F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940), the famous American novelist in the 1920s, he is known as the spokesman and laureate of the “Jazz Age”. The Great Gatsby, his masterpiece, is considered an American classic. It was first published in 1925, and is set on Long Island’s North Shore and in New York City in the summer of 1922. He displays the various aspects of the feminist philosophy by reflecting the opposing principles of society’s model through the very different women in The great gatsby.
Feminist criticism has been concerned to reveal how literary works have supported or challenged the assumptions of a male-dominated social order, often called a patriarchal society. The novel points out Tom’s views of patriarchal gender roles. He comments that women should confirm to the patriarchal gender roles for the stability of patriarchal family. In the novel, Tom seems to be the agent of male in patriarchal society who is quite hypocritical (saying one thing and doing another in nature). He maintains that these days people have forgotten by sneering the institution of family by involving in intermarriage (marriage between blacks and whites) but he keeps an extra-marital affair with Mrs. Wilson in the novel. In fact, he himself has contaminated the sacredness of marriage and the family. Similarly, Gatsby is of the opinion that daisy was his formal lover, and now she has been married to Tom, but today he has accumulated wealth and property so he can get his love back. His thinking shows the fact that in patriarchal society women are regarded as objects to be sold and bought rather than one to be respected.
The novel also shows the true picture of America in 1920s After War Period. Before the war, women did not have any freedom. They had to remain within the prescribed limit of male ideals but now they are quite free and are seen smoking and drinking like men. The society in the past would see it with doubtful eyes to those women involved in smoking and drinking, as they were regarded as exclusively male habits but in the novel women have openly challenged it. Main female characters in the novel like Daisy, Jordan Baker, and Myrtle Wilson directly challenging their traditional roles as “kitchen creature”. They all prefer the excitement of night life than the more traditional enjoyments of home and children. There is only one child among them, Daisy’s daughter Pammy. Pammy is well-looked after by a nurse and affectionately treated by her mother. Daisy’s life does not revolve exclusively around her maternal roles. All three women Daisy, Jordan Baker and Myrtle Wilson have openly challenged patriarchal sexual taboo. Jordan engages in pre-marital sex, and Daisy and Myrtle are engaged in extra-marital affair. These three women’s clothing and hairstyle are pretty modern unlike their mothers and grandmothers in the past and are equally guided by freedom seeking tendency. The patriarchal concept that women should behave modestly in public by avoiding liquor, cigarettes and immodest dancing is openly challenged by them in the novel. Hence this novel is full of the instances of the domination of females by males and the opposition of traditional male idealogy by the women.
Jordan Baker is one of the more masculine female character. She is a golfer, she’s direct, honest, straight and very cynical. In moments where most women in that time would hold their tongue Jordan takes charge. she is a direct kind of feminist. she does not take anything from anyone however she is still a woman in the 1920s therefore she is still held back by the social standards those women were forced to live by. Tom can’t believe Jordan’s family just let her run about all alone in her manner. Even Daisy, who is agitated by this remark says Nick will look after her. It is insanity to think a women in this time can be successful and independent on her own, but that is exactly what jordan baker is like. Daisy has two different sides, first is she is completely anti-feminist. she hopes her daughter to be a ”beautiful little fool” because she believes that is the best thing for her to be. she also lacked the independence to not marry Tom. Easily rolling over and be made up for her wedding by Jordan and another woman. In this view Daisy makes no choices. She just rolls along with whatever happens. Even agreeing with Tom In some aspects That Jordan needs a man like a man like nick to look after her. And on the other side she is a mastermind. She knows exactly how people view her and she understands the social standards of women at that time and she plays right into them. Marriying a rich and succesful polo player over the army man not out of him. Even Nick noticed the basic insincerity of her statement in hoping her daughter will be a fool. Daisy is subversive feminist.
Myrtle is a feminist but nothing compared to jordan or mastermind Daisy. she sees herself equal to everyone, man or woman she does not care. she will talk to everyone the same.she does not add more oe less respect to anyone. when she is drunk, loud and utterly inappropriate myrtle gives no thought to social norms. In this society everything is run by how you are perceived and Myrtle speaks exactly what is on her mind.
Nick carraway’s treatment of women is characterized by his relationships with Jordan. Nick attempts to exert control or power over her, but Jordan refuses to be controlled, leading to their relationships demise. With this in mind, it become easier to characterize the rest of Nick Carraway’s masculinity, notably his lack thereof in relation to Gatsby and, towardsthe beginning tom. Nick allows himself to be lead around and controlled, as the traditional cultural woman, being led to parties and told what to think. Nick is a veryy mallable creature until the end. From this point we can see carraway as a more feminine man, controlled by other men and unable to exert control over a woman.
In conclusion the women and men in this text are shown to be victims of social and cultural norms that they could not change. There is an attempt to redefine society and culture in a new way by gender relations and is shown to be a shaky path to the renegotiation of gender.Women in this novel do try to change the social norms, with Daisy wanting to be with Gatsby, who was not from “old money” and having a life with him, but conformed to the social norms because she felt she would be more comfortable and stable with a man she did not love.
There are layers of narrative voices, several climactic episodes or ambiguity, feminist critics might claim that this is a more feminine style of writing, despite being written by a man for a mixed audience.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby (plain text ed.). Project Gutenberg Australia.
F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby. Cambridge University Press. 1991. p. liv.
Lois Tyson’s “Critical Theory Today – Second Edition”
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Section – B