text I have chosen is “Spiderman: Homecoming” a film directed by Jon Watts, the character Peter Parker, in order to impress his classmates in high school, lives an illusion through this Spider Man persona, who he prefers to be over the truth of his reality. Being an adolescent, Peter struggles with ambitions of being accepted, pursuing one of the popular girls, Liz, and feeling like the only way to achieve this dream is to reveal this illusion of this Spider man persona in efforts to impress Liz and the popular crowd or gain attention he feels won’t be obtained otherwise. The films main focus is his character trying to balance this superhero lifestyle with his everyday high school life, this superhero lifestyle giving him power which he feels must be utilised to overcome his high school difficulties. In one particular situation, there is a party at Liz’s house, in which he doesn’t feel as confident and empowered in this social situation, saying “Look, I’m just gonna be myself,” to which his friend Ned replies with “Peter, no one wants that”. This shuts down any chance of him succeeding in this situation without utilising this illusion and having beforehand made up a lie, that he knows Spider man personally, feels that he must show up at the party as this Spider man persona to gain attention and uphold this illusion that he promised would show up. Once forced to leave this party, Peter now believes that gaining acceptance from others can only be accomplished by living his character’s Spider Man persona as opposed to the truth of his reality. Later on in the film Peter implies this idea, saying to Tony Stark that “But I’m nothing without this suit!”, to which Tony replies with “If you’re nothing without this suit, then you shouldn’t have it.” This implies that if your character revolves around relying on power through living an illusion, then this power shouldn’t be granted to him. As the film goes on he soon learns that being Spider man doesn’t define him and that the truth of his reality is what resembles his character, that he shouldn’t rely on this illusion. This can be said about Gatsby, from “The Great Gatsby” who relied on living his illusion too much, which ultimately cost him at the end of the novel, if Peter overly relied on his Spider Man persona I think that he would’ve ended up causing a bigger mess than before, with him bailing on his true character’s priorities ( the academic decathlon and going to homecoming with Liz ) that it soon begins negatively break this illusion . Kezia from “The Dollshouse” relied on this illusion for the acceptance of her family and friends and to lose it would result in her family’s disapproval. This idea can be applied to Peter in that he relied on living as Spider man in order to gain acceptance from his peers at school and believes he would be nothing without it, gaining disapproval from others.
Body 4: My fourth text is ” The Landlady ” by Roald Dahl, the character simply named ‘The Landlady’ convinces a young 17 year old man named Billy Weaver, to enter her bed and breakfast to stay. Initially she is shown as being an old aged, innocent and kind hearted woman and the story quickly takes a dark turn revealing such facts as her hobby of stuffing dead pets and her favour for poisoning her young male guests, Billy eventually learning this the hard way. Her character on the outside is a persuasive illusion to conceal her true murderous intentions and this is hinted as Billy is observing her when “he noticed that she had small, white, quickly moving hands, and red finger-nails”. This shows that despite her petite, pure and pleasant exterior she can switch character with a sleight of her hand quickly grasping hold of her inner intentions and gaining blood on her hands, indicated by her red fingernails. Towards the end when Billy investigates her dead stuffed dog, he noticed “the back was hard and cold, and when he pushed the hair to one side with his fingers, he could see the skin underneath, greyish-black and dry and perfectly preserved”. This indicates that like she does with her dead pets, she conceals her hard and cold back, but once you push her hair to the side and see through the cracks of her illusion, you realise that she is black and dry yet this side of her is perfectly preserved until the time comes when she strikes her next victim. Now I can draw similarities between the landlady and Peter Parker, both not wanting their true personas to be revealed to the public eye. Through numerous newspaper articles the landlady’s murders became infamously known, despite her true identity being concealed, as did Peter Parker’s alter ego Spider Man who bravely defeats villains and is widely known to the public eye, without him revealing his true reality. In the end both of these characters end up continuously upholding this illusion, that they are both innocent, and kind hearted individuals, however in reality they are the polar opposite of who they initially appear to be.
Conclusion: In conclusion I have explained how four characters have each upheld their own illusions to conceal their true reality and investigated the ways in which these character’s intentions are connected. The first was James Gatz concealing himself under the false identity Jay Gatsby, whom he would rather be perceived as, the second was Kezia who had to hide her secret sympathy for the lower class, the third was Peter Parker who lived in the shadows of his alter ego Spider Man, desperately trying to remain hidden in his boring high school life, and finally the landlady, who was revealed to be a murderous old woman underneath her petite purity. With these characters, I have learned the limits people will go to conceal their true identity, control their illusion and uphold a false persona to hide behind the watchful eyes of society.