Gender Roles In The Roaring 1920s: An Examination Of The Women Of The Great Gatsby

2258 words - 9 pages

The Great Gatsby is often referred to as the great American novel; a timeless commentary on the American Dream. A dream that defines success, power, love, social status, and recreation for the American public. It should be mentioned that this novel was published in 1925, which is a time when the American public had recently experienced some significant changes, including women’s suffrage, which had only taken place 6 years prior to the publication of this novel May of 1919. The women of this era had recently acquired a voice in politics, however, the social world does not always take the same pace as the political world. F. Scott Fitzgerald developed female characters that represented both women in their typical gender roles and their modern counterparts. I will be analyzing gender roles within the context of this novel, comparing and contrasting Myrtle Wilson, Jordan Baker, and Daisy Buchanan alongside one another, as well as comparing and contrasting their interactions with the men in the novel.
In Leland S. Pearson, Jr.’s essay “Herstory” and Daisy Buchanan,” Pearson explains why Daisy’s character is incomplete in the novel. Particularly in this paragraph:
“Despite Nick’s Judgement of her carelessness and “basic insincerity,” her conspiratorial relationship with Tom, Daisy is victimized by a male tendency to project a self-satisfying, yet ultimately dehumanizing, image on woman. If Gatsby had “wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy” (p. III); if Nick had nearly recovered a “fragment of lost words” through the inspiring magic of her voice, then Daisy’s potential selfhood is finally betrayed by the world of the novel. Hers remains a “lost voice,” and its words and meaning seem “uncommunicable forever.”
Pearson’s reflection upon Daisy’s voice in the novel is particularly intriguing because that described male tendency to project image on woman comes up time and time again, not only with Gatsby, but with the narrator, Nick. Early on in the story he describes her voice,
"I looked back at my cousin, who began to ask me questions in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down, as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again. Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered "Listen," a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour.” (Gatsby 9). In this paragraph, Nick talks about her voice in relation to men, as if a woman is a mere accessory to a man. He does not describe her voice in detail when she is talking to Ms. Baker, but rather about how it makes a man feel, as if describing an ethereal siren. A woman who’s pure existence...

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