Feminist Criticism in the Great Gatsby

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The focus on how women are depicted in literature is crucial and it is seen in the works of Fitzgerald in his book “The Great Gatsby”, for it was one of the many ideas that were discussed in his book. Furthermore, the idea of the feminist perspective is that it deals with the traditional impression of a man as the commanding and influencing subject who is thought to represent humanity since it is depicted that the male had overpowered females and prevented them from recognizing their own potential. The story can be appreciated for the way it has portrayed women, as the general narrative is enhanced and allows the reader to praise it for its literary value through feminist criticism. Therefore, in the book “The Great Gatsby” the feminist criticism centers on the general idea of the female experience, the differences between women and men, and the relationships between both genders.

In light of this, Fitzgerald wrote about this issue with awareness of the early twentieth century regarding female experience. Moreover, the women in “The Great Gatsby”, specifically Daisy, were seen as attractive young wives who were not only viewed as tools by men but also not heard or understood for their potentials. This idea was stated when Daisy bore a child and discovered that the child was a girl, she cried and said, ‘“All right, I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool-that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool”’ (Fitzgerald 17). These words spoken by her reveal a lot about her character. In the book, it was viewed that Daisy was alone, but not a fool since at that time the social environment didn’t show any appreciation to the intellect of women.

On the other hand, this observation can also be viewed to be a sarcastic comment because although she is referring to the social values and what they hold in her era, she doesn’t confront them. For this reason, she portrays those values as her own since she thinks that girls or females can only have fun and survive in the world if only they were attractive fools. Also, in this story Daisy is depicted to be the “American golden girl,” this was shown when Gatsby said, ‘“Her voice is full of money”’ (Fitzgerald 120). To explain, the description of Daisy’s voice represents her personality, for on the outside, she seems to be alluring and glamorous, but on the inside, she is both shallow and disloyal. Despite all that, she speaks like the sound of success, which is a “golden” that makes her enchanting to men.

Fitzgerald shows the difference between both men and women by giving readers perspicacity into the men who agree with the female illusion created by society, and how they demoralize them. Fitzgerald explores the irony that men exploit their idealized women. This idea is supported when Gatsby and Daisy were conversing together. “He began to talk excitedly to Daisy, denying everything, defending his name against accusations that had not been made. But with every word she was drawing further and further into herself” (Fitzgerald 134).

Gatsby’s life here seems to be based on the idea of getting validated and approved of himself and his actions throughout his relationship with Daisy. A feminist would see that he is trying to oppress her here, for it’s like Gatsby is trying to control and overpower Daisy by trying to keep her from leaving him while she is trying to escape him. Additionally, there seems to be a focus on individuals who also break the social standards that were set up by society. To clarify, Nick, the narrator of the story, reflects on the relationship between Tom and Myrtle and Daisy. Tom is abusing Myrtle Whilst dominating one overpowering Daisy. With attention to what happened in the following, “Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchannan broke her nose with his open hand” (Fitzgerald 37).

The only problem to happen was that he had done so in front of an audience showing that it was a social standard in a messed up system created by the society to get a male to dominate a female, Fitzgerald is using his critique by showing that it would seem out of control if she was physically abused in front of people back then. Tom is using his physical and economic power over both Myrtle and Daisy to overpower them, showing that the women in this text have no power, even when trying to gain it.

Not to mention, Fitzgerald also showed a great emphasis on the relationship between males and females. With this in mind, one has to think of one of the main characters of the story, Nick Carraway who gave a biased view on the relationship between women and men, and the chain of command regarding relationships. This relates to how Tom had a mistress and Daisy was aware of what happened but didn’t do anything to fix the problem. For that, the narrator Nick was disgusted and surprised by this since he thought that Daisy was to take her daughter and pack her things and leave him, but was surprised to know that she didn’t act on it though.

Despite that Nick seems to be unable to relate to Jordan Baker on the same level regarding how she interprets morals and ethics in simplicity, specifically about her playing golf and how she “cheated”, without thinking that he too thinks this way. This is revealed when Nick and Jordan converse near the end of the story, ‘“You threw me over the phone. I don’t give a damn about you now, but it was a new experience for me, and I felt a little dizzy for a while. I thought you were an honest, straightforward person, I thought it was your secret pride”’ (Fitzgerald 177). ‘“I’ma five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor”’ (Fitzgerald 177). This just shows how biased he is, for he too was dishonest since he was still half in love with her in the end.

In conclusion, Fitzgerald overall presentation of women and men in the early 1920s is calloused and unflattering. The society was based on men disempowering women and degrading them, and how difficult it was for a woman to survive in the 1920s because they had to act like beautiful fools and allow men to distinguish their potentials, and how the relationships were false and based on lies and putting masks on for one another. This book targeted an issue that showed how women all fell under the label of “beautiful fools” who were disempowered by men despite them having potentials that were far bigger than those of the men in that society back then.

Works Cited

  1. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1925.
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Feminist Criticism In The Great Gatsby. (2019, Mar 25). Retrieved July 19, 2024 , from

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