A Shift of Western Sympathy in “The Great Gatsby” and Mehta’s “Fire”

                  For centuries, harmony has been the invisible wheel steering Eastern action and culture, which has prospered on the belief that good input will equal good output. Spiritual balance is maintained, for example, through external societal organization of class in the caste system. The socio-economic divisions separate people from the time of birth by wealth into distinct classes that they can not, at any point, transcend. India, for example, has maintained this caste system since ancient times. People followed the system to maintain social harmony. Only recently they eliminated the structural caste and welcomed the American ideal of “rags to riches,” evident in recurring themes of Bollywood films, suggesting that these boundaries can be crossed.

The film, Fire, directed by Deepa Mehta, in particular questions the Hindu’s boundary of duty. Without touching on the western ideal of “rags to riches,” the character strives for the western ideal of individual freedom that will allow her happiness, despite the unrest and disorder it causes the family. The protagonist, Radha, runs the household, takes care of the mother-in-law, works at the shop, and aids her husband in his practice of celibacy, for she is barren and any sexual relations for the sake of pleasure would be sinful. When Sita, her son’s new wife, who moves in with the family, challenges traditional duty, Radha comes to challenge her own purpose in life. She begins to challenge her husband and her work entirely. Sita and Radha find the love they need in each other, and the lesbian relationship forms in order to satisfy their needs. This whole social order is threatened by their intemperate actions, but their acts are portrayed as doing nothing wrong, that in the ending scene Radha survives the fire indicates that she is pure from any wrongdoing.

Traditional Eastern culture disapproves of the Western value of individual desire above communal desire, however Fire demonstrates a shift in Indian or Eastern mentality. They have adapted this way of thinking, eliminating the social structures that bind us and oppress us, to embrace individual liberation without regard to the community or even the family.

              The Great Gatsby similarly glorifies the aspirations of one to transcend caste boundaries, however, Gatsby’s desire is for power and not love.

That this movie is remade with current music and effects, indicates the social relevance it has today. The film resurfaces the question of whether one can truly surpass the social class they were born into. By influence of executive producer Jay-Z, the music plays a huge role in connecting the 1920s to modern day. The current music helps us associate that this story is most definitely a commentary on current American culture.

              Gatsby is one who dreams of becoming part of the elite caste, the “old money” society of propriety and status. However, close he gets to the “green light,” he will never be fully accepted into that culture. The Great Gatsby was commonly believed that  into social class.  India is a prime example for their social order of the caste system, which deeply impacted their culture. It was not until 

Whether we like to think this social ordering does not exist, it very well exists and cannot be fully eliminated as we naturally are creatures who function on the level of survival. We stick to those we trust, those who experience our same culture, who share our same values.

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