How does the novel The Great Gatsby compare to the 1974 film?

The novel The Great Gatsby compares to the 1974 film quite closely when it comes to the arc of the plot, the inclusion of characters, and a few important symbols.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Francis Ford Coppola's screenplay of the 1974 film adaptation of The Great Gatsby aligns fairly closely to plot events in Fitzgerald's novel. Much of the narration by Nick Carraway is accomplished by voiceover, thus keeping the perspective that Fitzgerald created to an extent. The film's particular strengths lay in the costumes and art direction, for which it won awards, as it captures the zeitgeist of the Roaring Twenties.

A difference between the two that is striking in the film is when the actress Mia Farrow, playing Daisy Buchanan, actually says the words "poor boys don't marry rich girls." This explicit statement of theme may be necessary for a casual filmgoer, but to anyone familiar with the lyricism of the novel's language, it lacks nuance. The theme of class struggle and the impossibility of Jimmy Gatz transcending the social circumstances of his birth so permeate the novel that Fitzgerald clearly didn't feel the need for a character to state it so obviously.

The filmmakers' efforts to include Fitzgerald's symbols are present: the pale yellow Rolls Royce, the green light at the end of Daisy's dock, and the white clothing that so defines Daisy's character are in place, as are the sumptuous mansions and seedy behavior at Gatsby's parties. Tom Buchanan's brutishness comes through in Bruce Dern's performance, and the pathetic sexuality of Myrtle Wilson is evident in Karen Black's award-winning performance. Generally speaking, the film adheres to the plot of the novel, but because the novel so depends on the perspective of Nick, much of Fitzgerald's lyricism is lost.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team