Feminist View on the Great Gatsby

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Susan B. Anthony once said “The true republic: Men, their rights and nothing more;

Women, their rights and nothing less.” This is her point of view on the way women were

thought of during the 1920s. She recognizes the large gap between women and men’s rights.

During this time though, many changes had began. Women just got the right to vote, therefore

gaining more independence of their own which they did not always know how to use. This is

also when the trend of a flapper began. Views changed from politics to social lives, hem lines

were raised, and risks were taken. The confusion of this time for most men is easily seen in The

Great Gatsby. In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, women are portrayed as a minor role

to society. They are reliant and selfish by expecting men to take care of them, they are shown

as nothing more than a status symbol in the way that they allow men to control them, and they

are unfaithful and dishonest.

The main women in The Great Gatsby, Daisy and Myrtle, depend on the man that they

are with to support them and buy them anything they wish. Myrtle, for instance, is unhappy

with her life with Wilson. She sought out another man to take care of her, someone that can

spoil her. Wilson offering her everything he could is not enough for Myrtle. She complains

about it even when he tries his best, by saying things like, “He borrowed somebody’s best suit

to get married in” (F. Scott Fitzgerald 35). Wilson cannot afford a suit so he borrows one from

someone else, and although he tried his best for her it is not enough. In her mind she needs to

be taken care of, and the state of poverty that Wilson was in just does not do. Myrtle feels she

deserves and needs a man that could buy her anything her heart desires. Tom was the perfect

candidate for her; he was very wealthy and welcoming to the idea of an affair. She loves Tom

for the simple fact that he can support her, although she knows he will never leave Daisy. She is

content with their relationship though, because she is able to be spoiled. This is shown when

they are walking around and she passes by the man selling dogs. Myrtle knows Tom will buy her

one, so she simply says to him “I want one of those dogs” (27). The dogs were over priced and

mutts, yet Tom will buy it for her along with everything that is needed for a dog if she insists.

Women During the time The Great Gatsby was written were still dependent on men, and that is

what Fitzgerald is showing through Myrtle and Tom’s relationship.

Along with relying on men, the women in The Great Gatsby allow men to control them.

They think that is what men want in a woman. Daisy recognizes this, and “hope(s) she’ll be a

fool- that’s the best thing in this world” (17). She wants her daughter to be a fool, and fools are

easily controlled. During the 1920’s it was thought of as the role of women to follow after a

man. It was a desirable trait. This theme is also shown throughout The Great Gatsby through

the character Myrtle. She lets herself be controlled by Tom in order to be able to stay with him.

The one moment she decides to not follow the mode and lash out, he punishes her. He gets

away with it too, without any punishment or disbelief, “Making a short deft movement, Tom

Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand” (37). Her nose was broken by Tom because she

disobeyed him and did not let him control her. This reflects the point of view at the time.

Women should be poised, obedient, quiet, and sidelined. This is how women were expected to

act during the 1920s, and Fitzgerald directly put this idea into The Great Gatsby.

Women are also shown as unfaithful, sneaky, and dishonest. This correlates directly to

the flapper trend which began in the 1920’s. The flappers would smoke in public, wear more

revealing clothes, and be as reckless as they pleased. Daisy for instance, does not...
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