Nick Carraway says “Dishonesty in a woman is never a thing you can blame deeply”
In light of this comment, discuss how Fitzgerald presents the female characters in The Great Gatsby.
Fitzgerald uses the characters of Daisy Buchanan, Jordan Baker and Myrtle Wilson in his novel, ‘The Great Gatsby,’ to portray his view on the changing morals and nature of women in 1920’s America. At a time surrounding the height of decadence and hedonism after the First World War, it is inevitable that the females in the novel do not take on subordinated, traditional femininities but Fitzgerald portrays them in a much more assertive, yet negative, way, layering their personalities in a manner that suggests each of them is corrupted in some aspect.
Written from Nick Carraway’s point of view, the novel portrays his view of women drawn from his own opinions, and despite Nick claiming to be ‘one of the few honest people [he] has ever known”, he does not always “reserve judgement” as he says he does. His statement “dishonesty in a woman is never a thing you can blame deeply” concerning Jordan Baker’s cheating, portrays her character in particular as one who is merely misled or even unaware of her own flaws, yet it is obvious, through Nick’s account, that she has wittingly cheated in her golf tournament. This suggests that Nick wishes to subtly overlook the flaws in the women of the novel at the beginning, as he has a “slightly obsessive compulsion to clean things” such as fellow character’s moral flaws up, as critic Tony Tanner believes. In a way this reflects the society’s reluctance to truly blame women for their changing characteristics throughout the twenties. Even so, Fitzgerald also uses Nick’s viewpoint to demonstrate how truly careless and female characters are, as, even though he is not omniscient, he quickly realises that each woman has something to hide or a fault and at the end of the novel he makes direct remarks about each female.
Fitzgerald uses the character of Daisy Fay to ultimately expose the manipulative qualities which many women posses; on the surface she appears as an innocent, charming woman, yet underneath she is immoral and perhaps the most careless character in the novel, brutally killing Myrtle and not thinking twice. The author successfully uses the name of a seemingly delicate flower to replicate her deceitful personality, as the yellow centre of the daisy is essentially a metaphor for the corruption and carelessness which underlies Daisy’s character. Daisy’s maiden name, Fay, also suggests that she is fairy-like and therefore quite flighty, yet she also brings great, mysterious pleasure to Gatsby when she brings the mystifying ‘twinkle bells of sunshine’ back into his life. From the archaic meaning of Fay, ‘faith’ is derived and this implies that Gatsby has ultimate faith Daisy’s abilities to please him, although eventually she ‘tumble(s) short of his dreams.’
There is also very little substance to Daisy’s character; she is superficial, describing Nick as ‘like a rose’ when truthfully she has just snatched this choice of words from nowhere. Wishing her daughter to be a ‘beautiful little fool’, Daisy attempts to fulfil this description through her choice of ‘white dresses’ and her flirtatious voice, yet she is actually very shrewd and careful with her words. As Jordan Baker describes ‘it’s a great advantage not to drink among hard drinking people’ and this implies that Daisy will go to lengths to hold onto her act of being an innocent woman and not lose her guise. She is fundamentally a shallow young woman, impressed by and hungry for the safety provided by immense wealth. This aspect of her persona reflects the time that the novel is set; Daisy is hedonistic due to the ‘Jazz Age’ through which she lives, and the consumer culture existent at the time shapes her entire personality into one of obsession with money and status. Even her choice of words “I’m sophisticated” is shallow, as sophistication...
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