In the Sound and the Fury and the Great Gatsby, William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald interweave the themes of community, family, past, and present, all of which shape the interactions of the men and women. Although the main roles in both of these novels are occupied by men, both Faulkner and Fitzgerald seem particularly interested in the provocations and drives of females. Fitzgerald presents Daisy, wife to Tom Buchanan, a showoff from an aristocratic family who gives Daisy a wealthy lifestyle and who helps her maintain her image of properness. Caddy, Faulkner’s creation, on the other hand, is a young woman who recognizes the hypocrisy and phoniness of the society around her and chooses to reject it. Neither Daisy nor Caddy tell their own story; rather the reader perceives them through the eyes of others, notably the men.
The two women, despite living in seemingly very different environments, share similarities and differences in their views on promiscuity, reputation and marital relationships. These women do drive the stories, but their attempt to exercise free will leads to their personal destruction. The presence of Caddy and Daisy are central, but they are trapped by their destructive connections to the men and the patriarchal society around them.
Daisy, the romanticized fantasy woman for Gatsby and the conveniently beautiful and socially skilled wife of Tom Buchanan, personifies how Daisy’s sexuality stimulates desires in men and often leads to destruction. Daisy Fay captivated Gatsby when he was a soldier ready to leave for war. They met in Louisville where Daisy was debutante who was enchanted by a man in uniform. At the time, she was unaware that Gatsby was the son of poor farmers and that “his parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people – his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all”(64). Although they had come from from such vastly different backgrounds Daisy and Gatsby sleep together before he leave for war.
On the last afternoon before he went abroad, he sat with Daisy in his arms for a long, silent time. It was a cold fall day, with fire in the room and her cheeks flushed. Now and then she moved and he changed his arm a little, and once he kissed her dark shining hair. The afternoon had made them tranquil for a while, as if to give them a deep memory for the long parting the next day promised. They had never been closer in their month of love, nor communicated more profoundly one with another, than when she brushed silent lips against his coat’s shoulder or when he touched the end of her fingers, gently, as though she were asleep.(150)
That act to Gatsby, was the thing that seal the deal between the two. It is also an example of Daisy’s willingness to accept Gatsby’s physical attentions without understanding very much about who he was or what his expectations would lead to. This is also an example of Daisy showing that she is willing to be the object of desire, and is not as innocent as she appears. Although she promised Gatsby she would return to him, upon his return, he discovered Daisy had already married Tom Buchanan, a man from an affluent family. Daisy’s social status dictated this choice and it is understandable that she would not push back against her family’s expectations. This loss was the most significant in Gatsby life and continued to feed his obsession for Daisy.
From the very beginning he believed she was everything he had ever wanted. Though Daisy does does marry Tom after Gatsby leaves, there is evidence that she did have real feelings for him at one point, but it was her family which ultimately destroyed her fairy tale. Jordan reveals to Nick that “wild rumors were circulating about her – how her mother had found her packing her bag one winter night to go to New York and say goodbye to a soldier who was going overseas. She was effectually prevented, but she wasn’t on speaking terms with her family for several weeks. After that she didn’t play around with the soldiers anymore…” (75). Although she eventually succumbs to the expectation of what a woman is supposed to do and love, it is still an internal battle for her. “She groped around in a wastebasket she had with her on the bed and pulled out the string of pearls. “Take ’em down-stairs and give ’em back to whoever they belong to. Tell ’em all Daisy’s change’ her mine. Say: ‘Daisy’s change’ her mine!’”( 76). In this passage Daisy has to suppress her true emotions, and reject her impulse for independence, in order to do what is expected of her. Daisy can only demonstrate her rebellion by throwing away a string of pearls.
Unlike Daisy, Caddy is a life force, who refuses to curb her high spirits and spontaneity. Caddy refuses to suppress her sexuality even though in Faulkner’s Southern white world, women of Caddy’s station in life are not expected to have personal desires and passions. The reader struggles to understand her because she can only be viewed through the eyes of the male characters, and is allowed not even one small section of her own in the novel. This does not mean Caddy is unimportant to the novel. In fact Caddy is the central point in the Benjy and Quentin section, and in the Jason section her daughter is the main focus which inadvertently is her basically.
Caddy Compson is not the typical Southern belle. She is full of desire and hopeful freedom. From the beginning, it is evident that Caddy is not not one to follow the rules. Even as a child, she had a sense of curiosity and daring, which is shown as she recklessly climbs a tree on their property. Caddy’s desire to climb the tree and actually doing so, is an example of how she refuses to accept the societal norms in this place and time. To her brothers, her devilish behavior is an example of her wickedness. Her brothers yell, “you, Satan”(29) to try to get her to come down. Versh warns Caddy that her Mother will get angry if her dress is wet, “Your mommer going to whip you for getting your dress wet.” (2) However, Caddy is headstrong and does not listen to what Versh or her mother think or say. She declares her mother is not “ going to do any such thing.” This scene takes place when Caddy is still very young, but it foreshadows the adolescent and womanly attitude that she will gradually develop. She refuses to be manipulated or corralled by anyone including her mother or the patriarchal structure that tries to close in on her.
Caddy is the main focus of all three sections of the book, and she is the only person in the book that really displays any true morals or compassion. The family focuses on what they view as her indecent behavior, but the way that she treats Benji, for example, stooping to his level to talk to him, reflects her human decency and actually sets her apart from the others. “ With Benji, Caddy is constantly gentel, loving, and teaching.”( Language and Act: Caddy Compson, pg. 50)
Similarly, telling her mother that Benji’s name does matter proves that she is, in fact, a good person. For Benji, she is really the most important person in his life, most likely the only one that cares for him other than Disley. She is constantly trying to make her brother happy, while her brother Quenten does not exactly hurt Benji, he really does not do anything specifically nice either. As for Jason he really does nothing good for Benji at all, in fact Jason teases him.
Although its is evident that Caddy has all these admirable qualities, all of that goodness is masked by her overwhemiling association with sextuality and that she does not follow the social norms of the South. In the novel, Faulkner tries to suggest that the social code of the South at fault for Caddy’s behavior. The question though of responsibility does arise when thinking about Caddy because though the eyes of her brothers she can be seen as irresponsible when it comes to herself and her body, since she sleeps around . On the other hand, when she finds out that she is pregnant, she makes the decision to marry Herbert, even though she knows that he is not the father. She doesn’t care about ensuring pure blood lines. However when it comes to her child, she doesn’t want her daughter to be stigmatised. This is an instance in which Caddy does not put her personal wishes ahead of the wellbeing of someone that she loves. Caddy’s promiscuity is a response to the hypocrisy of the Compson family pride and her assertion for independence. Nevertheless, she was willing to sacrifice her own values for the sake of her daughter, once again demonstrating that her capacity for love is greater than any of the other Compson’s.
Both Daisy and Caddy are a product of their time. Both women are alluring to men, and discover that their sexuality is their only currency. Therefore, they use it in order to maintain their sense of self. In the end, Daisy succumbs to her desire to maintain her status and privilege at all costs. Caddy, on the other hand, rejects what is expected of her and runs away even though it means abandoning her daughter and giving up any semblance of decorum. In the last analysis, the patriarchy wins in both worlds.
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