Being quiet and still and yet senses completely focused in the welcoming darkness. Getting lost in the another world for a time. The cinema is one of my very favorite forms of escapism! As “The Great Gatsby” happens to be one of my favorite books, I was delighted to be bought tickets and taken to see the new film by a very kind and thoughtful member of my family.
The character Gatsby is rich. And the film is sumptuously so, in metaphor and imagery, with wonderfully enchanting color and lighting reflecting the affluent, overindulgent life style of the characters who attended the parties at Gatsby’s impressive house. Of all, which was for me, the striking symbolism, the most poignant was the image of the wealthy and powerful Tom placing a string of pearls around the neck of Daisy on their engagement. A generously loving gesture representing her value to him? Or, as we see momentarily his hand twist gently but firmly the end of the string as he stands behind her, I found myself thinking too how his action replicated the way in which one might wrap the lead of a dog more tightly around one’s had to gain better control over it lest it pulls away. Was accepting the gift of a lifestyle provided by Tom’s wealth chaining Daisy? Was it taming her to the point that she would loose the wild -ish instinct that might have given her the spirit to take the risk of running to the passionate, romantic love offered to her by Gatsby?
These themes of the power of love versus the power of money were ever present throughout the story. Taken on the surface level, Gatsby’s first love was that of money, but we later learn that it was his love for Daisy and his determination to win her back, which inspired him, empowered him and drove him forward on his quest for wealth and the influence it brings. His love for her so powerful that despite her marriage to Tom he remained transfixed by the light of hope that they would be reunited. Even until the last, when we see him shot through heart in his swimming pool, the last thing to fade with the breath of life is his hope that it is Daisy who is calling him on the telephone.
For Daisy, the power which money had over her was all too great for her to free herself from the trap of her loveless marriage and to “run away” with Gatsby as she had once asked him they do. As Gatsby’s love drove him forward, her fear of losing the security and status she had acquired drove her back to the safety of her trap. She had extinguished any faint light of hope that she would thrive outside. Was it the money itself that she valued or was it what is represented to her?
Frequently in my clinical practice when someone is trapped by fear of diminished financial circumstances we break down the block in their life road caused by a very real fear of reducing their bank balance, and identify what to them is the meaning of money. Often we find that the fear is not of financial loss, or loss of the material, but of losing what money represents to them; security, stability, certainty, a sense of power, choice. “Freedom of choice”? Money may provide us with freedom of choice in terms of where and when we holiday, the car we drive, the restaurant we frequent. If we feel however, that we cannot then choose to create and live a different life for ourselves – a life we might truly love- if it means we risk living on less, is is not just a pretty noose around our necks? Just like Daisy’s string of pearls it ties us not to that which we necessarily choose to have, but to that which we fear to lose. And surely, as the quote read at the very opening of the film The Great Gatsby “a life lived in fear is a life half lived”