In the film Purple Rose of Cairo, by Woody Allen, fantasy and reality are two very poignant themes. However, through discussion, the class brought up points regarding fantasy being Tom Baxter, and reality being Gill Shepherd; my perspective was different.
Tom Baxter portrays the main theme of reality while Gill Shepherd demonstrates the role of fantasy. Also, the characteristic strength demonstrated by Cecilia as well as by Tom Baxter is pertinent to the story line. In the beginning of the film Cecilia is lonely and weak due to the fact that her husband shamelessly gambles away their money as well as hits her. Cecilia hopelessly goes to the movies to find solace and peace away from her miserable world. While at the movie, Purple Rose of Cairo, she is enchanted by the thought of running away with the lead character. Tom Baxter, one of the main characters in the film, catches Cecilia looking at him with adoration and strongly decides to leave the film and run off with the lonely Cecilia. Tom is a wholesome, naïve, and sensitive man, who is everything that Cecilia’s current husband, is not. Although Tom jumping out of the screen and into Cecilia’s arms may seem more like fantasy than reality, it is Tom himself who represents reality to Cecilia. By Cecilia being lonely and abused by her current husband, Tom allows Cecilia to see what she could have if she had the strength to leave her husband.
Tom also teaches Cecilia about life, which is a reality in its own right. When Tom and Cecilia go to the church Tom has simple answers for Cecilia’s complex questions about god and the universe. These naivete answers only thrust Cecilia further into wanting to be happy with Tom. Tom tries to coax her to stay with him and live with him and be happy, however, Cecilia is hesitant at first. By the time the two realize they are in love with one another, they have each passed on the gift of strength to one another. Tom gives the strength to Cecilia by convincing her that she is unhappy and that she should leave her husband. Although Tom is a fictional character, Cecilia realizes the depth and meaning of what leaving her husband can bring. Similarly, Cecilia passes on strength to Tom by letting him know that he is wonderful, as well as letting him know that his advice and presence have made an impact on her life. Tom’s final decision to go back into the movie was a strong one, for he loved Cecilia and wanted to be with her always. Cecilia pushed him until he got the strength to return to where he belonged. Cecilia left her husband twice while she was rendezvousing with Tom, thus showing that she knew what possibilities she had. Tom represented reality because the love he felt for Cecilia was real and unfaltering. Also, Tom helped Cecilia to realize how badly her husband treats her, and allowed her to comprehend that there was more in the world than what she had previously thought. Contrary to Tom, Gill Shepherd represents fantasy in various ways.
First, when he comes into the story he is wearing custom tailored suits while socializing with Hollywood producers. This is not a life that regular citizens can not relate with. Moreover, when he comes to New Jersey to find Tom Baxter, he is dumbfounded by Cecilia and all that she represents. He is taken with her while at the same time playing her and molding her to what he wanted her to be. While Cecilia looks for love with Tom, Gill feels an attraction to Cecilia and tries to take her away with his talk of a fantasy life in Hollywood. This life that he talks so vividly about is even a fantasy to him because he is not use to fame or Hollywood. In an attempt to gain some reality, he takes Cecilia on as a conquest. Cecilia is his fantasy, while living in Hollywood and being rich is Cecilia’s fantasy. By the end of the film Cecilia realizes that Gill Shepherd is, in fact, just a fantasy for her, while she pines for the happy life she could have had with Tom. Although Tom is the fictional character, he fills Cecilia’s world with hope, certainty and strength. He allows her to feel real feelings while talking of the simple life that they could have together, which is obviously what Cecilia really wants. Gill, on the other hand brings to Cecilia Hollywood and all it entails to entice her to a fantasy she knows she could truly never have. Most young children wish for a fairytale life in Hollywood among the rich and the beautiful, though very few ever achieve such status.
Most young girls hope to find true love and happiness with a husband who can return the love. Reality sets in to Cecilia when she realizes she doesn’t have happiness in her life. Tom helps her grasp this reality while Gill helps her imagine a life she knows is not possible. In conclusion, Tom’s ideals and naïve way of life are what Cecilia believes as reality and true feelings. Gill is a fantasy man for Cecilia. She is baffled at the fact that a man of his stature and fame would ever be interested in her. And although Gill temps her with his fame, he is not true to his heart, which is where reality lies in the eyes of Cecilia.