Female Role in Great Gatsby

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In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the reader dives into the essence of

the early 1920’s: lavish parties, intimidating men, beautiful women, and the strive to

capture the “American dream.” The role of women in The Great Gatsby is paradoxical;

although they appear independent, and at times daring in their romantic lives, the women

of The Great Gatsby are vulnerable and driven purely by their economic situations. In the

novel, three seemingly diverse characters, Myrtle, Daisy, and Jordan, each represent

unique female roles. Although presented as dissimilar beings, the women of The

Great Gatsby possess one undeniable connection: the effect of money.

In the first chapter of the novel, the reader is introduced to Daisy Buchanan. A

beautiful yet seemingly mindless creature, Daisy represents the paragon of traditional

femininity and vulnerability. Although Daisy appears superficial and materialistic, the

reader learns that at one point in Daisy’s life, she was driven by love and emotion instead

of by wealth and status. As a young woman, Daisy promised the destitute soldier, Jay

Gatsby, that she would wait for him after the war. However, Daisy grows impatient and

finds affluence and prosperity through her marriage to the violent and misogynistic, Tom

Buchanan. “‘Tom’s getting very profound,’ said Daisy with an expression of

unthoughtful sadness. ‘He reads deep books with long words in them’” (13). Although

Daisy knows that she is not a fool, to her, the ideal woman is unintelligent and

subservient to her male counterpart. While Daisy at times acknowledges the distorted values of her generation, she fails to challenge them, and instead finds herself at the heart

of their error.

Tom’s married mistress, Myrtle, views Tom as her escape from poverty and

mediocrity. Although Myrtle is viewed as selfish and hurtful, she is no worse than Tom

or Gatsby; she is simply trying to capture the American dream of the early 1920’s, and

for many women, the only way to achieve significance and freedom is through

scandalous affairs with wealthy married men.

Carelessly driving with Gatsby, Daisy strikes and kills Myrtle. As Fitzgerald

elaborates: “her left breast was swinging loose like a flap…the mouth was wide open …

as though she had choked a little in giving up the tremendous vitality she had stored so

long” (137). Although Myrtle appears to acquire a small amount of freedom, her

actions demonstrate that in order for her to achieve her , she must

surrender both her feminine innocence and her passion for life.

Attractive, yet successful and masculine, Jordan Barker represents the “new

woman” of the 1920’s. Unlike Daisy and Myrtle, Jordan appears self-reliant and

transcends the role society has cast for women of her generation. Jordan is even dominant

in her relationships. She does not fit into the typical female role of subservience as she

rebukes Nick: “Nevertheless you did throw me over. You threw me over on the

telephone. I don’t give a damn about you now, but it was a new experience for me, and I

felt a little dizzy for a while” (177). Although Jordan’s freedom is real, she obtained her

independence through masculinity. A famous golfer, Jordan achieves success by cheating

and lying; Jordan’s actions illustrate to the reader that the only way for a woman to

achieve freedom, is to emulate a man. As Nick articulated: “She wore all her dresses like

sport coats” ( 50), Jordan appears as a woman, yet possesses the essence of a man.

Unlike Myrtle and Daisy, Jordan is not hindered by the fear of destitution and appears

free and competent to the reader.

For the women of The Great Gatsby, freedom is rarely achieved. Although

Fitzgerald at times supplies his female characters with an artificial freedom, the women

of The Great Gatsby are portrayed as...
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