Women In The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, illustrates most women in his novels in a incredibly negative light. He portrays them as dependent upon men, selfish, and completely amoral. Jay Gatsby is in love with the wealthy Mrs. Daisy Buchannan and tries to win her love by proving that he is wealthy. However, no matter how wealthy he becomes, or how many gigantic parties he throws, he is still never good enough for Daisy. The story ends in tragedy as Gatsby is killed and dies utterly alone.
Fitzgerald’s characterization of Daisy, Myrtle, and Jordan in The Great Gatsby demonstrates women who are objectified by men and treated as their trophies, while also showing how these women have no substance of their own; they are empty shells, meant for beauty and entertainment.
Daisy Buchanan, wife of Tom Buchanan and former lover of Jay Gatsby, is a woman who is selfish, cowardly, whose feelings ran shallow, and who lacked a moral conscience.
A way that the reader can see that Daisy is extraordinarily shallow is how she reacted when Gatsby showed her his shirts. She began to cry when she saw them and when asked why, Daisy replied, “‘They’re such beautiful shirts. It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such-such beautiful shirts before.’” (Fitzgerald 98). In this quote, the reader can see that Daisy is emotional because now Gatsby is rich and she can’t have him because she’s married to Tom. This quote shows how superficial Daisy is; typically, shirts don’t bring people to tears. However, Gatsby’s wealth, which is represented by the shirts, brought Daisy to tears, therefore illustrating a sense of superficiality. She isn’t crying because of Gatsby’s shirts, she’s crying because now she can’t be with Gatsby and his new money because she’s already with someone else. She is regretful because she wants to be with Gatsby for his money.
A way that Daisy is cowardly is how she sacrificed her love for Gatsby for wealth and acceptance in her superficial society. During the time that Gatsby courted her, they could have eloped and started a family together, however because of Daisy’s cowardice; she left him because he was poor. She is unwilling to risk social ostracism by running off and marrying beneath her social status, which displays a strong sense of selfishness in her. Even after Gatsby became rich, he wasn’t the kind of refined, elegant rich that Daisy was accustomed to, meaning, Gatsby had new money. When Daisy finally attends one of Gatsby’s famous parties, she has an unpleasant time and is uncomfortable with the flashy, vulgar wealth that is being displayed. “But the rest offended her- and inarguably, because it wasn’t a gesture but an emotion. She was appalled by West Egg, this unprecedented “place” that Broadway had begotten… She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand” (Fitzgerald 113). In this quote, the reader can see Daisy’s derision of the new wealth exemplified by Gatsby.
While most characters in this novel were void in moral conscience, Daisy’s lack of a moral conscience was the most objectionable. Her amorality and coldness is most evident when she kills Myrtle and feels absolutely no remorse, because to Daisy, Myrtle is of no consequence because of her inferior social status. Myrtle’s death is no more than an inconvenient nuisance. After committing the crime, Daisy flees and receives no punishment because she allows Gatsby to take the blame for her. She takes no responsibility for her actions. Daisy confesses to Tom, who tells Myrtle’s husband, George, that the driver was Gatsby. Daisy knew that there would be some sort of confrontation because of this, but she is able to ignore this fact and allow Gatsby to take the blame because of her selfishness and amorality. In the end, Daisy had no true, deep feelings for Gatsby; only for herself.
Myrtle Wilson, wife of George Wilson and mistress of Tom Buchanan, is another female character that reflects the author’s negative view of women. Myrtle is desperate to raise her status in life. She makes impulsive decisions that have negative effects on her life such as, marrying George and having an affair with Tom. Myrtle is only interested in Tom because of his status and wealth. Even though she is physically abused by him, she stays with him because she is content with his money. Tom breaks Myrtle’s nose in a fit of violent temper. However, she reappears later in the novel at Tom’s side as if nothing has happened. This action shows how much Myrtle is void of self respect. She is intent on acting out the role of a real aristocrat and completely neglects her lowlife husband because she is unhappy living that lifestyle. “She smiled slowly and walking through her husband, as if he were a ghost shook hands with Tom, looking him flesh in the eye” (Fitzgerald 30).
In this quote, the reader can see that Myrtle has absolutely no use for her husband because he cannot help her attain the status that she so desperately wants. She often likes to pose as a wealthy woman, especially when she is hosting the party in the apartment that Tom rents for them. “I told that boy about the ice. These people! You have to keep after them all the time” (Fitzgerald 36). In this quote, the reader can see that by acting haughty and snobby, Myrtle thinks that she’s making herself sound more fancy. However, the irony is that she is part of the class of “lower people” that she is putting down. Myrtle is a woman who cheats to get what she wants, has affairs to obtain material objects, and has no self respect. In the end, all of these flawed qualities result in her tragic death.
As opposed to the other women in the novel, Jordan Baker is treated a little bit differently by the author, as she has certain masculine characteristics. She is a professional golfer who cheated her way to the top. She has masculine habits of drinking and smoking. She does not marry and is not yet willing to devote herself to a man, unlike the other female characters. She is self sufficient and is actively involved in her own interests. Jordan is harsh, cynical, and represents a new type of woman in the 1920’s. The name “Jordan” also happens to be a unisex name. Jordan has made it to the elite status and will do whatever she has to in order to stay there, including lying. “She was incurably dishonest” (Fitzgerald 63). In this way, she does have similarities to Daisy and Myrtle. She is selfish and isn’t concerned about anyone besides herself. Nick observes this as he watches the way Jordan drives. “‘You’re a rotten driver… suppose you met somebody just as careless as yourself.’ ‘I hope I never will. I hate careless people.’” (Fitzgerald 63).
In this quote, the reader can see how Jordan is extremely selfish and indifferent. She likes to drive fast and she doesn’t care about the repercussions to other drivers. Jordan is very haughty, arrogant, and condescending, and looks down upon others who she considers to be below her. “‘You live in West Egg,’ she remarked contemptuously.” (Fitzgerald 15). In this quote, the reader can see that Jordan is judging Nick for living on the more poor side of town. Like the other women in this novel, Jordan’s main concern is for money and class. This is why she feels the need to lie and cheat in order to maintain her lofty status, socialize with the “in-crowd” in order to get a wealthy reputation, and has a natural tendency to be condescending towards anyone below this esteemed position.
In this novel, each of the women’s sense of morality has been stunted by the morals of the society that they grew up in. Because the morals of these women, Daisy, Myrtle, and Jordan, are so lacking and warped, these women have never developed a sense of compassion or empathy. For them, the line between right and wrong is extremely blurred. F. Scott Fitzgerald has invented female characters that are so unlikeable that one can speculate whether the author is trying to send a message about the treatment of women during this time period. Perhaps the times didn’t allow women of good character to dominate or be given the opportunity to develop into likable people. Perhaps Fitzgerald’s characterization of these women is more a condemnation of the period, and he is using these characters to illustrate that. in order for women of good and upstanding character to develop and flourish, society as a whole would have to become more upstanding and moral. This woman are simply a sign of the times and as society changes, evolves, and develops, hopefully its women will too.
A Closer Look at F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of the most complex and fascinating characters is the sociable, magniloquent Daisy Buchanan. Daisy’s inveiglement and charm are almost opaque, but through careful and diligent analysis, her confident façade is shattered. The fascia of Daisy Buchanan can be compared to the physique Barbie doll; exemplary and desirable. However when you dig beneath the infatuating surface, Daisy is replete with self-doubt. The Great Gatsby records the pursuit of Daisy led by Jay Gatsby, however Daisy is already married with a child. She is unsure of her familial relations, whether regarding her daughter whom she is estranged from, or her husband whom she does not love. She searches for the acceptance of the people around her, because she does not accept herself. Nonetheless, Daisy attempts desperately to secrete these feelings of crippling uncertainty from those in her life. She tries concealing them with false confidence and charisma, and manages to fool the characters in the novel. Throughout the book, Daisy’s bombastic, gregarious temperament is truly nothing greater than a masking of her own gnawing insecurities. One area in which Daisy’s inner doubts are exposed is in her maternity.
Though this particular insecurity is not visibly reoccurring throughout the novel, the impairment of her broken family life is perfectly clear to any reader. The relationship shared by Daisy and her daughter is apparently impersonal and slightly awkward. While most young mothers are eager to divulge every feature of their children to their friends out of absolute adoration, Daisy hardly ever mentions her daughter. Finally when Jordan, Nick, and Gatsby gather in the Buchanan home, they are introduced to Daisy and Tom’s rumored child. Evidently, the mother-daughter relationship is uncomfortable and detached. For example, Daisy refers to herself in third person, the most dispassionate of narrations. Daisy asks her daughter to “come to [her] mother” in order for Daisy to place her on display before the guests (117). Daisy acts this way as a result of her own relationship with her family, resulting from when she was a youth.
When Jordan reveals how Daisy and Gatsby met, she includes that Daisy’s “mother had found her packing her bag one winter night to go to New York and say good-by to a soldier who was going overseas”, namely, Jay Gatsby, but Daisy’s efforts came to no fruition (75). Daisy’s mother “effectually prevented” her; however the damages done were irrevocable (75). “She wasn’t on speaking terms with her family for several weeks” as a result of the soldier incident (75). Daisy had a fragile family life which left substantial consequences on her. Thus, when Daisy is in the reverse role as a parent, she tells her daughter that she is making an appearance “because [her] mother wanted to show [her] off” (117). And clearly, the child reciprocates the limited passion and consoles only “shyly” with her mother and asks “[where] daddy” is (117). Nevertheless, as per norm, Daisy refuses to express any sort of remorse concerning her family’s diminished condition, and hides this uncertain diffidence with charm.
Another familial insecurity Daisy possesses and tries assiduously to conceal is her snafued relationship with former famous football athlete, Tom Buchanan. Tom is an egotistical, proud man who settles down with Daisy and shares a daughter with her. And though Daisy and Tom are both sociable extraverts who share a love for wealth, beauty, and charm, they are deeply unsatisfied with their marriage and attempt incessantly to hide their discontent. The first area in which readers openly see Daisy’s disgruntlement in matrimony is when Nick finds Daisy crying after he discovers that Tom has a mistress in New York. Through her absolute sorrow, Daisy recounts the story of her daughter’s birth: “She was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling, and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. ‘All right’ I said, ‘I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool- that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool’” (17).
This is the initial moment when the façade of Tom and Daisy’s perfect marriage crumbles before Nick’s eyes. Daisy’s exasperation is clearly the product of an unhealthy marriage. Obviously, in everyday life Daisy tries disguising her sorrow and overcompensates in flamboyant theatrics. Her alluring charisma is merely a result of her hidden hurt feelings, as after Tom insists that Daisy loves him, she states declaratively “as if it mattered to you” (133). An additional area in which Daisy’s fascia dissolves is when Jordan recounts how she “came into [Daisy’s] room half an hour before [Daisy’s] bridal dinner, and found her lying on her bed… drunk as a monkey” (76). After further investigation, Jordan found that Daisy was having serious qualms about marrying Tom, and drunkenly begs Jordan to inform all of the guests that the wedding is off and that she does not love Tom. However after Daisy becomes sober and recovers her faultless persona, “she married Tom Buchanan without so much as a shiver”, ignoring her hesitant emotions completely (76). Later it is shown that the lover who was with Tom on their honeymoon “got into the papers… she was one of the chambermaids in the Santa Barbra Hotel” (77).
The fact that Tom cheated on Daisy on their honeymoon clearly indicates that their marriage was not strong. Nonetheless, Daisy disguises her distraught emotions using her bombastic personality and makes remarks that are delightfully vulgar. She jokes with Nick that she will “fling [Nick and Jordon] together”, because it is too late for her own marriage to be helped (18). Hiding her ruined marriage with Tom is yet another area which Daisy tries to ignore but is secretly hurt by. The last, and most painfully apparent insecurity which Daisy retains is her need to be loved, which stems from her own self-doubt. Daisy does not like herself, and therefor looks to others for compassion. This hidden insecurity is covertly displayed through her actions, for example, Nick says Daisy’s glance felt like “there was no one in the world she so much wants to see” or her voice as one “that the ear follows up and down, as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again” (9). However what Nick neglects to realize is that these perceivably charming features Daisy possesses are truly just her blatant attempts to ingratiate those around her. Daisy longs to be loved and missed, as she begs Nick “ecstatically” to tell her if the people in her former town “miss [her]” (9).
Furthermore, it is arguable whether the quarrel fought by Gatsby and Tom really just boosted Daisy’s ego, rather than deter her emotional state. Daisy loves watching the two rich, powerful men fight for her affection, and though she meekly suggests the two don’t compete, she “never, all along, intended doing anything at all” (132). And when the argument appears like its ending, before a conclusion is met Daisy begs that everyone “get out”, hoping to prolong the dispute (133). Daisy adores being wanted, mainly because she is not confident herself. She looks towards men and other people to fill the void within her, expressed through Nick’s description of her face, calling it “sad and lovely” (9). Daisy’s need to be needed in a supplementary fault she tries desperately to hide with persuasive charm and flashy smiles. Throughout the Gatsby, Fitzgerald paints Daisy in a lugubrious light. She is a beautiful, wealthy woman who feels no compassion towards herself.
Rather than confront her convoluted, distressing emotions, Daisy masks them in an unhealthy manner. She runs from confrontation and silently begs for attention and love from those around her. She has an impaired relationship with her daughter as a result of her own family, but shows no pain resulting from being a completely distant mother. Additionally, her marriage with Tom Buchanan is insalubrious and destroys any hope of Daisy gaining self-confidence, for Tom does not make Daisy feel loved. Lastly, and most painfully present within Daisy, is her desire to be desired. Daisy looks to other the fill the void residing within herself. Daisy lives a lonely life in silence, masking it with flamboyant charm and flashy possessions. However The Great Gatsby truly proves that Daisy’s doleful and isolated life does not compare to monetary riches and flashy smiles.
“EasyBib: The Free Automatic Bibliography Composer.” EasyBib. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 June 2014. Fitzgerald, F. Scott, and Matthew J. Bruccoli. The Great Gatsby. New York, NY: Scribner, 2013. Print.
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