Perspective Justice Studies | MyPaperHub

Gangs of New York. (2002). Hollywood.

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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