gatsby feminism Essay

Submitted By allilemke20
Words: 931
Pages: 4

Susan B. Anthony, a women’s rights activist once said, “The true republic: Men, their rights and nothing more; Women, their rights and nothing less.” Here she is describing her view on gender inequality during the 1920’s. She recognizes the large gap between women and men’s rights. During this time, many changes had begun. The 19th amendment extended the right of suffrage to women, therefore granting them independence. These independent women were often referred to as the “New Woman”. This was such a foreign concept to some, often times it was too much to grasp. The focus changed from politics, to social lives. Hemlines were raised and risks were taken. The confusion of this time for society is easily seen in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. In The Great Gatsby, women are portrayed as a minor role in society, that are reliant on men and seen as nothing more than a status symbol. Fitzgerald portrays his disapproval of the new sexual and social freedoms of the 1920’s through the characterization of major and minor female characters. He does this to press his anti-feminist views on the audience.
The novel abounds in minor female characters whose dress and activities identify them as incarnations of the “New Woman”. They are portrayed as clones of a single, negative character type: shallow, exhibitionist, revolting, and deceitful. At Jay Gatsby's parties, the reader sees insincere, "enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other's names"(44), as well as numerous narcissistic attention-seekers in various stages of drunken hysteria. The reader meets, for example, a young woman who "dumps" down a cocktail "for courage" and "dances out alone on the canvass to perform"(45); "a rowdy little girl who gave way upon the slightest provocation to uncontrollable laughter"(51); a drunken woman who "was not only singing, she was weeping too," her face lined with "black rivulets" created when her "tears…came into contact with her heavily beaded eyelashes" (55-56); a drunken young girl who has her "head stuck in pool" (113); to stop her from screaming; and two drunken young wives who refuse to leave the party until their husbands, tired of the women's verbal abuse, "lifted [them] kicking into the night" (57). Fitzgerald portrays these women to be obnoxious and hysteric to push his opinion that all women act as these women do, and do not deserve to hold power and be independent. The author uses the narrator’s description of minor and major female characters to express his disapproval with the idea of the “New Woman”.
The idea that Fitzgerald finds the freedom of the “New Woman” unacceptable is evident in the unsympathetic portrayals of those who exercise it. Daisy Buchanan is characterized as a spoiled brat and a remorseless killer. Although Myrtle's death is accidental, Daisy doesn't stop the car and try to help the injured woman. She speeds off and lets Gatsby take the blame. Once she learns that Gatsby doesn't come from the same social stratum as her, she retreats behind the protection of Tom Buchanan's wealth and power, abandoning her lover to whatever fate awaits him. Indeed, much of our condemnation of Daisy issues from her failure to deserve Gatsby's devotion. Although she lets Gatsby believe she will leave her husband for him, Nick observes during the confrontation scene in the New York hotel room that "Her eyes fell on Jordan and me with a sort of appeal, as though she…had never, all along, intended doing anything at all"(139). Even her way of speaking is frequently so affected-"I'm p-paralyzed with happiness"(13); "You remind me of a-of a rose, an absolute