The Great Gatsby, and it gives us an insight into the gender roles of past WW1 America. Throughout the novel, women are portrayed in a very negative light. The author’s presentation of women is unflattering and unsympathetic. The women are not described with depth.
When given their description, Fitzgerald appeals to their voice, “ she had a voice full of money”, their looks “her face was lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes, and a bright passionate mouth”, and the way in which they behave, “ ’They’re such beautiful shirts’ she sobbed”, rather than their feelings or emotions, for example, Daisy is incapable of genuine affection, however she is aimlessly flirtatious. In the Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald presents all three women in a vilifying manner; Daisy is weak and careless, Jordan is dishonest and haughty, and Myrtle is unfaithful. Nick describes Jordan as “incurably dishonest”.
This introduces the ideology of distrust of women in the novel. In 1922, American women did not have the same rights as men and were often trapped in oppressive marriages and seen as the inferior sex. This inferiority is reflected through the way in which women have a secondary role in this novel. Nick’s citation concerning the dishonesty in a woman depicts the way in which throughout the novel, women’s flaws are almost exonerated. This citation of Fitzgerald also advocates that, because women do not have the same moral values as men-because they are inferior-it is therefore not their fault.
This possible proposition provides an explanation for Jay Gatsby’s ignorance towards Daisy’s vindictive nature, and Nick’s swift forgiveness of Jordan’s fraudulence. Daisy is presented as the most enigmatic, female character. Although Fitzgerald does much to make her a character worthy of Gatsby’s unlimited devotion, in the end she reveals herself for what she truly is. Despite her beauty and charm, Daisy is merely selfish, shallow, vindictive and careless. Nick comments that those like Daisy and Jordan are careless people “who smashed things up and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness”, and this is true.
Daisy misleads Gatsby in thinking she is going to escape with him and leave everything behind even though she has no real intention of doing so. Her middle name Fay means “fairy” which epitomizes her carefree, ethereal manner, as well as envisaging a flitting personality, which ties into her lack of loyalty. Ann Massa cites, “Daisy’s lack of depth and passion leads her to flinch from the real emotion and profound inner vitality which Gatsby’s life style struggles to express. She does not deal with the aftermath of her affair with Gatsby; she did not attend his funeral, abandoning him in his death, and left Nick to “clean up the mess she had made. ” She also says to Gatsby, “I’d like to get you in one of those pink clouds and put you in it and push you around. ” This suggests that she wants to escape with Gatsby, without confronting Tom with their affair. Daisy’s presented with the inability to take responsibilities for her actions, and this leads to the mistrust Fitzgerald reflects throughout the novel.
Like Jordan, Daisy is a careless character, as the accident with Myrtle shows. She is careless because she had been born into wealth and she had an endless resource of men who continually spoil her. However in spite of all her faults, Fitzgerald presents her with ingenuity as she is clearly cynical about the position she is in, and this is epitomized when she comments “the best thing a girl can be in this world” is a “beautiful little fool”. Although she displays foolishness, she is doing out of necessity as she is trapped in her marriage due to her love of money.
The materialism of the three female characters is one of the most important characteristics of the women as it explains some of the decisions they ultimately take. Evidence for Daisy’s love of money is that Tom bought her love with a $300,000 necklace, and Gatsby strives to win her back through acquiring his mansion and tailored shirts. She also married Tom instead of Gatsby because “rich girls don’t marry poor boys”, and again repeats herself when she chooses the security of Tom finally, once she heard Gatsby was a “common swindler who’d have to steal the ring he put on her hand”.
She is presented to represent the power of money-particularly the old money of America. Fitzgerald portrays her love for money and material goods with her awe at Gatsby’s shirts. Myrtle’s decision to become another man’s mistress was also down to materialism, as it was when she saw Tom’s “dress suit and patent leather shoes”, she “couldn’t keep my eye’s off him”. Fitzgerald presents Myrtle as someone who is preoccupied with material things and driven by consumerism, “She lets four taxi cabs drive away before she selects a new one”.
Tom provides her with the material yearnings, of which her husband who “borrowed somebody’s best suit to get married in” fails to do. Myrtle’s decisions, consequential of her materialism, are to raise her social status, and in such desperation it leads her to sleep with another man. This dependency on men, shown by Daisy and Myrtle is their only similarity. However Jordan is able to achieve her financial security, independently. Therefore, in order to fund her materialistic lifestyle, it causes her to cheat in order to win her golf tournament.
Although the dishonesty of the women in this novel is one of the main focuses and ways in which Fitzgerald presents women, it is not the only moral flaw they inhabit. Carelessness and materialism are also some of the imperfections they are characterised with. The ambiguity in the novel in it’s presentation of women can be understood partly a reflection of America, and Fitzgerald, perplexed by the post war “new woman”. These emancipated “new women”, the “flappers”, who drank smoked danced and voted.