The Great Gatsby & Sexism
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby may appear to be a simple tragic romance, however, within the text, Fitzgerald identifies and defines social gaps and importance of wealth. He also presents women within a very separate space as the men. The Great Gatsby allows the reader to enter into the world of wealth and experience the joys and tragedies of being within this certain class as well as allowing the reader to interpret the position of gender inside the class. The Great Gatsby is often referred to as the great American novel; a timeless commentary on the American Dream. A dream that defines success, power, love, social status, and recreation for the American public. It should be mentioned that this novel was published in 1925, which is a time when the American public had recently experienced some significant changes, including women’s suffrage, which had only taken place 6 years prior to the publication of this novel May of 1919. The women of this era had recently acquired a voice in politics, however, the social world does not always take the same pace as the political world. F. Scott Fitzgerald developed female characters that represented both women in their typical gender roles and their modern counterparts.
Since the concept of society exists, women have been classified differently from men. Women have always been the “weak sex”, which is meant to obey and please men. This has changed and now there is a relative equality between sexes, but surprisingly, the image of women only started to change significantly in the last 100 years, and even in this century discrimination still takes place. In the 1930’s, society had still a very primitive view of women, even if they had acquired rights such as the right to vote, this had just occurred in the 1920’s. Most men still had the thought that women should only stay home and raise children, that they should not be involved in politics, and their ideas were not valuable.
From the start of the book we can see that women in the book are portrayed, as naïve, brainless and that they can be easily manipulated. We first notice this with Daisy’s description, and then Myrtle’s, Jordan is kind of an exception, but she doesn’t have much of a significant part in the story. Daisy is described as sensitive, materialistic, and she believes in everything she hears. I think that the fact that she is blonde is because of the popular saying that “blondes are stupid”. Throughout the book we can see that as a matter of fact daisy is the image of what is supposed to be a high class women, she is not too bright, aware of her prettiness, and style “sophisticated god I’m sophisticated” daisy, pg 18 and thinks that the world revolves around her, and she hardly does anything by herself, Daisy isn’t totally in control of her own life, as she hasn’t got the courage to change.
“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,’ he my father told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had” (Gatsby). This quote was possibly the backbone of the narrator’s actions and character. Throughout the novel, the characters that he came into contact with were immediately associated with their money and their association with their given level of wealth. The irony of this opening line is that the poor, or less wealthy, were never really even seen by the narrator. The only people that the narrator saw, according to the reader, are the more wealthy and upper class that were associated with Gatsby’s parties. What is even more ironic than the overall absence of the lower classes within the novel is where this neglected level of wealth actually did become part of the novel. Ironically, the only character that lower wealth was associated with was Gatsby. In his past, he was of lower class, but in the actual time when the novel was written, Gatsby was not only representative of wealth, but he seemed to have had the most wealth of all the characters. He was the most prestigious when compared to all of the other characters, yet was the only to have the absence of money in his past.
In Leland S. Pearson, Jr.’s essay “Herstory” and Daisy Buchanan,” Pearson explains why Daisy’s character is incomplete in the novel. Particularly in this paragraph:
“Despite Nick’s Judgement of her carelessness and “basic insincerity,” her relationship with Tom, Daisy is victimized by a male tendency to project a self-satisfying, yet ultimately dehumanizing, image on woman. If Gatsby had “wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy” (p. III); if Nick had nearly recovered a “fragment of lost words” through the inspiring magic of her voice, then Daisy’s potential selfhood is finally betrayed by the world of the novel. ”
“Main female characters in the novel like Daisy, Jordan Baker, and Myrtle Wilson directly challenging their traditional roles as “kitchen creature”. They all prefer the excitement of night life than the more traditional enjoyments of home and children. There is only one child among them, Daisy’s daughter Pammy. Pammy is well-looked after by a nurse and affectionately treated by her mother. Daisy’s life does not revolve exclusively around her maternal roles. All three women Daisy, Jordan Baker and Myrtle Wilson have openly challenged patriarchal sexual taboo. Jordan engages in pre-marital sex, and Daisy and Myrtle are engaged in extra-marital affair. These three women’s clothing and hairstyle are pretty modern unlike their mothers and grandmothers in the past and are equally guided by freedom seeking tendency. The patriarchal concept that women should behave modestly in public by avoiding liquor, cigarettes and immodest dancing is openly challenged by them in the novel. Hence this novel is full of the instances of the domination of females by males and the opposition of traditional male ideology by the women.” (Aconfessingbook). This excerpt provides a clear break down of what is openly portrayed throughout the novel.
In conclusion the women and men in this text are shown to be victims of social and cultural norms that they could not change. There is an attempt to redefine society and culture in a new way by gender relations and is shown to be a shaky path to the renegotiation of gender.Women in this novel do try to change the social norms, with Daisy wanting to be with Gatsby, who was not from “old money” and having a life with him, but conformed to the social norms because she felt she would be more comfortable and stable with a man she did not love.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York, NY: Scribner, 1996. Print.
Person, Leland S., Jr. “”Herstory” and Daisy Buchanan.” American Literature 50.2 (1978): 250-57. JSTOR. Web. 17 May 2014.
Aconfessingbook. “Feminist Criticism Of The Great Gatsby By F. Scott Fitzerald.” Womenofattic, 10 Apr. 2016, womenofattic.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/feminist-criticism-of-the-great-gatsby-by-f-scott-fitzerald/.