Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Great Gatsby, The Movie...and questions it evokes

Had  the opportunity to watch, again, the movie based on the Scott Fitzgerald classic novel, The Great Gatsby, with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. Set in the roaring twenties, and in the mansions of the very rich, I could not escape the comparison to the situation we are facing today.
Last night, while my wife and I were watching the movie, several hundred (?) people were each paying $36,000 to have dinner with the president of the United States in a birthday fundraiser for his next election campaign. Meanwhile, some twenty-five million people in the U.S., nearly the same number as all of the people in Canada (33 million) are out of work, without income and without much hope of any change in that situation.
The mechanic Charly Wilson in Fitzgerald's novel, with his gas pump and his few skills as a car handyman, as opposed to full mechanic, could easily represent those millions without work. His income dribbled in at the rate of forty cents to a dollar and some cents for a fill-up of the cars that stopped by.
Meanwhile, Gatsby, whatever the source of his "success," hosted parties of the "rich and famous" out in East Egg, at his million-dollar mansion complete with swimming pool.
The vaccuity, the utter dearth of anything resembling authenticity, among the characters who attended these parties, and especially among those starring in the movie, Daisy and Tom Buchanan along with Jordan, the professional golfer, and Myrtle Wilson desperately striving for a relationship with the "riches" of Tom Buchanan, is so effectively portrayed by Fitzgerald that watching their hollowness evokes the poetry of T.S. Eliot's The Hollow Men. I include it here for those who might not have read it.

T. S. Eliot

Mistah Kurtz—he dead.
A penny for the Old Guy


We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.


Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—
Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom


This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.


The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.


Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is

Life is

For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Online text © 1998-2011 Poetry X. All rights reserved.
From The Hollow Men

Did Washington actually fall into "death's other kingdom" over the last several months, when neither side can hear the other, when neither side can relate to the other, when neither side can see the other and when the "dialogue" (or "negotiation" as they put it) is really the dialogue of the deaf?
And is such complete disconnect, as we witnessed continually in the movie, the kind of relationships (based exclusively on "show" and "image") that we are also experiencing in Washington...after all, over ninety percent of all members of Congress are millionaires, and all of the people attending last night's fundraiser are also in the same "class" this the inevitable outcome of the last century?
Have we come full circle? And will it take another war to bring us to our senses?
Some 29,000 children have died in the last 30 days in Somalia, from starvation!

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