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Free «The Real American Gangster» Essay Sample

The society throughout human history has been going through different challenges that have created a world whereby there are various vices that cannot be avoided in any particular society. Among these vices is crime. There are different areas or rather towns and cities across the globe that have been characterised by crime and gangster activities, thus creating a societal group that is plagued by bloodshed and other sinister activities. However, just like religion, there are varying perceptions towards crime that are elicited in these societies, with some perceiving crime and gangster activities as a way of life that follows certain kind of ethical and moral standards, thus setting themselves apart from the rest of the society. This is particular so when some perceptions in the society have held on to the fact that there is no means that is lawful in the society (Warshow 489). This essay will examine through comparison of two artistic works, i.e. the movie ‘American Gangster’ and Robert Shaw’s ‘The Gangster as Tragic Hero’ the place of success and heroism in the society. Whereas success in the society should be celebrated by the whole society, it has been found to elevate people to a point whereby they are above the society as a successful people are segregated in the society.



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The movie ‘American Gangster’ is a work of art that focuses on the life of a drug dealer who imports heroin into Harlem. The movie is based on a true story of a man in 1970s who imported heroin from Asia by stacking these drugs in the coffins of American soldiers who had fallen in the war in the Vietnam (Dargis 2007). On the other hand, Robert Warshow’s ‘The Gangster as Tragic Hero’ focuses on the tragedy that a gangster goes through, not because he is ‘bad’ but because he has elevated himself to the point of being separated from the society (Warshow 487). There are various similarities and differences that are revealed in the above works. To begin with, there is a revelation of heroism in the both the movie and the work of Robert Warshaw. Both the movie and the work by Warshaw focus on the activities of major characters that play the critical roles in laying the foundation for the revelation of the themes in these artistic pieces.

The element of heroism is raised in the sense that both pieces of work portray people who are successful gangsters as the most influential people within their circles. As a result of their influence, they are clothed with the cap of heroism, a factor that earns them influence in their world of gangster business. In the work by Warshaw, he points at the successful man in the opening scene of the movie ‘Scarface’ who was later on killed (488). Similarly, the movie ‘American Gangster’ portrays Frank Lucas as a hero in the work he was doing. As a result, the underworld portrays him as a hero in the drug trafficking society (Dargis 2007). However, there are various issues that the element of heroism raises in these works. To begin with, it is important for one to understand that there is a separation that occurs as a result of the success that one attains in the society. As has been stated in the thesis, the success of any person should be celebrated by the whole society. However, this is not the case. As is revealed in these works, the society is alienated completely from the successful people that are found within their boundaries, thus causing these people to be raised to positions where they are alone. Both the movie and Warshow’s work captures an aspect of separation between those that are successful and those that are not.

As heroism emerges in these works, realism set in. While being portrayed as a hero of the society due to the successes that one has been able to attain in his or her life, there are forces that control both the lives of those that are portrayed as heroes or rather successful and those that are not. In both works, those that have failed in their fields of trade, which includes being a gangster, are completely separated from those that are very successful. In Warshow’s work, failure is a kind of death that cannot be tolerated in the society while death is a kind of evil that strives to eliminate the normal running organizational activities (489). The separating line between success and failure therefore increases the divide between those that are successful and those that have failed and acts as a force that alienates those that are successful above the rest of the society and creates a state of vulnerability that includes the danger of one losing his or her life. In the movie ‘American Gangster’, Frank Lucas is alienated from the rest of the drug trafficking society, an issue that attracted attention from the detective who would later on end his drug trafficking career (Dargis 2007). On the other hand, the gangster that is mentioned in the work of Warshow finally ends up being killed because of his effort to break away from the society and be seen at the top (488). The forces against one’s success depict an aspect of realism where one’s life is controlled by forces in the society rather one’s will of choosing what he or she wants to become in the society.

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On the other hand, there are differences in the way success or rather the characteristic of being a hero is portrayed in these two artistic pieces of work. First, the hero in ‘The Gangster as Tragic Hero’ by Warshow is completely destroyed by societal forces that are beyond his control. In this regard, whereas he exalts himself above the society and earns respect and honour as a gangster, the force of death that accompanies failure does not give him a chance to enjoy his life as a gangster hero. Instead, he is short death and this left him more of a failure rather than a hero in the society (488). Therefore, realism portray itself more in form of the forces in the society that controls a person’s life and his destiny rather than a person controlling his own destiny. However, whereas the destiny of Frank Lucas is altered and he does not end up achieving his goal as the ultimate gangster hero in the society, his destiny as a successful gangster is not altered by death but rather by a detective or law in general (Dargis 2007). Law is another force in the society that controls the lives of people and their destiny. This depicts realism as an issue or rather a factor that cannot be escaped in the society as there are many issues that limits the growth and attainment of success of a person.

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Similarly, depending on the arguments that are presented by a person, the movie ‘American Gangster’ allows its character to end as a hero rather than as failure as compared to ‘The Gangster as Tragic Hero’ by Warshow, who ends up as a failure, despite the fact that his life as a gangster had created enough fear in men and created an idol of a hero in the minds of many people in the society. Yet, his aspect of being a hero fails or is undermined by a bullet or to be specific death. However, the gangster in the movie ‘American Gangster’ ends up as a law hero despite the fact that the came with a painful cost of losing his heroic aspect in the gangster world. This is depicted at the end of the movie whereby the gangster is offered an opportunity to help the law keepers in the society to nail down all corrupt police officers who were involved in his drug trafficking business (Dargis 2007). Therefore, he helps the law to help in eliminating those who had failed to keep the law from the law business. Similarly, he remains as a hero since he won over part the police force to work for him in his unlawful business. Similarly, he won over the detective who offered to reduce the number of years he could get in prison if he offered to help arrest these unlawful police. As a result, he remains as a hero. This resulted from the societal force that dictates that there is need for cooperation for one to be able to succeed, forcing the detective to seek for Frank Lucas’ help whereas Lucas too sought for police assistance that enabled him to carry out his business. Thus, realism is portrayed in the force of unity that exists in the society that helps individuals who are united to achieve their goals (Gunderson 3).

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There are therefore both similarities and differences that are portrayed in both the movie ‘American Gangster’ and ‘The Gangster as Tragic Hero’. These similarities and differences are employed by these artistic pieces of work in revealing the theme of realism in the society, especially in regard to gangster and heroism in the gangster world. As a result, they are able to help the audience to come to an understanding of different issues that affects the society such as realism.


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