In society, today people create false personas so others can not see their true selves. I will be discussing how the characters in The Great Gatsby written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Breakfast Club directed by John Hughes, Graceling written by Kristen Cashore and The Landlady written by Roald Dahl display their own false personas created to protect them from others thoughts and opinions.
The Great Gatsby follows the lives three main characters living in upper-class New York City during a summer in the 1920’s. The novel revolves around the narrator Nick Carraway, who has just moved to New York, his neighbour, the illusive Jay Gatsby and the woman he has been chasing for the last five years, Daisy Buchanan. In the beginning, Daisy is depicted as being the perfect, upper-class trophy wife. She is seen as someone to aspire to be like, constantly happy and having everything her heart could possibly desire. However, as the story progresses we understand that it is all a facade, ” ‘Her voice was full of money,’ “. All Daisy has ever been is rich, using materialistic objects to hide the lack of any true emotions or enjoyment in her life. The wealth is just a front used to distract people, so they don’t look any deeper and discover that it is all this image she has crafted of herself, to cover the truth. The truth that she a shallow person who relies on materialistic objects to bring meaning to her life. “She vanished into her rich house, into her rich, full life …” Her life isn’t full, it’s empty. Her husband is having an affair and she can’t bring herself to leave him, to be with the man she supposedly ‘loves’ because she refuses to give up the image of herself that being with her husband has helped her uphold. The reader learns from this that after years of maintaining a false persona, eventually the person becomes the persona and it is almost impossible for them to return to their original selves.
The Breakfast Club is about five individual teenagers from different social cliques who wouldn’t normally interact with each other, but are forced to spend a Saturday in detention together. A brain, a beauty, a jock, a rebel and a recluse, these five individuals are not able to express themselves freely due to their placement in the high school hierarchy. They each portray the correct characteristics of their stereotypes, whilst internally struggling with their own personal matter which have been completely ignored. “We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.” For example, Andy, the athlete of the group, on the outside he has developed the stereotypical characteristics of a jock, doesn’t respect anyone else and only cares about winning. However, what people don’t understand is that this is an image he has created so that others do not see how being manipulated by his father has resulted in him not being able to think for himself anymore. The persona protects him, from the judgement of others who can make decisions for themselves. “You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain… and an athlete… and a basket case… a princess… and a criminal.” In some cases, peoples false personas are created by those around them rather than by themselves, and then once the idea of the person is built up in someone else mind it becomes almost impossible to break out of their new image, which is the problem that this group has been faced with. This same thing happened to Daisy in The Great Gatsby, people around her assessed her social position and her wealth and made preconceived judgements about her and her personality. Daisy, always one to avoid conflict, went along with the role people gave her to fill. She became the perfect, upper-class, trophy wife who was completely shallow with no real emotions, and over time she accepted that this was her life now, and gave in to the stereotype. The renowned “princess” of the group Claire, seemed to be heading in the same direction as Daisy in the beginning, however, unlike Daisy she was able to change her view of herself. Claire learned that she was worth more than her wealth and statue and that there is more to others than just their social position. If Daisy had been able to come to this same conclusion then she could have been with the man she wanted to be with, instead of obsessing over her value.
Graceling is a novel set in a fantasy world, which is comprised of seven kingdoms where some children are born with special gifts called ‘graces’. The story follows a young lady, Katsa, gifted with the grace of killing, who whilst rescuing a man for her Uncle King Randa encounters another Graceling. This turns out to be Po, a prince of another kingdom, graced with fighting. After a few incidents at in King Randa’s court, Po and Katsa set out together to try and make sense of what is really going on in the kingdoms. Further on in the novel, Po says, “Don’t feel too kindly toward me, Katsa. Neither of us is blameless as a friend.” This served as a warning to Katsa that she shouldn’t put too much trust in Po, for a reason unknown to her. In reality, Po was trying to protect her from the hurt he knew she would feel when she found out the truth about his grace, the truth about who he is. Eventually, though the truth always comes out and the wall that had been so carefully built to protect Po from others judgement and greed fell away. “She had thought him a fighter, just a fighter. … She had trusted him. She had trusted him, and she should not have. He had misrepresented himself, misrepresented his Grace. And that was the same as if he had lied.” As a result of Po hiding the truth and maintaining a false persona, Katsa seriously doubted her original opinions of him. The put unnecessary strain on their relationship, and it could have been avoided if Po didn’t feel the pressure that his true grace would be exploited by those around him if it wasn’t hidden. The reader understands from this, that even though people try to cover what they consider their ‘flaws’, at the end of the day, if you can’t accept yourself for who you are, how do you think anyone else will? This same phrase can be applied to The Breakfast Club. The teenagers are scared to show the other students their true personalities out of fear of being rejected by those also living behind a facade. They teach us to look past the outward appearance of a person and to really pay attention to the inner workings of their mind. Otherwise, no one will ever understand what is really going on.
The Landlady is a short story which tells the tale of a young businessman, Mr Weaver, who has recently travelled from London to Bath for work. Upon his arrival he is directed towards an inn, however, along the way, he notices a bed and breakfast and after further inspection through the windows decides to stay there instead. At first, everything is going fine, the landlady is very friendly and the house is nice enough until he starts noticing odd things. The first thing to strike his attention is the extremely low cost and the fact that there have only been two other guests in the last three years. Neither of which have ever left again. “Left?” she said, arching her brows. “But my dear boy, he never left. He’s still here. Mr Temple is also here. They’re on the third floor, both of them together.” Then he starts to notice other things that do not quite fit with the Landlady’s “kind and generous soul”, the dog curled up by the fire and the colourful parrot in the cage are both stuffed and the landladies odd knowledge of her previous guest’s bodies. “He was actually twenty-eight. And yet I never would have guessed it if he hadn’t told me, never in my whole life. There wasn’t a blemish on his body.” “A what?” Billy said. “His skin was just like a baby’s.” Unknown to Mr Weaver, everything about the Landlady is an act. She uses her innocent looks and old age to lure in unsuspecting strangers, before killing them and stuffing their bodies. Unfortunately for Mr Weaver, he too will be joining Mr Temple and Mr Perkins on the third floor. If it hadn’t been for the Landlady’s illusion, Mr Weaver wouldn’t have been tempted to stay at her bed and breakfast and would have continued on the inn, where he would have been safe from harm. The reader understands from this that false personas can be used to hide more cynical things about a person, that if brought to light would completely destroy their chance at a normal life. Unlike Po, at the realisation of the Landlady’s true identity, we know that she could never be accepted as he was. Po was born with his grace, he did not choose it. The Landlady, on the other hand, developed her disgusting hobby and created her disguise to prevent others from witnessing her real nature and being repulsed by it.
In conclusion, as a result of people creating false personas the people around them are never truly able to get to know them. This is evident in the texts, The Great Gatsby written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Breakfast Club directed by John Hughes, Graceling written by Kristen Cashore and The Landlady written by Roald Dahl. Daisy, the five teenagers, Po and the Landlady are all seen in a way completely different to their true personalities. We learn from this that if you can not express yourself freely without a constant fear of judgement that people are never going to be able to accept themselves for who they are.