People believe in the illusion they create or the illusion created for them instead of believing in reality. Everyone carries some form of an illusion whether they realize it or not, sometimes it’s an illusion they created and other times its people assuming things forming, an illusion. Water for Elephants, written by Sara Gruen, The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton and The Lost Decade written by F. Scott Fitzgerald all display the illusion of characters. Gatsby, August, Alice and Mr Trimble all carry an illusion they made or an illusion made for them.
The first text used is Water for Elephants, written by Sara Gruen, Jacob Jankowski is in his nineties as he reminisces the memories of when he left Ivy League training and ran away after his parent’s death. He jumps onto a passing train and finds himself, working for the Benzini Most Spectacular Show on Earth as a vet. His memories are filled with freaks, clowns, animals, pain, anger, and happiness. We soon meet August, the animal trainer, who takes Jacob under his wing, securing him a job, and a place to stay, giving us the impression that August is kind and caring, as he teaches Jacob the ropes of the circus life. It is soon revealed that the nice August is an illusion with “flashes of this August before, this brightness, this conviviality, this generosity of spirit” is all a mask to hide his true, awful self. Jacob is soon warned by those in the circus to be wary of August, and that if he isn’t careful “(he’s) going to find (himself) dead. Red lighted if (he’s) lucky” breaking down the kindness of his illusion. The ‘real’ August is the one that red lights people and forces untrained people to feed the lions, the one that August presents is the ‘fake’ one, the one that is kind and caring. August excuses his bad behaviour for being a paranoid schizophrenic building up his illusion of how he truly is a kind man, but that doesn’t excuse the depth that which he can sink. The complete break down of August’s illusion is when he beats Jacob and his wife, with onlookers it’s not just Jacob and August’s wife who see through the illusion but the others from the circus too. They see that his schizophrenia doesn’t explain his actions for beating his wifeJacob, the elephant and other animals. They see the real August, the abusive, rude, money hungry man. They were compelled by his charm to believe in his illusion. They believed in the illusion August had created for himself. Sara Gruen want’s us to learn that people aren’t always as kind as they say they are and sometimes money changes people or brings out their true colours. They may be so fixated on becoming wealthy, that they slowly change who they are to do so. People such as August exist in everyday life and you have to break down their illusion to understand if their kindness is genuine or if they have an ulterior motive.
The second text used is ‘The Great Gatsby’ written by F. Scott Fitzgerald and follows the life of the upper-class society during a 1920’s Long Island, New York summer. Affairs, materialism and lies are played out during the summer. Jay Gatsby lives in West Egg and is known for throwing the most lavish parties for the upper-class society. Almost everybody has heard of the name Gatsby but very few truly know who he is. Rumours circulate Gatsby as to how he made his wealth, often being referred to as a bootlegger or a murderer. Those who have the opportunity to meet Gatsby, find that he is very open about his past and how he got to where he is. The story that Gatsby tells is very much scripted and rehearsed. We soon realize that Gatsby isn’t all who he says he is, he’s created a persona that people believe. His mansion is his stage and ‘Gatsby’ is the character that James Gatz (his real name) has created. He’s living his life through the eye of an illusion that he’s created in an idealistic world. James Gatz created Gatsby at seventeen, he created a “Platonic conception of himself”. James Gatz created his ideal version of himself, he created someone who would fit into his ideal world. James Gatz could never be Gatsby as he’s an illusion. Gatsby became a “regular Belasco”, he put so much effort into decking his house “with every bright feather that drifted his way”. Belasco is known for creating realistic sets that are so carefully executed that they could be passed as real. Gatsby’s library is a part of his stage, it’s filled with books making it seem so realistic but when you look closer all the books are uncut (haven’t been opened), showing that even his library is an illusion. Gatsby believes in the illusion that he created and those around him believe it too, it isn’t until you look closer that you realize Gatsby isn’t real. In Water for Elephants, August, like Gatsby created an illusion that people believe. Gatsby created his illusion to fit into the upper-class lifestyle, while August used his illusion to come across as a caring man to present to the public. Both August and Gatsby use charm to fool those around them, their charismatic personalities make people believe they are genuine. Very few know the real Gatsby, the man who comes from a farming background, just like very few know the real August, the abusive man that red lights people he’s unhappy with. They both use the money to complete their illusion, Gatsby throws lavish parties to convince those that he is truly part of the upper-class and August showers those who are on the good side of him in gifts to make them believe he is a good man. Sara Gruen and F. Scott Fitzgerald wanted us to understand that people can become so consumed and invested in their illusions that they begin to believe it too. Gatsby believed that he was Gatsby which in the end, cost him his life. August believed he was a kind man and constantly used schizophrenia as an excuse for his actions. Gatsby and August were both invested in their own illusions that they started to drift away from what was reality.
The third text is Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton, we meet nineteen-year-old Alice Kingsleigh as she leaves her engagement party to follow a white rabbit. She soon falls down the rabbit hole and back into a land that she visited when she was younger – Underland. Alice has no memory of the place except for in her dreams. Alice enters Underland, uncertain of who she is, after being reshaped to fit into the upper-class Victorian lifestyle, Alice has lost touch of her imagination that was so present when her father was around. She soon becomes reunited with the characters in Underland that are adamant she’s the ‘wrong’ Alice because she “doesn’t look anything like herself”. The Mad Hatter points out that Alice has lost her “muchness”, which is her sense of self and identity. Alice has been confined by the stereotype of the typical Victorian women, she’s been consumed by an illusion that those around her have created. The illusion masks her true identity and true personality. This confinement has resulted in her losing her “muchness”. When Alice meets Absolem, her reassurance in herself disappears completely, certain that she’s not ‘the’ Alice that is meant to slay the Jabberwocky, she becomes confused with who she truly is. When the Mad Hatter is held captive by the Queen of Hearts, Alice puts it upon her self to save him. She soon begins to live up to the heroine that those in Underland had in mind from the very beginning and slowly turns into the ‘real’ Alice. Absolem starts turning into a cocoon as Alice prepares to slay the Jabberwocky. This represents the sense of Alice regaining her “muchness” and living up to the ‘real’ Alice. She returns to the real world, a changed women, broken free of the illusion that was created for her. She no longer feels the pressure to live up to the illusion of the perfect Victorian women, she decides to do what she, the ‘real’ Alice wants to do. Alice sets off to China, where Absolem as a butterfly appears, this represents Alice being free from the illusion that has imprisoned her for years. In The Great Gatsby, James Gatz wanted something different, something more so he created Gatsby, Alice doesn’t want to be confined to being the Lords wife and living the ‘perfect’ Victorian lifestyle so she visits Underland as an escape. They both have changed, Gatsby no longer acknowledges his past and Alice no longer has her “muchness” which was so present when her father was with her. They both dream of escaping, Gatsby dreams to escape the restriction of West Egg to be with Daisy and Alice dreams to escape the confinement of Victorian life to pursue her dream as an adventurer. We learn that people always want more, both Gatsby and Alice want more out of their life. In reality, people always want to do more with their life and don’t like to be confined to the stereotypes of social classes. Gatsby was a part of the low-middle class life and dreamed to be a part of the upper-class and Alice didn’t want to be restricted to the upper-class Victorian life.
The fourth text used is The Lost Decade, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Orrison Brown works for news-weekly and is asked by his boss to take Mr Trimble out to lunch. Mr Brown’s boss explains that Mr Trimble has been “away a long time” and that he’s “missed the last decade”, he explains that the last thing he’s seen was The Empire State building being built. Mr Brown becomes curious as to why Mr. Trimble has appeared to have missed the past decade. Mr Trimble has been out of civilization for the past ten years “in a sense”, he’s missed iconic moments of the past ten years but hasn’t seen anything interesting. Mr Brown becomes even more curious when Mr Trimble mentions he designed The Armistead Building, but he “never saw it before now”. It becomes known that Mr Trimble was “taken drunk that year – every which way drunk” which explains his memory blank and him ‘missing’ the previous decade. Mr Trimble physically has been present but mentally he’s been elsewhere due to intoxication. People have created an illusion of Mr Trimble, believing he has been to amazing places and seen amazing things because he’s a businessman who’s missed the last decade but that couldn’t be any further from the truth. The reality of Mr Trimble’s illusion is his drunkenness that has caused him to miss the last decade. In Alice and Wonderland, Alice has lost her “muchness” resulting in her forgetting Underland and Mr Trimble has lost the last decade. They both were physically present during the times where Alice was in Underland and Mr Trimble was in New York, but consciously they have no memory or recognition. Alice has consciously forgotten Underland and only remembers it in her dreams and nightmares whereas Mr Trimble has no reconciliation of New York due to being heavily intoxicated during the time. Tim Burton and F. Scott Fitzgerald teach us that we assume what people want and what people have done. People assumed Alice wanted to live the traditional Victorian life and people assumed that Mr Trimble had seen incredible things. They both carry an illusion that people have created for them without realising it; people believe that Alice could and wanted to be a perfect Victorian women where in reality that couldn’t be any further than what she wants in life, people believe Mr Trimble has seen and been to amazing places where in reality he’s just been drunk for the past decade.
All four texts display illusion through their characters. They show sometimes we feel to succeed we need to be someone we’re not (Water for Elephants) or we create our own personas (The Great Gatsby) to feel we have a place in an ever-changing society but sometimes we create personas for others (Alice in Wonderland, The Lost Decade) because it’s easier than accepting the reality of people. We are all part of an illusion with or without intention but sometimes people do not want to face reality, in fear that their illusion may be destroyed.