Pound, Imagism & Sentiment: A Poetic Snare, Part III

This self indulgent post is continued from Part I and Part II.

The same effect of title in The Garden is used in Pound’s poem The Tea ShopThe Tea Shop, like The Garden deals with the dismantlement of beauty.  The tea shop, a respite, a daintiness, a portrait of petite femininity is depicted as the opposite.  In Pound’s The Tea Shop, the tea shop, like the garden of The Garden becomes an unlikely setting for a development of atypically associated emotions and ideals.  The poem, The Tea Shop, frames the picture of a grim reality. The poem undetectably emits a sentiment of disillusion, death and nostalgia.  In the frame of the tea shop, the reality of what society considers beautiful is revealed as meaningless and makeshift.  The poem is small: nine dense lines.  Again, in the small scope of a short poem, Pound manages to release a flood of ideas and emotions.

The poem begins, like The Garden, with a seemingly lovely and typically associated image: “The girl in the tea shop” (Pound 116).   It is with the sudden twist of an immediate enjambment that the poem evolves into an image of mortality and age: “Is not so beautiful as she was,/ The August has worn against her./ She does not get up the stairs so eagerly;/ Yes, she will also turn middle-aged,/ And the glow of youth that she spread about us/ As she brought us our muffins/ Will be spread about us no longer./ She will also turn middle-aged” (Pound 116).  The poem in the second line directly, frankly states, “is not so beautiful as she was.”  The poem then explains why “the girl in the tea shop” is “not so beautiful” forthrightly.  It is the elements of nature, “The August has worn against her.”  August, a summer month, a month typically associated with warmth and life, becomes an antagonist of sorts.  The month has “worn against her.”  The term “worn” evokes an action of nature, an action that cannot be stopped like the sea would erode a cliff.  The use of a month to portray this action alludes to time and cycle.  August, objectively, is just a span of time, thirty one days.  August, subjectively, (“Direct treatment of the “thing,” whether subjective or objective”) represents the never-ending curse of time and age.  August does not only wear the girl out, but also it wears “against her.”  This phrase situates the girl as a victim, a victim of nature’s course, of erosion caused by time.  This loss of beauty becomes inevitable with the image of August wearing “against her.”  The reader must then leap to the conclusion that the girl “does not get up the stairs so eagerly” (Pound 116) because of the hostile August (time), or the unspoken aggressors age and recurrence.  The fourth line, “She does not get up the stairs so eagerly,” smears the image conveyed in the very first line: “The girl in the tea shop.”  The twist is subtle, yet pungent all at once.  The image of the girl faintly becomes one of a “worn” out, perhaps tired female that does not move “so eagerly.”  Unsurprisingly, but nearly too frank, the following line declares the female’s fate: “Yes, she also will turn middle-aged” (Pound 116).  The words in the fifth line are unsentimental by definition, but the pile of images that sit on this line transform the words into an announcement of loss and fixed fate.  The word, “Yes,” speaks to the reader.  It is an answer to the questions that Pound unmistakably is sure the reader will ask after reading the first four lines.  It reveals the truth, “Yes, she will also turn middle-age,” in an honest, plain arrangement, yet its placement evokes the shock and sadness of a loss.  Pound, does not tell the reader how to feel at this moment in the poem, yet, explicably, the reader experiences distress and disillusion (the illusion of the “girl in the tea shop” is ripped apart) by nothing other than a telling of reality (“Yes, she will also turn middle-aged”).

Once the reader is injured by the mental trigger of the poem, Pound almost wickedly reminds the reader of what this smudged “girl in the tea shop” used to be, only to betray the reader again with another exposure of reality.  He attempts to put back the pieces of the first line’s image: “And the glow of youth that she spread about us/ As she brought us muffins” (Pound 116) in lines six and seven.  Such a pretty picture is embodied by these two lines, chunks of delight: “glow of youth,” “spread about us,” “brought us muffins.”  A picturesque representation of a typical tea shop nearly tortures the reader.  The reader must leap from an image of beauty’s mortality back to an image of society’s splendor (“glow of youth,” “muffins”).  It is with the reader’s efforts to connect the images of this poem that he/she must recognize that society’s inclinations toward beauty, sophistication and adornment are an unattainable fantasy.  This fantasy is exposed as fruitless candidly and simply within the last two lines of the poem: “Will be spread about us no longer,/ She will also turn middle-aged” (Pound 116).  There is nothing explicitly disturbing in these final lines, yet, they are unsettling.

The arousal of the physical senses cannot go unnoticed either.  In both the delightful image, “the glow of youth that she spread about us,” and in the final disruptive image, “Will be spread about us no longer,” the use of the word “spread” induces connotations with luxurious food condiments and intimate sexual moments.  Sexuality as a form of Imagism was approved of by Pound.  Schneidau explains, “This belief, Pound’s own version of ‘Unity of Being,’ connects the light of enlightenment as well as the ‘hard light and clear edges’ of Imagism with sexual function– another reason, perhaps, why so many of Pound’s poems involve sexual encounters ” (121).  In this poem (along with others mentioned in the examination of Imagism as a means for emotional imposition), sexual imagery functions as a direct stimulation, an express route into the reader’s frame of mind, sometimes even more accurately and more primitively than the images meant to impose emotions (emotions can be so complex depending on personal associations from personal experience).  These luxuries and pleasures that the reader will think of are harshly severed by Pound’s final image: “She will also turn middle-aged.”   Again, in a declarative tone, Pound, instigates an alarming sensation in the reader, an inauguration of tea shop truth.

In line with the porcelain of tea cups and the sensuousness of a tea shop girl, Pound’s poem, The Bath Tub, disrobes the design of a romantic relationship.  The image of title itself is titillating, an asset that attracts the reader. Through the use of a bath tub “lined with porcelain” (Pound 100) analogy, Pound indiscreetly displays the truth of his romance with a lady.  Again, the reader is not demanded to feel a certain way, nor is he/she mentally entangled in a list of emotional utterances.  The reader simply encounters an exhibition by way of an uncanny likeness.  The Bath Tub cunningly and artfully rubs disheartenment and deflation onto the reader.  Similar to The Garden and The Tea Shop, The Bath Tub begins with a seemingly lovely, delicate image: “As a bathtub lined with white porcelain” (Pound 100).  Like The Garden, The Bath Tub’s initial image conceals intricate layers.  A bath tub, typically a place of cleanliness and sensuousness is revealed to be merely “lined with white porcelain.”  The implications of this detail arouse curiosity.  The reader does not know what the bathtub is actually composed of, merely what it is lined with.  The image conceals the actual material that sustains the shape and structure of the bathtub, like make-up, perfume, clothing, style, etc. beautify or conceal the chemistry of reality.

The Bath Tub slips into another image, one of temperature, and this is where the analogy awakens.  Following the painting of the bathtub, its enterprise is presented: “When the hot water gives out or goes tepid” (Pound 100).  It is at this precise moment in the life of a bathtub that Pound finds his analogous image.  The comparison is not only to a “bathtub lined with white porcelain,” but also to a bathtub that’s “hot water gives out or goes tepid.”  Indeed, this is an instant that a reader can envision from personal experience.  The emotions at this slight instant can be recovered with thought (instant loss of hot water will cause disappointment, discomfort, coldness, repulsion).  It is at this specific moment in poetic time that Pound drags the reader out of his thoughts of tepid bath water and into the correlating image of romance in the third line: “So is the cooling of our chivalrous passion” (Pound 100).  The particular feelings wrapped around the flash of a lost hot water are immediately imposed on the image of a romance, a “chivalrous passion” that cools.  As with most of Pound’s poems, word choice is not irrational or unintended.  The “cooling” of “hot water” occurs to not just any passion; it inflicts a “chivalrous passion.”  The term “chivalrous” evokes status and comportment.  Indeed, this “passion” is well-behaved, refined and traditional.  This is a juxtaposing pair of words, for chivalry involves courtesy and “passion” involves impulse.  In this odd mix-up of romantic terms, a kind of awareness evolves in the reader.  The irrationality of upper class romantic convention is exposed; the reader responds emotionally to this odd coupling: revelation, consciousness, sympathy, empathy.

It is only in the final two lines that the speaker reveals to whom he is sharing this analogy to: his lady, his partner in “chivalrous passion.”  The very short poem ends with this surprise: “O my much praised but-not-altogether-satisfactory/ lady” (Pound 100).  The direct address to the “lady” depicts her guise, the guise which is comparable to the lining of “white porcelain.”  The lady is “much praised.”  This suggests a kind of popularity or status, a superficial examination.  Deeper examination calls for dissection, a dissection of the bathtub, the lady.  Pound, like a scientist-poet, dismembers the nature of the lady: “but-not-altogether-satisfactory.”  The words are combined to evoke a kind of vomit-like presentation, an explosion of truth.  These words are colloquial, simple and squished.  This is stream-of-conscious-like.  Another juxtaposing pair: “much praised” and “but-not-altogether-satisfactory.” This pair of descriptors disentangles truth.  Under the costume of societal praise and acceptance hides dissatisfaction.  The isolation of the word “lady,” causes consideration.  The term “lady” is excluded for emphasis.  Associations of perfection, grace, and femininity orbit the word.  The epitome of feminine perfection is mutated into a word-chain of dissatisfaction.  Also, the segregation of the word “lady” stirs up an emotion: loneliness. The simple image of the bathtub comes to tell the unnatural story of “chivalrous passion.”  The reader without reading it, without seeing it, feels disheartenment because the poem’s images operate solely in the links of the mind.

Part 4 coming soon…

Pound, Imagism & Sentiment: a Poetic Snare, Part 2

The poems which appear simple and short unnoticeably secrete a plethora of attitude and emotion.  An image depicted with particular words, like a photograph, can enable feeling.  Connotations derived from personal, real experiences creep up on the reader like illness.

Continued from previous post, Part 1

An examination of Pound’s poem, The Garden, unravels an entanglement of ideas and emotions during the depiction of a female in a garden.  A wind of suggestion blown by the words of the poem disperses uneasiness, grief, isolation and illness onto the reader.  The poem takes place in three parts.  It begins with the image of a privileged female in Kensington Garden.  It then ventures in the second stanza to a tangent image of impoverished youth.  The final image quickly depicts the female in the garden once again.  The small poem boxes the reader into associations.  The second image of poverty shocks the reader with its apocalyptic, graphic language.  The large leaps the reader must take from stanza to stanza enable mental projections of emotions and revelations to fill in the spaces of the poem.  To understand this precise process the poem must be examined closely.  Pound states in his manifesto of Imagism, “To use absolutely no word that did not contribute to the presentation” (Coffman 9).  Therefore, in the study of Pound, each word must be observed and considered with care and astuteness.

The Garden begins: “Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall/ She walks by the railing of a path in Ken-/sington Gardens,/And she is dying piece-meal/ of a sort of emotional anæmia” (Pound 83).  The poem commences with a strong simile.  The subject of the poem, the female, arrives in the second line.  The first line displays the item that the female is “Like.”  This ties the depiction of the female to an object, an object that unquestionably, immediately discharges connotations.  The female is “Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall,” (Pound 83).  Firstly, the term “skein” perpetuates the mind to move in the direction of manufactory.  This alliance to fabrication demonstrates a lack of power in the behavior of the female.  A “skein” is used in the assemblage of clothing and cloth.  A “skein” is also only a part, or a component of an item that has not yet been fabricated.  This displays incompleteness in the object to which the female subject is being compared, linking the female subject to immaturity and pliancy.  The image is more precise; she is like a “skein of loose silk.”  The chosen fabric exhibits luxury, expense and delicacy (this is Pound’s divulgement of the subject’s class too).   Silk is a fabric that appears unique and exotic.  It is also not a durable fabric.  Silk is flimsy and easily corrupted with snags.  The image in the simile is even more precise, “a skein of loose silk blown against a wall.”  The subject is compared to a piece of extremely delicate piece of cloth used for manufacture that is “blown against a wall.”  The image of a cloth against the wall conveys a lack of strength, a submissiveness, a weakness, and an entrapment.  Cloth “blown against a wall” cannot escape its destiny without the change of weather, or the stopping of a fan.  The fate of the cloth solely depends on the actions around it.  Thus, Pound conveys the position, the persona of the female subject without overtly displaying adjectives such as weak, compliant, forced, and trapped.  It is through the invisible process in the readers’ minds that the situation of the female is disclosed.  This process supports Pound’s statement: “Beyond this, men think & feel certain things.  & see certain things not with the bodily vision” (Witemeyer 11).

Once Pound evokes the female’s placement in the world with an image in the first line, he continues to paint her actions, “She walks by the railing of a path” (Pound 83).  The picture of a woman walking by the railing directly correlates with her linkage to “a skein of loose silk blown against a wall.”  The attachment to railings arouses connotations to the sickly, the weak or the elderly.  These suggestions toward the feeble accelerate and then pause at the end of the stanza: “And she is dying piece-meal/ of a sort of emotional anæmia” (Pound 83).  The language is a climax of associations.  She not only walks fastened to a railing, but also she is “dying piece-meal/ of a sort of emotional anæmia” (Pound 83).  Immediately the reader associates death and grief.  She dies “piece-meal;” she dies gradually as one that is ill would.  Finally, Pound discloses the profound sickness: “emotional anæmia.”  This is, of course, an Imagist’s invention.  Anæmia is a sickness which arises from a “lack of.”  Pound discloses what she lacks: emotion.  It is the reader’s choice now to decide why.  It is Pound’s intention to impose the truth: the emotional sickness is diagnosed with the cornering of the female subject.

Once the reader reaches the culmination of the first image, the reader is thrust into a new image sans delicacy or flowery tongue.  The second stanza depicts an opposed image: “And round about there is a rabble/ Of the filthy, sturdy, unkillable, infants of the very/ poor./ They shall inherit the earth” (Pound 83).  The isolated image of the first stanza is juxtaposed by the second stanza’s illustration of a mob of impoverished infants.  Indeed, the typical images associated with infants are disposed of in this poem.  Pound not only paints a new image, but also he paints a realistic image.  The infants are not feeble, like the female subject.  The infants, on the contrary, are “filthy, sturdy, unkillable.”  The adjectives evoke alarm.  An “unkillable” baby descends into the fear of society’s upper crust; it enables coalition with the supernatural, the immortal, and the inexplicable.  This terrifying image peaks in the final line of the stanza: “They shall inherit the earth.”  Immediately preceding this final line is a line which consists of one word: “poor.”  The isolation of the word allows the reader to dive into mental organization.  It is as though the word “poor” itself collaborates with Pound, doing the work of exposing societal situation, demonstrating the fear of poverty as an authority.  Indeed, Pound, aware of all the involuntary mental connection that will occur in the mind during the reading of this line, uses this poetic state of affairs to his advantage.  The poor, human as any upper-class person, will also, “inherit the earth.”  The choice of the word “inherit,” not only evokes matters of death, but also it is typically a word used amongst the wealthy, for it is the wealthiest of folks that “inherit” items and money.  In this stanza, Pound pulls from the web of word connotations to evoke fear in the context of reality.

Finally, Pound plays with the image relations of the first two stanzas to end the poem with an exhibition of emotional juxtapositions.   The final stanza terminates the poem with a more direct linkage to emotion: “In her is the end of breeding./  Her boredom is exquisite and excessive./  She would like someone to speak to her,/ And is almost afraid that I/ will commit that indiscretion” (Pound 83).  In the same way that Pound ends the second stanza with juxtaposing language, associating the “poor” with the term “inherit,” he associates this aristocratic female with the term “breeding.”  The word, “breeding,” is technical in meaning.  It implies the reproduction of a preferred type of being.  An unexpected schema of ideas flourishes in the reader’s mind.  “In her is the end of breeding,” induces another connection to apocalypse, evoking an “end,” a termination of her kind.  Pound then describes her mental state: “Her boredom is exquisite and excessive.”  “Boredom,” a typically immeasurable word, is described as an object: “exquisite and excessive.”  “Exquisite” and “excessive” are usually associated with luxurious items.  Pound endorses the mental state as a calculable object.  In doing so, a complex idea emerges.  Aristocratic aspiration s to appear a certain way (bored) are revealed as an impossibility with the depicted of something intangible as tangible (boredom cannot be measured, yet there is no limit to how bored this upper-class woman should appear).

In the terminating lines of the poem, Pound finally incorporates words of emotion: “She would like someone to speak to her,/ And is almost afraid that I/ will commit that indiscretion” (Pound 83).  Here, Pound overtly shows the impracticality of the aristocratic ambition, the futility of attempting to appear one way, but to think otherwise.  The female subject of the poem remains caught in an awkward state of uncertainty and fear.  She longs to step outside the loneliness, “She would like someone to speak to her,” but is paused with fear to enact upon this desire, “And is almost afraid that I/ will commit that indiscretion.”  While, the reader does not exactly know what causes this fear, the reader does have a rich collage of images that Pound has gathered in the poem.  The reader can associate the reasons for his/herself.  The female, after all, is “blown against a wall,” is “dying piece-meal,” and contains within her “the end of breeding.”  The image of the feeble, fearful female as a “skein of loose silk” encompasses an inclination for the extravagant and the manufactured.  The contradictory, unnatural state of the poem’s female subject exposes the pointlessness of the contrived.  The female, herself, is dissembled, alongside the virtues of flowery delicate representations.  Also, the title of the poem, “The Garden,” exemplifies the counterfeit virtue of the flowery.  A garden typically would attract a reader looking for a poem about the constructed beauty of a garden.  A garden is lovely in an unnatural way.  Each plant is planted to fit someone’s particular schema of how nature should be and not what it is.  Pound deconstructs a viewer’s impulse to see something beautiful in a garden.  After reading The Garden, the typical vision of a garden is shattered.  The image of the garden comes to represent the futility of itself, the unnaturalness of it. The poem begins with an image of something beautiful and ends with the exposure something unnatural and juxtaposed, the upper-class female’s state of mind in the contrived atmosphere of Kensington Garden.

It should be noted, that while Pound expresses the female subject’s emotional state in the end of The Garden, he does not impose the mentioned emotions onto the reader.  The feelings that are meant to be felt (isolation, apocalypse, grief, unnaturalness, illness, revelation) by the reader are the ones that are not overtly mentioned, but invisibly displayed through Pound’s assemblage of images.

Part 3 soon (hopefully!) to come…

Pound, Imagism and Sentiment: A Poetic Snare, Part I.

“When its [the mind’s] object is something which is lit up by truth and reality, then it [the mind] has– and obviously has– intelligent awareness and knowledge” -Plato

“It is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works.”  -Ezra Pound

“1. Direct treatment of the “thing,” whether subjective or objective.

2.To use absolutely no word that did not contribute to the presentation.

3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.”

                                                                                                -Ezra Pound

My last post, The Richest People & Me,  has reignited my obsession and investigation of modern literature.  To further indulge, I have been working on an essay regarding the fervent life of emotion in the seemingly emotionless poems of Ezra Pound.

Imagism as a poetic movement is stereotyped as an eliminator, a minimalist, a simplifier. Indeed, visually, Imagist poetry would appear to be appropriately modified as a branch of minimalism, in comparison to the poetics before it.  On behalf of Ezra Pound, a poet and director of the Imagist movement: “. . . the Imagists leaned heavily upon the leadership of Ezra Pound and Amy Lowell. . .” (Coffman, 120), the poetic practice of Imagism ought to be described as an acute, multifaceted, and lyrical pursuit.  The architecture of Imagism involves a diversity of components.  It fights the reputation of existing to create an image or to represent a vista through the use of poetry.  Imagism functions as a whirlpool of words, reality, instant and emotion.  Pound elaborated in his piece, A Few Don’ts which has been depicted as a manifesto: “An ‘Image’ is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time. . .It is the presentation of such a ‘complex’ instantaneously which gives that sense of sudden liberation; that sense of freedom from time limits and space limits; that sudden growth, which we experience in the presence of the greatest works of art” (Coffman 9).

Pound suggests it is through minimal use of rhetoric and flowery tongue that an even clearer representation of reality can emanate.  Pound argues in his work, How to Read, that the small range of idiom used throughout medieval poetry enables precision and accuracy, unlike the works of the renaissance: “What the renaissance gained in its direct examination of natural phenomena, it in part lost in losing the feel and desire for exact descriptive terms.  I mean that the medieval mind had little but words to deal with, and it was more careful in its definitions and verbiage” (Schneidau 22-23).  In Pound’s appeal to clean poetry of frivolousness, his appeal to eject “embroidery from language” (Schneidau 23), a precision unveils.  Amidst this precision, a contrasting outcome is born: an intricate illustration of erratic reality.  Reality does not entail disguise or decoration.  An Imagist work functions as reality: sans the disguise of appealing, expected language or the decoration of exquisite, traditional form.  It is through the practice of language directness that a most pungent depiction of a moment can be generated (this includes the emotion of the moment).

The emotion involved in an Imagist poetic moment cannot be named or pointed out.  Words typically used to evoke emotion, Pound argues are too generic, expected and simple.  It is through the image of a poem that an emotion can be not only depicted but also felt by the reader. In his letter to fellow poet and doctor Williams Carlos Williams, Pound lists the generic subjects discussed in poetry by himself and fellow poets: “Here are a list of facts on which I and 9,000,000, other poets have spieled endlessly” (Witemeyer 10).  Pound lists typical, expected poetic subjects such as “1 Spring is a pleasant season. . .2. young mans fancy. . .3. love, a delightful tickling. . .6 men love women. . .7. men fight battles” (Witemeyer 11).  Pound explains further in the letter: “Beyond this, men think & feel certain things.  & see certain things not with the bodily vision” (Witemeyer 11).  These incoherent “things” are evoked in Pound’s poetry.  He previews this achievement later on in the same letter while describing his ambition.  He offers a feeble list to Williams Carlos Williams that nearly touches the accomplishments seen in Pound’s works.  This list is in response to Williams Carlos Williams’ request for his “ultimate attainments in poetry” (Witemeyer 10).  Pound explicates, “I don’t know that I can make much of a list.  1.  To paint the thing as I see it.  2.  Beauty.  3.  Freedom from didactisism [sic].  4.  It is only good manners if you repeat a few other men to at least do it better or more briefly. ― utter originality is of course out of the question” (Witemeyer 11).  This brief list calls Pound’s Imagist manifesto to mind (see Epigraph).  Aside from the published list of requirements (see Epigraph), the list in his personal letter appeals to visual arts (“to paint the thing”) and untangles morality and ethics from poetry (“freedom from didactisism”).  While he attempts to free himself from the stereotypes associated with poetry in the initial list which describes the clichés persistently induced in poetry, he admits in the second list, number four (“utter originality is out of the question”) that the human experience is in itself a cliché, a cliché that can be depicted in a much more exact representation.  Number four can also be interpreted as a sarcasm (I am inclined to interpret it as such).  If it is, then number four becomes a plea for originality, a plea which is heard amidst the canvas of Pound’s verse.

Despite the unrelenting attachment of simplicity to Imagism, perhaps because of the smallness of many Imagist poems, Pound proves that the emotional strings sewn through even the shortest works contrive a complex web. Emotion and ideals can be construed from many of Pound’s shortest poems without the explicit classic words and phraseologies.  Even the shortest of poems invisibly emits emotion and consciousness like smell from an item.  Pound explains in his work, Spirit of Romance, “Poetry is a sort of inspired mathematics, which gives us equations, not for abstract figures, triangles, spheres and the like, but equations for the human emotions”(Kenner 61).

Investigation of Pound’s collection of poems, Personae, unveils sentiment in the form of frank, detailed poetic depictions of realistic instances.  The poems which appear simple and short unnoticeably secrete a plethora of attitude and emotion.  An image depicted with particular words, like a photograph, can enable feeling.  Connotations derived from personal, real experiences creep up on the reader like illness.

To be continued…

The Richest People & Me

It’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool. — Daisy of The Great Gatsby

I grew up on both sides of the fence, going to school with mini-Daisies and then working in their homes for their families.

Watching The Great Gatsby with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow brings back the anxiety I used to get when I was working for rich people.  An oldie, but goodie, a streamlined, slick version of the classic novel that has resurrected with Bazo Luhrman’s film.  This version appears less rich than this latest interpretation, but…
Castles vs. mansions, the richest vs. the rich, old luxury vs. new luxury-- it's a wider gap than you realize. It's like comparing diamond mines to home stores

it is SO rich, which is depicted by the less fantastical, but still opulent sets and scenery, eliciting a more realistic sour smell of money.

When I read the book, I used to imagine the parties, Jay Gatsby’s house, the car, the dresses and long pearls, the men in light sand colored suits. But, I could not imagine how rich and creamy as it probably was in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s mind. Looking back, I see that most likely this film’s setting better depicts what Fitzgerald had pictured than my mind’s eye ever could.

The truth is, I have actually been in many “rich” people’s homes, surrounded by columns, tennis courts, breakfast rooms, tree houses in the back yard. The walls and halls make you shudder and walk nervously because what’s hanging on them is more expensive than a few of your cars. I’ve been to parties and gatherings at these homes in middle school and high school for sports dinners, sweet sixteens, bar mitzvahs. The high school I graduated from costs more than 30,000 grand a year now.

Here’s the thing though, I went for free. The circumstances I was in as a teen provided me with the delicacies of a good education (I’m your cliché scholarship kid) . I’ll admit it– I’m well trained to critically think, to invent, to push myself and to deal with highly-privaledged and many times elitist people. On the other hand, due to the reality of my non-school life at this time, which contrasted greatly from the reality of my peers’ lives, I’m also well trained at serving others, keeping my mouth shut while internally completely aghast, knowing the maintenance staff, the warm and cozy manager of the cafeteria, the Rastafarian soup chef, the administrative assistant at the front desk. I see both sides of the coin always. The giant gap between economic statuses is a crack on the sidewalk for me.
Castles vs. mansions, the richest vs. the rich, old luxury vs. new luxury-- it's a wider gap than you realize. It's like comparing diamond mines to home stores

In college, I actually served many of the families associated with the school to earn some money. As close to the ground level as I felt by waiting on the parents of my peers, they were great contacts, completely loaded. One time as I rounded a room with a platter of shrimp, I literally had to take the shrimp tails bare-handedly from a woman that didn’t know what to do with them after she had eaten the sweet meat (I guess she’s never heard of a trash can?). I witnessed, on more than one occasion, tough, anorexic women dressed completely in designer wear verbally abuse their housekeepers.

The strangest thing about roaming around these people and taking drink orders was how little they regarded me. They had long forgotten that I had graduated from the same school as their sons and daughters, that I was just as intellectually built, as embedded with sports awards and grade rewards. In black slacks, no slip shoes and a white collared shirt, I was like a walking pitcher. I was a voice that brought them what they wanted. The only time I was perceived at these parties as more than just a person that collects plates, was when when drunk guests approached me.

Usually there was always at least one at every party that would become obsessed with me, completely preoccupied by my every move, perhaps trying to make out the shape of my bra. Eventually toward the end, when we (the small staff) were cleaning the dishes, the man would approach me, watery drink in hand, to ask me questions and flirt with me in a sort of condescending way. There were women too, who sometimes were more intimidating then the men, more subtle, but yet somehow, more dominating than the jolly wasted guys.

Anyhow, these are the richest people I’ve seen. In my book, these people are rich [period].

But, Jay Gatsby! This is another level. The homes I went to for Track meet dinners, or to serve dinners were typically very new and shiny. Gatsby’s place, however, is obviously larger, but it’s also weighty like a pyramid in Egypt, as though it has been in the story’s landscape forever. It is painted white, but as the viewer, I can see the shadow of soot inside the workings of the columns and porches. No, it doesn’t make it look any less spectacular. It actually enhances the richness of the place, coming off more as a castle that had been passed down for generations. This contrasts significantly to recently built houses in Coconut Grove, the ones that had swallowed Old Florida cottages with their chlorinated swimming pools and obvious driveways.
The richest vs. the rich, old luxury vs. new luxury-- it's a wider gap than you realize. It's like comparing diamond mines to home stores

This Gatsby is massively rich. Daisy is enchantingly dove-like, as futile and difficult, yet as desired, as silk. These people don’t work; their lives are cat-like. They move from pillow to pillow, hardly ever touching their fancy feasts.

Daisy is a bird in this film, as played by Mia Farrow. So far, it seems white is her color. She is surrounded by white, she lives in it.
Castles vs. mansions, the richest vs. the rich, old luxury vs. new luxury-- it's a wider gap than you realize. It's like comparing diamond mines to home stores

She buys a dog on the spur of the moment. She can have a white house and a dog if she wants. During this scene, I had an epiphany. Daisy is such a dove in a garden that the illogicalness of this choice does not even flutter in her mind. The furniture is always white no matter what; she doesn’t have any regard for how it manages to stay so beautifully white. She has never cleaned it. Someone else does. The poorly designed combination of white and dog is not on her radar. It’s not even the outlying Pluto in her solar system.

Gatsby, as played by Robert Redford, I can already tell is a well-designed male character, with a natural masculinity that no amount of luxury living could take away. His suits are crisp and perfectly fit, but his skin carries a hint of unrest and ocean. The intensity of these actors is almost psychedelic. They display passion in a dangerous way, a way that us normal folks would never dive into because we are weary of the trouble such passion can cause, perhaps distracting us from the real matters of life.
Castles vs. mansions, the richest vs. the rich, old luxury vs. new luxury-- it's a wider gap than you realize. It's like comparing diamond mines to home stores

The film has no shame in portraying sparkles in the eyes, teeth and earrings all at once during close-ups.

Castles vs. mansions, the richest vs. the rich, old luxury vs. new luxury-- it's a wider gap than you realize. It's like comparing diamond mines to home stores
These characters are precious stones bouncing around inside a beautiful but locked jewelry box.