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The Movie “The Gangs of New York” Essay


The movie called The Gangs of New York focus dates back to 1860s, at the threshold of the civil war. At the very beginthe ning, the director depithe cts the confrontation between the Native Americans controlled by the Protestant advocator of native people Bill Cutting and the Irish immigrants headed by the “Priest” Vallon.

The battle ends with the Priest’s murder, but his son Amsterdam Vallon witnesses the killing scene and decides to revenge on his father’s death. Although the plot of the movie focuses on personal motives and sthe truggle between two gangsters, the story also uncovers the historic events preceding the Civil War, including the portrayal of poverty, confrontation of natives with the immigrants, and depiction of cruel riots and rebellions in New York.

At the very beginning of the movie, the scene centers on the rigid confrontation between the representative of Native Americans headed by the Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting and the leader of Irish Catholics who arrived to America in search of better life.

The scene depicted in the movie correlates with events and facts mentioned in American history. Specifically, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Americans experienced economic recession that could not be controlled and, as a result, most families reached the poverty line. Unequal distribution of wealth among the population was also explained by the different opportunities that people had for expanding their profits.

The point is that social status depended largely on wealth and profits rather than on family’s educations and ties. American society, therefore, was in constant pursuit of success and material welfare.

The market revolution was another underpinning for poverty deployment due to commercial separation and emergence of residential areas in which trade relations were the most developed, including Kingston in New York and Sugar Creek in Illinois. The career promotion was also associated with these regions because more people strived to move to these towns and gain higher status in society.

Aside from displays of unequal distribution of wealth and poverty, the film highlights the difficult life of immigrants in America in the middle of the nineteenth century. Specifically, the main hero Amsterdam Vallon faces serious challenges to accommodate in the town and find a new job. He manages to earn money only when he gains trust from the head of the New York gang Bill Cutting.

The conflict between the native population and the newcomers triggered the confrontation between the North and the South (Davidson et al. 288). Certainly, slavery was among the common reasons for the military outburst; nevertheless, the North claimed that the purpose of the Union consisted in preserving the country whereas the Confederacy was more concerned with independent rather than with slavery.

Discrepancies in ideas were also predetermined by sectional shifts in American society. At the same time, as the industrial revolution was on the rise, large amounts of immigrations were encouraged to apply for the job because their labor was much cheaper than that provided by the Native population (Davidson et al. 290).

In this respect, the advent of the newcomers led to serious social problems, particularly in the regions where they settled, aggravating the situation and giving rise to military confrontations.

The movie provides short references to the problem of immigration and poverty whereas the draft riots become the focus of the picture. This is of particular concern to the confrontation between the gangs of New York, where draft riots are represented only as acts of destroying property. Nevertheless, the mobs attacked African Americans, lynching some of them. There were also many victims of racial discrimination.

Specifically, Irish gangs attacked black communities due to the high competition in the workplace. In the movie, Chinese Americans are depicted as possessing their own public venues and communities. However, the important Chinese immigration dates back to the end of 1860s, the period when First Transcontinental Railroad was built.

Although some of the confrontations depicted in the movie are fictional, they accurately convey the ethno-cultural and racial rivalries lasting more than three decades (Davidson et al. 312). These ancestral hatreds led to serious demographic shifts, economic changes, and political challenges.

Political outcomes of the confrontation between native-born population and Irish immigrants also negatively influenced the Whig party and the Jacksonian party. These events are also brightly depicted in the movie, describing the influence of Cutting’s authority on other activists.

In conclusion, it should be stressed that The Gangs of New York successfully outlines the historical events relating to poverty deployment, the confrontation between immigrants and natives, and draft riots. Although some of the facts are distorted in the movie, the very idea of political disturbances at the beginning of the Civil War is correctly interpreted.

This is of particular concern to the struggle between the newcomers and the native population where the latter was irritated by the immigrants who reduced their chances to find a well-paid job. Some of the scenes also focus on impoverished existence of some members of the community, as well as unequal wealth distribution among people. Social status was largely defined by the wealth and prestige rather than by education and ties.

Works Cited

Davidson, James West, Brian DeLay, Christine Leigh Heyrman, Mark Lytle and Michael Stoff. US: A Narrative History. US: McGraw-Hill Humanities, 2011. Print.

The Gangs of New York. Ex. Prod. Martin Scorsesse. United States: Miramax Films, 2002. DVD.

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IvyPanda. (2020, March 15). The Movie "The Gangs of New York". Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-movie-the-gangs-of-new-york/

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"The Movie "The Gangs of New York"." IvyPanda, 15 Mar. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-movie-the-gangs-of-new-york/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Movie "The Gangs of New York"." March 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-movie-the-gangs-of-new-york/.


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IvyPanda. "The Movie "The Gangs of New York"." March 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-movie-the-gangs-of-new-york/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Movie "The Gangs of New York"." March 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-movie-the-gangs-of-new-york/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Movie "The Gangs of New York"'. 15 March.

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