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Feminism in 'The Great Gatsby'

Is Nonexistent

After reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I am left a bit surprised by the female characters. Half of them seem to be independent and embracing their opportunities to be something more than a wife, whereas the others seem to be depend solely on the men in their lives and don’t seem to fully grasp their own free will.

Daisy Buchanan is a homebody wife. She does not care for her daughter, letting the nanny do that, but she neither has a job, nor does she seem to have any sort of hobby or sport she can enjoy while her husband is gone. She stays home and hangs out with her friends and seems to only go to social situations with her husband Tom. This seems to be the type of woman he enjoys because his mistress, Myrtle Wilson, is the same. She depends on Tom (mostly his money) for her clothes, perfume, magazines, and even her dog. Neither of these women seem to grasp that they don’t have to rely on Tom and, if they do, they don’t seem to fully embrace that notion and prefer to stay home.

On the flipside, Daisy’s best friend, Jordan, and Myrtle’s sister, Catherine, are both embracing their lives. They live life to the fullest and attend parties and have fun with themselves rather than settling down. Catherine lives in a hotel with other women and Fitzgerald never mentions a man in her life, making it seem like she is either single, dating one of the women she lives with, or she simply doesn’t let him dictate her lifestyle. Jordan is similar in that she parties at Jay Gatsby’s house even if she is alone, plays golf in order to make some money, manages her own life, as well as drinking and driving (hopefully not together). Daisy and Myrtle seem overly reliant on Tom and his money, comfort, and companionship and their lives seem to revolve around their husbands and their affairs. Whereas Jordan and Catherine don’t let a man dictate any part of their lives.

Yet despite these strong and meek characters, I can’t decide whether or not this novel is in support of feminism or not. Fitzgerald seems to maintain a delicate balance with two characters who are not strong and independent, and two who are. However, he upsets this balance in the end of the book by making Jordan marry another man and succumb to the social pressures surrounding her life. I would love for this novel to support feminism and be able to say that is a minor theme, but it isn’t. Whether Fitzgerald is sexist, writing about only the American dream, or just avoiding the topic, this book can’t at all be considered groundbreaking or even mildly politically important.

Granted, the two who are independent are the minor characters in the book, so I can very well assume feminism and the importance of women being in control and in power are not the focus of the book. I also know that my teacher says it is not about that, but I would like to believe that F. Scott Fitzgerald added Catherine and Jordan to his novel in order to add a subtle amount of feminism to the mix rather than letting the book be controlled by a misogynistic man and the story of his love life and the domino effect that it causes.

Yes we can look up to Jordan and her independent life and all of her success (even if it comes from cheating), but this novel is in no way in support of equality or feminism. 

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