In the film Gangs of New York director
Martin Scorsese can bring out the violent uprising that had rocked New York in
the 17th century. There was a rise of violent gangs in the city that came at a
time when there was massive political corruption and also an evolution that
resulted in a cultural standoff. The film can bring into perspective the 1846
wave of Irish Immigrants that flocked in New York neighborhood of Five Points,
and there were sections of the British and Dutch Americans that had already
settled in the area that began resenting the incoming of the Irish immigrants.
It is this that inspires William Cutting to gang up the Native Americans
against the immigrants and the immigrants, on the other hand, form a gang for
their security. It was called the Dead Rabbits organized by Priest Vallon and
following a deadly clash Vallon is killed. His son who goes missing only to
return to Five Pints in 1862 with new identities as Amsterdam and as an adult
who knows how to fight.
Amsterdam seeks vengeance against Bill
the Butcher whose underground gang had become a formidable force in the Five
Points by his use of violence and intimidation coupled with his political ally
called Tweed or “Boss.” Amsterdam penetrates into the organization of Bill and
soon wins his trust to become his assistant and also begins falling in love
with Jenny Verdean, a street smart lady that once had an affair with Bill.
However, before Amsterdam could complete his plan of taking down Bill, Johnny
exposes him to Bill, who is very upset about it and gets violent. He set out to
kill Amsterdam as he was sure he was plotting something against him. Amsterdam
has however been able to unite the Dead Rabbits, and even Tweed offers them
power if they vote for him.
At that time following the reduced
army members, President Lincoln is forced to recruit soldiers, and it becomes
mandatory to join the army if one cannot pay $300 and it is this that results
to a deadly riot that leaves many dead even those from the Dead Rabbits and
Bill’s gang. Bill and Amsterdam are left alone and have a physical fight where
the film ends with Amsterdam killing Bill.
The film was able to bring out the
plight and also the oppression that immigrants received in American history
from the local administration and also the corrupt leadership (Mattie, 2003). The immigrants were subjected to
oppressive rule to frustrate them so that they would leave the country or the
locations as Americans felt and to date some extremists feel that the
immigrants are a threat to their stability and also ought to be eliminated from
society (Berdichevsky, 2011). The Irish
immigrants in the film the Gangs of New York are subjected to oppression from
Cutting and instead of the local politician Tweed helping out, he seeks to take
advantage of them to gratify his personal interests. In as much as he was not
as brutal and oppressive as was the case with the gang leader named Cutting, he
still viewed the immigrants as less of citizens to him. He treated them
differently from the way he treated the Americans of British and Dutch descent
that were now regarded as the natives of the Five Points. Tweed uses the
immigrants by making them vote as he wished in the promise that he would offer
them the material and social needs. It is this that allowed him to ensure that
they remained desperate and oppressed so that he can be able to manipulate them
easily for his personal gains (Mattie, 2003). It
furthered the political oppression that the immigrants have faced in America
over the centuries and highlight the level of social, economic and political
deprivation that they faced as individuals.
The majority of Americans have a sense
of pride and also the definition of what entails in being an American and they
relied upon biased personal serving definitions of true Americanism to
intentionally sideline the immigrants. It is an aspect emphasized by Cutting
that believes that being Native American is not just the measure of being
American but rather there is a need to have a blood connection with America to
be considered as a real American (Berdichevsky, 2011).
It is this that made him believe that the immigrants could in no way become
American since they laced a form of connection. It is his ideologies and
perceptions that resulted to the hatred and resentment that he and majority of
the other Americans held against the immigrants. Cutting is proud to be an
American because his father had fought and died for America during the War of
1812 (Mattie, 2003). According to him as was the
case with so many other Americans the ancestry and portrayal of ancestry are
what the immigrants could not possess to be regarded as real Americans.
However, what Cutting was fast to forget an ancestor in his lineage began as an
immigrant just like the Irish immigrants such as Valon had come to Five Points
(Berdichevsky, 2011). He also does not stand by
his belief since the immigrants were forced into the Civil War by the Lincoln
and also died for the country. However, in his view, the Civil War was not an
American war but a mere Lincoln War.
The immigrants in the United States and
also in other regions has to fight for their continued existence in the regions
that they move to at any point (Mattie, 2003).
Even today, there are legal and civil conflicts that the immigrants have waged
over the course of time for the government to accept and also offer them the
necessary accommodating without having to live in the fear of deportation. It
was the same case that was in the event of the Irish immigrants in the 17th
Century. The Irish people had migrated in numbers in search of a better place
and livelihood in America (Center for Immigration
Studies, 2016). It was because Ireland was facing abject poverty and
starvation with the majority of individual living in extreme poverty and desperation.
It is this that form the basis for the strong resistance to their deportation
back to Ireland since they preferred fighting for their stay than going back
home (Berdichevsky, 2011). It was an issue
emphasized in the film. The Irish immigrant upon arrival at the Five Points in
New York City, they were ready to fight for their stay despite the string
resistance and cruelty that they faced from the natives such as Cutting and
also the local politician such as Tweed.
It was an aspect that Amsterdam’s father, Priest Valon was ready to
fight and die for instead of turning to go back where they came from since it
was worse conditions that had brought them into America.
The immigrants in American history and
also in the contemporary society are bound together by unity to ensure their
continued thriving in the host country before they are fully assimilated into
the society (Center for Immigration Studies, 2016).
It is an aspect that is necessary for their survival and also security to
defend their independence and also continued to stay in a land that held better
promise for them as individuals. It is an aspect that was emphasized by the
film in that the Irish immigrants referred to as the Dead Rabbits as they
formed a gang to protect their interests. Even the priest who Amsterdam’s
father was willing to lead his people against the Cutting’s gang that was out
to suppress and intimidate them and it is the clash that resulted in his death.
When the government further decided to force them into joining the army against
their will, the Irish immigrants and other immigrants stood together in riots
and also in the struggle against the policy. Many of them lost their lives in
the fights but remained united to achieve change (Schroth, 2008).
In conclusion, Martin Scorsese’s Gangs
of New York film (2002) is a fundamental tale of that clear documents the
ethnic feuds in New York surrounding the Immigrants. It further provides
significant insights on the plight of the Irish immigrants in the United States
at the historical period which also offers a classical indication of the
history of immigration. The film uses the experiences and events that happen in
the lives of the characters to bring out an emotional appeal to the plight of
immigrants in America.
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