Women in the Great Gatsby
Nick Caraway says “Dishonesty in a woman is never a thing you can blame deeply’ In light of this comment, discuss how Fitzgerald presents the female characters In The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald uses the characters of Daisy Buchanan, Jordan Baker and Myrtle Wilson In his novel, The Great Gatsby,’ to portray his view on the changing morals and nature of women in sass’s America.
At a time surrounding the height of decadence and hedonism after the First World War, it is inevitable that the females in the novel do not take on subordinated, traditional femininity but Fitzgerald portrays hem in a much more assertive, yet negative, way, layering their personalities in a manner that suggests each of them is corrupted in some aspect. Written from Nick Caraways point of view, the novel portrays his view of women drawn from his own opinions, and despite Nick claiming to be ‘one of the few honest people [he] has ever known”, he does not always “reserve Judgment” as he says he does.
HIS statement “dishonesty In a woman Is never a thing you can blame deeply concerning Jordan Baker’s cheating, portrays her character In particular as nee who Is merely misled or even unaware of her own flaws, yet it is obvious, through Nick’s account, that she has wittingly cheated in her golf tournament. This suggests that Nick wishes to subtly overlook the flaws in the women of the novel at the beginning, as he has a “slightly obsessive compulsion to clean things” such as fellow character’s moral flaws up, as critic Tony Tanner believes.
In a way this reflects the society reluctance to truly blame women for their changing characteristics throughout the twenties. Even so, Fitzgerald also uses Nick’s viewpoint to monsters how truly careless and female characters are, as, even though he is not omniscient, he quickly realizes that each woman has something to hide or a fault and at the end of the novel he makes direct remarks about each female.
Fitzgerald uses the character of Daisy Fay to ultimately expose the manipulative qualities which many women posses: on the surface she appears as an innocent, charming woman, yet underneath she is immoral and perhaps the most careless character in the novel, brutally killing Myrtle and not thinking twice. The author successfully uses the name of a seemingly delicate flower to replicate her deceitful personality, as the yellow centre of the daisy is essentially a metaphor for the corruption and carelessness which underlies Daisy’s character.
Daisy’s maiden name, Fay, also suggests that she is fairy-like and therefore quite flighty, yet she also brings great, mysterious pleasure to Gatsby when she brings the mystifying twinkle bells of sunshine’ back into his life. From the archaic meaning of Fay, faith’ is derived and this implies that Gatsby has ultimate faith Delays abilities to please him, although eventually she ‘tumble(s) short of his dreams. There Is also very little substance to Delays character; she Is superficial, describing Nick as ‘like a rose’ when truthfully she has just snatched this choice of attempts to fulfill this description through her choice of White dresses’ and her flirtatious voice, yet she is actually very shrewd and careful with her words. As Jordan Baker describes ‘it’s a great advantage not to drink among hard drinking people’ and this implies that Daisy will go to lengths to hold onto her act of being an innocent woman and not lose her guise.
She is fundamentally a shallow young woman, impressed by and hungry for the safety provided by immense wealth. This aspect of her persona reflects the time that the novel is set; Daisy is hedonistic due to the ‘Jazz Age’ through which she lives, and the consumer culture existent at the time shapes her entire personality into one of obsession with money and status. Even her choice of words “I’m sophisticated” is shallow, as sophistication is usually a quality given by someone else, but as she lives in East Egg and has inherited wealth and status, she lives she is above others; she is part of some ‘secret society.
Through Daisy’s opinion that ‘rich girls don’t marry poor boys’, Fitzgerald enforces an idea that some woman don’t Just need love, as was the usual stereotype before the war, but many Just desire “the consoling proximity of millionaires” and money, this backs up the point which has been stated by critics that ‘Daisy abuses the men in her life in an emotional way, and needs security more than love’. Gatsby notes that ‘her voice is full of money, also demonstrating how Daisy is the product of her wealth, she is “the kings daughter… He golden girl” and in this way Fitzgerald portrays her as an unreachable ‘grail’ “high in a tower”.
Jordan Baker is a true representation of the androgynous women emerging in the post war years of America. Jordan represents the epitome of hedonism and recklessness at the time of flappers and strong sportswomen. However, even though Jordan is an assertive golf player, she is portrayed as ‘haughty, seeing herself above others and also ‘incurably dishonest’, cheating in a game of golf. Feminist Stefan Steen views Fitzgerald portrayal of Jordan as one of a stereotypical patriarchal society; Jordan is ’emancipated yet still morally questionable, while Nick as the male narrator is left to define the moral high ground. This implies that Fitzgerald uses Cordon’s character to demonstrate that even at a time of decadence where ‘anything goes’, women should be Judged in some way by males. However, as Nick states that ‘dishonesty in a woman is never a thing you can blame deeply, it appears that in actual fact, Jordan is still viewed as ‘Just’ a woman and therefore forgiveness for a lack of morals should be granted (even though Nick does have a change of heart towards he end of the novel. This is also the case when Gatsby remarks that “she is a great sportswoman, who would never do anything that wasn’t alright”, as there is a touch of irony considering the reader is already aware of her cheating nature. In this way, Fitzgerald both suggests that society as a whole has a misplaced trust in the changing face of women, as well as implying that Gatsby and Nick themselves are in some ways delusional about women. Jordan Baker is also a careless character, although not as much as Daisy Buchanan; at Gatsby party she openly gossips and longingly tells Nick about Gatsby and Daisy’s past.
This demonstrates how she doesn’t truly care about other’s lives, but merely enjoys the gossip that comes with the large yet ‘intimate’ parties she likes to much. Jordan is therefore an incredibly impersonal interest in him other than his attention and Nick describes her as having “impersonal eyes in the absence of desire”. This direct comparison to Gatsby lively dream and his gift for hope suggests that Jordan is the ultimate symbol of the idle rich; even concerning her own dreams, she is languid and uncaring.
Myrtle Wilson is the third main female character in the novel and as she has very little status in society on her own, she is quite a different character to both Jordan Baker and Daisy who are wealthy and from well bred backgrounds. Unlike Daisy, she is described as holding her flesh sensuously, depicting a woman who has a quality of vitality and strength about her and who refuses to give up until the very end of her tragic life when “her left breast” still swings “loose like a flap” from her body. With Myrtle being a hardy shrub, even her name sharply contrasts to Daisy’s, reflecting
Kathleen Parkinson view that there are ‘sharp contrasts between poetic power of language’ in names. Myrtle can be said to stand for the consumer society emerging during the sass boom time, as she is essentially being bought by Tom Buchanan as he sees her as another one of his material possessions while continuing his affair with her. Due to this, Fitzgerald uses Myrtle’s character to represent the section of women in society who allow themselves willingly to be treated badly by ‘hulking, hegemonic males such as Tom Buchanan.
Myrtle’s comment, “l want to get one of hose dogs” demonstrates how Myrtle appears to believe that material goods can buy her happiness, as she comes from the valley of ashes where she has very little money and very few goods. Myrtle also appears to be incredibly delusional; her delusions of grandeur are explored thoroughly when she “rejected the comment by lifting her eyebrows in disdain” when a guest to her party compliments her dress. This implies that Myrtle believes herself to be something she isn’t- wealthy and with high status, suggesting that she is truly misguided in her morals.
She even looks down on her Cubans, saying “he wasn’t fit to lick my shoe” which seems incredibly careless and unfair on George Wilson. Overall, the depictions of each main female character in the novel are quite negative ones. Through the females, Fitzgerald demonstrates his view that women can be corrupted Just as much as men such as Gatsby and Nick by the decline in the original values of the American Dream. The women are all either hiding a crucial part of their personality by attempting to be someone they are actually not, or are attempting to act out their own delusions of what they want their life to be, as Myrtle does.