The Great Gatsby – Guest Post by: Mariah Himes

Posted: June 13, 2013 by Josh Kwasny in Drama
Tags: , , , , ,

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I’m one of those nerds who tend to read the book before going to see the movie and compare the film side-by-side to its original book.  This can often ruin how I appreciate a movie, but last week was an exception.  I thoroughly enjoyed Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby, starring DiCaprio, Spiderman, and Carey Mulligan.  It’s been almost two years since I read Fitzgerald’s novel, but after whispering questions to my fellow nerd in the theater, I was able to remember enough of the book to realize that Lurhman stayed true to the plot and many of the novel’s main themes.

If you haven’t had a chance to read the book or see the movie yet, it centers on the mysterious figure of Gatsby, his indescribable wealth, and his unending love for Daisy.  A depressed alcoholic Nick Carraway narrates the story, emphasizing his great admiration for Gatsby’s incredible hope and integrity amidst the careless and amoral upper class of New York in the 1920s.  From a young age, Gatsby decides to change both himself and his impoverished surroundings and assume an idealized image of himself; this self-manufactured image is dependent on Daisy’s acceptance of his love and their (hopefully) subsequent marriage.

As the majority of the plot centers on the unveiling of Gatsby’s mysterious past and source of wealth (hint: it wasn’t legal in the 20’s), Gatsby’s gradual unveiling of his character beneath his carefully manufactured façade is an incredibly important moment both for viewers (or readers!) and Nick.  What strikes Nick about Gatsby is that, despite Gatsby’s economic and social ‘inadequacies’ as well as Daisy’s marriage to another man, Gatsby never forsakes his love for her.  He continues to plan his life in the wholehearted belief that his love for her (as well as his gargantuan, beautiful mansion and extensive wealth) will win Daisy away from husband.  He is convinced—not without reason, as the movie trailer insinuates—that Daisy has also loved him since they met, and that she will leave her husband for Gatsby.  I love this image of Gatsby’s faithfulness because, though his goals and desires and ultimate faith in himself above all are less-than-godly, he adheres to his faith wholeheartedly.  He puts his entire life and energy into creating the ideal man and lifestyle into which Daisy will, presumably, fit perfectly and ultimately complete.  In this way, he provides a compelling example of the biblical definition for faith; “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  Faith, even misdirected, is incredibly powerful.  Gatsby’s very real and constant, undeterred faith that Daisy will marry him, despite all the odds, never fails, even when it becomes to clear to viewers (and readers) that she cannot leave her current husband.  Faith empowers humans to enact change and to hold tenaciously to our ideals and values with more strength than we thought possible and against all odds; yet a godless faith ultimately cannot save us.

The author of Hebrews goes on to clarify their definition of faith with the following verses: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen is not made out of things that are visible… Without faith, it is impossible to please him [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11: 3, 6).  The author continues by saying that faith has the power to commend one, or is counted to followers as righteousness, thus pleasing God.  The rest of the chapter describes familiar Old Testament heroes and later unnamed victims of persecution whose faithfulness and obedience to God’s truth empowered them to obey Him and gave them the strength to survive hardships and persecution, because they “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (16).  What a beautiful image of godly faithfulness!  Our Spirit-inspired faith as believers in God’s goodness and fulfillment of His promises to us honors God; by His grace, we can have confidence that He has saved us a place in His heavenly kingdom to come.  In this faith, we have the strength to endure any hardship with hope and the potential to change, becoming more like God as He sustains and and fulfills us. With such faith and hope given directly from our Savior, what CAN’T we do in His name? Forget bootlegging, vast parties, and the self-created ‘ideal’ versions of ourselves we attempt to become. With God-based and Spirit-given faith, we as Christians are filled with the ‘God-power’ to change from the inside out in all authenticity: God’s life-changing grace is not façade, but has the power to alter us at the core and transform us into His image, thus allowing us to be His ideal for us.

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