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American Family

American Family

Introduction

A famous Russian writer Leo Tolstoy started his widely-known novel “Anna Karenina” saying: “All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. Obviously, there are many examples of the happy families in the American literature and cinematic art but very often families which face some significant problems are placed in the centre of the plot. Nevertheless, even unhappy families which suffer from various issues could help to construct the image of an ideal family because this image exists in the minds of all Americans and is displayed in the popular culture. Abnormalities help to attract attention to the concept of normal and understand the role of the family in the lives of characters deeper. This paper will deal with the novel “The Great Gatsby” written by a famous American writer Scott Fitzgerald. Doubtfully, that the image of an ideal family can be found in the novel because it is quite tragic and present the society which face many social and historical problems which also affect the families. However, Fitzgerald is a very talented writer who depicts the family relations with realism and attention to details. For this reason, it is very interesting to analyze the image of family in the novel “The Great Gatsby”. Moreover, the paper will deal with the iconic TV series “The Sopranos” which are admired by many people all over the world. These TV series show outstanding people in special situation and, even though many issues depicted in the TV series provoke heated discussions and are very controversial, family relations play an important role in the series’ plot. The paper will analyze the episode 5 which is called “College”. In the TV series “The Sopranos”, all images are very interesting including the image of Carmela Soprano. This paper will compare the character study of Carmela with the image of Daisy from the novel “The Great Gatsby” and make conclusions about the family values typical for American society.

Carmela Soprano – a Housewife

The fifth episode “College” gives us the insight into the life of the Carmela Soprano not only in this period of her life but in the whole TV series. Carmela is a typical housewife whose role in the TV series is very passive. While her husband Tony represents an active “male” character who transform the reality. Tony travels, earns money and protects his family, while his wife spends the majority of her time at home cooking and taking care of the house. It is remarkable that Tony is a head of the family; he possesses absolute power over his wife and children. He could not be considered an ideal husband for a number of reasons. Letting alone the fact that Tony is a criminal and a murder who lies to his children, he also cheats on her wife having romantic affairs with other women but he would kill Carmela if she did the same. This reveals the stereotypical nature of American assumptions about the family life in the patriarchal society where males played the major role. Of course, such situation was cause by the historical period when the TV series were created but it is difficult to disagree that such way of thinking is also very widely-spread in the modern America. Thus, we can see that the TV series represent the false assumption that the “normal” family is the family where a wife does not work or take part in any community activities but plays the role of a housewife, while a husband brings money to the family and has a right to show disrespect to a wife because her position in the family is secondary.

It is interesting to analyze the image of Tony Soprano in the film. He is a typical “male character”. It is difficult to find a person who would deny this. Thus, the viewers of the film does not expect to see an individual who would treat his wife as an equal member of the family or at least one can make such conclusion after watching the fifth episode of the TV series. It is likely that society accepts the way Tony interacts with Carmela because she is a housewife and her role in the family is less important, even though Tony was a person who decided that his wife must not work or reveal her personality somewhere outside the house. Nevertheless, at the second part of the fifth episode, we can see how Carmela protests against the behaviour of her husband. She spends time with other man and is ready to kiss him because she learns about the fact that his doctor is a woman and he is likely to have romantic relationship with her.

The episode “College” is a key episode in the character study of the Carmela because in this episode she speaks with the priest and tells him about her family life, her husband, and children, her fears and hopes. These scene shows that Carmela is an active personality who is reasonable and wise and she feels herself offended by the behaviour of her husband who is a womanizer and a liar. She considers this to be a manifestation of disrespect. Besides, the episode shows that she is an educated personality who could achieve much more and be much happier if she lived another life. The realism of the TV series reveals some important social issues connected with the gender roles in the American society of that time. It is easy to conclude that many other American women who are also housewives, feel themselves unhappy and unsatisfied as Carmela does. This shows that although the family of Tony and Carmela might seem ideal to some people but in fact this is far from the truth. Both Tony and Carmela lie to each other and do not feel happy, whereas they would be much happier if the role of Tony was not the dominant. In this case, equality would be the way to build an ideal family. The scene of Carmela’s confession is especially interesting. The authors of the plot use such technique as foreshadowing: Carmela is sure that God will punish her for the crimes of her husband and the fact that she was silent and accepted those crimes because she wanted to be rich. The viewers can predict the future problems of the family and Carmela. She understands the profession of her husband and feels guilty for his crimes. Carmela uses the metaphor to speak about this. She says that evil came in their house speaking about Tony’s deeds.

Daisy – a Shallow-minded Woman

Daisy Buchanan is one of the major woman characters of the novel “The Great Gatsby”. The image of this woman and wife is not very positive, and her role in the family is very controversial. The main elements which help to build the image of Daisy are her childhood and her attitude to life and romantic relations. The key concept of these both stages of her life is money. Moreover, it is very important that the novel was created by a man who lived in a male-dominated society and his vision of a Daisy’s personality might be influenced by some negative stereotypes which were widely spread in the society of that time. Of course, this is only a hypothesis and Daisy might have a real prototype but the stereotypes connected with the image of Daisy are also worth attention because her image represents some of the important social tendencies of that time.

The appearance of Daisy plays an important role in her character study. Fitzgerald pays much attention to different features of her character using similes, and metaphors. He describes her hair, voice, manners, underlining the general impression which her personality makes on man. For example, he describes her voice as “full of money – that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jungle of it, the cymbals’ song of it…..High in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl” (p. 45). This shows that Daisy’s life and personality would not be possible without money and material well-being. Another allusion to the Daisy’s voice is: “fluctuating, feverish warmth because it couldn’t be over-dreamed – that voice was a deathless song” (p. 8). Fitzgerald uses these metaphors to describe the Daisy’s beauty and her charm. He often connects her name with such word as “dream” showing her role in Gatsby’s life.

Daisy is a married woman. The author does not conceal that she married because of the money and she did not love her husband. Money has always played more important role in Daisy’s life than feelings and emotions. As a result, her marriage is not happy because her husband has romantic affair with another woman and he does not even take care to take this in secret. He shows absolute disrespect for Daisy and does not consider her important. This makes her feel unhappy but she is not active and decisive enough to change the situation. Again, the family inequality is obvious. Daisy has to accept the terrible behaviour of her husband and has to continue to play the role of an ideal wife. Many people might also see the family of Tom and Daisy as an “ideal” family because they were rich and should not care about earning money. Nevertheless, the important fact mentioned by Fitzgerald is the social acceptance of the family inequality and Tom’s misdeeds. All the community knew about Tom’s affair with other women but their relations with Tom remained the same. They did not condemn his attitude to family life.

The interesting hypothesis is that the negative image of Daisy is the result of the Fitzgerald’s male stereotypical thinking. Perhaps, she was not so shallow, heartless, money-oriented, and inactive but this was the stereotypical portrait of women in the time when the novel was written. One interesting scene which may prove that this hypothesis is worth attention is the statement of Daisy about her daughter: “ “I hope she’ll be a fool,” she says, “that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool” (p. 33). This may mean that Daisy was not as shallow-minded as others thought but she new perfectly well that her role in the male-dominated society could not be equal with men and she tried to make the maximum value from her subordinate role in the society. This could also explain her infantilism because very often she acts as a child.

Nevertheless, the character study of Tom, Daisy’s husband is also very important in the analysis of the family relations in the novel. Fitzgerald describes Tom as “sturdy, straw-haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining, arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face, and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward … you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage – a cruel body” (p. 7). These words show that Tom was a typical character of the patriarchal society. Fitzgerald supports this writing such Tom’s words: “Now don’t think my opinion on these matters is final, he seemed to say, just because I’m stronger and more of a man than you are”(p. 36). The most important question in the analysis of the family relations of Tom and Daisy is whether Tom loved Daisy or he simply considered family and his wife elements of his high status and prestige. In the novel, Tom actively opposes Gatsby and he actions show that he did not wanted to lose his wife and family. It is likely that Tom did not appreciated family and the feelings of his wife because he also said about cheating: “I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife” (p. 154). This point of view is very remarkable because Tom often had romantic affairs with married women. This episode shows that he was significantly influenced by the social stereotypes connected with the gender which said that men could have many partners but woman must not cheat on her husband. This is not surprising because Tom had many racist and sexist ideas. He says referring to the women who wanted to achieve gender equality and fight for their human rights: “Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions, and next they’ll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white” (p. 157). The image of Tom clearly presents the gender issue of that period because his ideas of love and family where affected by his stereotypical thinking. He believed that he loved Daisy but showed no respect to her and gave her no attention. He cheated on her but considered such behaviour unacceptable for women and the society. He was an individual who impaired the family values by hi way of life but he always protected the concept of family in conversations.

American Women and Family Life

Thus comparing and contrasting the two married couples – Tony Soprano and his wife Carmela with Tom and his wife Daisy – we can make some conclusions about the image of the ideal American family and the family values which were typical for the American society. It doubtful whether these conclusions could be applied to the modern society because much has changed by still many people share the points of view of Tom and Tony.

There are many similarities between the two families. Firstly, none of them can be called happy and the problems faced by the two families are very similar. In both couples, men are affected by the negative gander stereotypes and are very reluctant to accept that their wives should be equal family members. Both Tony and Tom cheat on their wives and show little respect to them. They consider money to be the most important thing for a woman. Little freedom given by husbands to their wives is the cause of significant problems experienced by both families. Moreover, Tom and Tony are very jealous. None of them would tolerate his wife having romantic affairs with other men. It might seem that they do it because of love but even if this is true, their vision of love is significantly affected by the gender stereotypes. The statement that Tom and Tony who are typical “male characters” believe that their wives and families are a part of their status and do not perceive them as independent individuals. This help to form the image of an “ideal” American family where a husband earns much money and a wife is a housewife who accepts the dominating role of her husband and prefers to rely on him in all situations. Moreover, she accepts the lack of respect and attention showed by her husband because he has a moral right to behave in such way.

It is also interesting to compare the personalities of the two women. At first glance, they are very different but in fact they have many common features which also represent gender problems. Carmela seems more active, decisive, and reasonable than Daisy who is portrayed as selfish, shallow, and childish. Carmela does not satisfied with the misdeeds of her husband and his lies and she often says it to him. She is unhappy because she knows that her husband is a criminal. On the contrary, Daisy has married only because she wanted to be rich and she tends to pretend and be dishonest more often. Nevertheless, although readers and viewers are more likely to condemn Daisy and feel sympathy to Carmela, in fact, their behaviour is the same. Both women allow man to make important decisions for them and take responsibility which must be shared. For example, Carmen regrets that she did not even try to prevent her husband from becoming a criminal, and Daisy kills a woman and allows Gatsby to take the responsibility for it. None of the women was ready to act as an independent and mature personality which shows that in TV series “The Sopranos” and the novel “The Great Gatsby” both men and women were affected by the gender stereotypes and prejudices.

Conclusions

The paper compares and contrasts the images of the two families, one of which is the Sopranos from the TV series “The Sopranos” and the second is Tom and Daisy from the novel “The Great Gatsby” by Fitzgerald. These two families have much in common. Both of them are perceived as ideal families by the majority of Americans because they are wealthy, have children, and high social status. Nevertheless, both families are unhappy because they have wrong ideas about family life and family roles of a wife and a husband. In both families, women do not work and play secondary roles in their families. Their husbands claim that family is very important for them but have little respect towards their wives and offend them by their misdeeds. Besides, in both novel and the TV series, the society tends to accept cheating and lack of attention to the family from men much more often than from women. Nevertheless, women are also not ready to fight for the equality with men. Both Daisy and Carmela lack independence to change something in their lives but they should not be condemned because this situation was a direct result from the social conditions which were very unfavourable for women. Thus, the paper proves that the family model when man works and has much more individual freedom than a women who is a housewife which has long been considered traditional in the American society has many disadvantages and often makes family members very unhappy. The families of Sopranos and Buchanans had everything for an ideal family life except the mutual respect and attention to the demands of their family members.

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