The Great Gatsby is a film about a mysterious man who has the intense hope of reuniting with his love, who is married to someone else. J. Gatsby, the protagonist of the story, goes a lengthy way to achieve a rich and lavish existence in the hope that Daisy, his former lover, and wife to Tom, would fall back in love with and marry him. The twists and turns of the story expose various relationship shifts, personalities, and misguided priorities. In my essay, I would like to talk about relationship dialectics as one of the course concepts, using examples introduced in The Great Gatsby. The second concept would be self-disclosure in which various characters reveal their thoughts, feelings, and ambitions in writing and verbally to others within the film. The third concept would be cultural influences, which affects all the primary characters in the film. The fourth concept is that of cognitive dissonance, and finally, the fifth one relates to relational patterns.
The Great Gatsby is marred with many scenes that depict relationship dialectics. It is a situation in which various relationships experience struggles and tensions with an interplay between contrary tendencies (Griffin, 2011). For instance, a lover may want to spend more time with his partner, but on the contrary, the other party feels otherwise and is not bothered by thoughts of the other. Nevertheless, they still show a great amount of care for one another despite the strains. In the movie, Myrtle and George Wilson are married. The latter loves his wife more than he does himself and does everything within his power to keep her happy. On the contrary, the former is a woman who desires lavish life and is in love with Tom Buchanan due to his riches. She cheats on her husband, and despite Tom’s mistreatment of her, Myrtle prefers him over George, who treats her with respect. Another similar relationship is that between Gatsby and Daisy. The former, born in a low-income family and falls in love with a rich lady, does everything possible to acquire riches that will enable him to marry the latter. Daisy was initially in love with Gatsby but then marries Tom due to the riches. When a confrontation between Gatsby and Tom arises, it is revealed that she loved both of them and all she wanted was a better life for herself. Tom despised Daisy and maintained Myrtle, his mistress, and only becomes aware of Daisy when Gatsby. The three struggle in getting along with their relationships. The relationship dialectics result in love triangles that cause enmity and eventually, death.
Self-disclosure is another concept that is evident in The Great Gatsby. It is a phenomenon in psychology in which an individual expresses his or her thoughts, aspirations, or any other form of abstract reasoning from a personal perspective to another individual (Derlaga & Berg, 2013). The story in the film is narrated in the perspective of Nick Carraway, a bonds salesman on Wall Street who lived in a house next to Gatsby’s mansion. The scene of the film begins with him telling the story to a counselor who listens to him. It is told in a way that expresses the story from his perspective to the viewer. The self-disclosure enables the Nick to get in and out of the story freely while talking to the viewer as well as his counselor. Gatsby, after the confrontation with Mr. Buchanan about Daisy’s love, he calls Nick to his home and tells him the story of his birth in poverty and transformation to the present day where he was rich and famous. This moment of disclosure presents a moment of honesty that gets Nick to respect the man who had been nicknamed the devil. He got to understand the complexities of Gatsby, who had become rich from shady deals and had remained faceless for a long period. Daisy and Gatsby also have a moment of disclosure when he shows her the scrapbook in his library containing her letters, pictures, and newspaper cuttings, indicating how much he had idolized her. He tells her of how he had never stopped loving her and all he did, including building the mansion, was all for her sake. From the story, self-disclosure is presented as a psychological tool that enables trust between individuals. The viewer can trust and engage in the story thanks to Carraway’s level of expression. Similarly, Gatsby earns respect from Nick for his hope and honesty because he confided in him by telling him about his life and love for his cousin, Daisy. Also, he earns back the love of Daisy through self-disclosure and sincere expressions. All these examples prove that self-disclosure could be a powerful tool for communication and bonding when put to appropriate use.
Cultural influences result from a mixture of people from different backgrounds in the society. Individuals with diverse characteristics are bound to adopt new ones and share the ones they already possess. These influences may either make them better or derail them from good judgment or behavior. In the film, the greatest cultural influence is exhibited by Gatsby, who adopts the rich man’s culture by association with one of the richest sailors. He even adopts a new name and lives as a part of the affluent man’s family. After that, he adopts the whole inheritance that grants him the life of pomp and fame. He throws random parties thanks to the massive wealth he possessed due to his newly acquired life. He abandoned his poor lifestyle at a young age and worked hard to gain the hand of Daisy in marriage. The Wall Street culture also influences Nick. After the war, he joined a firm as a bonds salesman. His association with the Buchanan family gets him to adopt a lifestyle of merry, everyday parties and drinking. All these things were foreign to him initially. He learns, later, that cultural influence is useless because it leaves someone feeling empty as he and Gatsby felt after living in the center of New York fame but ending up alone.
Cognitive dissonance impairs people from making rational decisions. In many cases, it enables individuals with conflicted minds and situations to create a comfort zone in which they end up believing in for the sake of finding temporary peace. The whole of The Great Gatsby is founded on the cognitive dissonance of the protagonist, who refuses to let go of his old lover even after she married someone else. At first, he thought that it was their divide regarding riches that separated them. He goes ahead to acquire wealth and fame believing that he can re-live the past. However, it becomes impossible because life presented far more complex situations. Even after the confrontation with Tom, he still tells himself that Daisy will call and come to live with him. This sense of cognitive dissonance defeats logic and proves dangerous as it gets Gatsby killed.
All the three forms of relational patterns are exhibited in The Great Gatsby. These patterns include rigid role relations, disconfirmations, spiral, and dependencies and counter-dependencies (Wood, 2015). Nick Caraway presents submissiveness in all his relationships with other characters in the film. He is easily controlled and seems not to have a particular direction of his own. The rich and famous such as Tom and Gatsby are dominating in their relationships and everything seems to work out in their favor. A sense of disconfirmation arises in romantic relationships. Gatsby and George open up to Daisy and Myrtle and are rejected in favor of Tom, who hailed from a rich family and gained fame playing polo. All they afford from this relationship is mixed messages from their romantic interests, which in the end, gets both of them killed. A spiral relational pattern is exhibited in the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy. Their love intensifies from their first interaction in the film to the point that threatens her marriage to Tom. Klipspringer and Gatsby exhibit the dependencies and counter-dependencies patterns. The former relies on the latter and lives in his house, enjoying but hardly returns any love or respect. He leaves after his death and never returns, even for his burial. The latter, on the other hand, swindles the wealth from the family of the wealthy sailor and wastes it in parties with strangers.
All the traits presented in the film depict individuals with diverse characteristics. Gatsby and George fall in love with women who are after money and fame. My advice to them would be to reason and love themselves first before dedicating their life to empty feelings that are unrequited. In the same case, I would advise Myrtle to appreciate the little that life has provided her with instead of chasing married men for the love of money. These three individuals are killed because of the cognitive dissonance that causes them to chase a mirage or their illusions of love that forever remains out of their reach.
Derlaga, V. J., & Berg, J. H. (2013). Self-Disclosure: Theory, Research, and Therapy. Springer Science & Business Media.
Griffin, E. (2011). Chapter 12: Relational Dialectics. In First Look at Communication Theory (pp. 153-67). Mcgraw Hill Higher Education.
Luhrmann, B. (Director). (2013). The Great Gatsby [Motion Picture].
Wood, J. T. (2015). Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters. Cengage Learning.