The Coen brothers use the characters in Fargo to portray the different strata of American society:
car salesman - middle class
ambitious - wants to impress his father in law
in desperate need of money for his „big deal“
tries to achieve his aim by committing a crime
too stupid –
everything goes wrong
Jerry‘s father in law (Wade):
self made man - filthily rich - upper middle class
cares for his daughter and his grandson - despises Jerry
to stingy to pay the whole fake ransom
dies because of his greed
Gangsters (Carl and Gaear)
uneducated, very rude language, slang
do anything for money
lower class – outcasts
uneducated – language
pregnant police chief - middle class
heroine - solves the puzzle
In Fargo the Coen brother present the subdivisions within a vast middle class by emphasising the differences between central characters.
An obvious example for this is the contrast between ambitious lower middle class Jerry and his successful, prosperous, upper middle class father-in-law Wade. A crucial point is the scene in Wade’s office when Jerry wants to borrow money from Wade for his big deal. Wade makes clear that he is superior to Jerry by offering him a small finder’s fee instead of borrowing him the whole sum. One big difference between Wade and Jerry can be seen in the fact that Jerry does not even have a lawyer by his side while Wade is always accompanied by his company lawyer. The outcome, Jerry’s idea is exploited by Wade without any benefit for Jerry, underlines the tensions and class difference between the two.
Class differences between the characters are not only shown within the same class, as shown above, but, of course, also between members of different classes. The example is the relationship between Jerry and the gangsters. While naïve petite bourgois Jerry thinks that he can deal with the gangsters, Carl and Gaear, in the same way he deals with his customers, the gangsters put up rules of their own. Although Jerry thinks he is in control the gangsters make clear that criminals do not play fair. Another important difference between Jerry and the gangsters is that although both Jerry and the gangsters want to make money, the violent behaviour of Carl and Gaear clearly distinguishes them from Jerry and puts them in an outcast position.
An important aspect of class in Fargo is the way in which gender roles are depicted. A clear contrast can be found between Jane Lundegaard, Jerry’s wife, and Marge Gunderson, the Police Chief. Jane is the typical housewife. She does the housework, takes care of their teenage son and stays at home all day. She relies on Jerry’s income and her father’s support.
On the other hand, Marge stands for a very different type of woman in this rural context. Although she is seven months pregnant she does her duty as a Police Chief. When she has to get up very early in the morning in order to investigate the murders, her husband Norm (John Carroll) prepares breakfast for her and sees her out. Similarly Norm brings her lunch to the police office. In the relationship between Marge and her husband Marge seems to hold the same rights as Norm. In brief, Marge is a courageous, clever and self-confident woman who finally solves the case and turns out to be the heroine of the complex plot.