The Great Gatsby By F. Scott Fitzgerald Essay

The Great Gatsby By F. Scott Fitzgerald Essay

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The 1920’s was an unethical period that saw the neglect of numerous social groups. Whilst we often associate 20th century America with the iniquities of segregation imposed by the Jim Crow laws, it is also the case that women were subjected to a second class role. Fitzgerald effectively presents the detrimental patriarchy in The Great Gatsby through the use of various techniques, his crafting of male characters being physically dominant, enables the reader to conclude that the 1920’s was a period of injustice. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye provides further support to this argument by presenting a corresponding rejection of female equality two decades later.

Fitzgerald presents verbal dominance, as a trait of male characters to develop the reader’s perception of the disrespect imposed upon women that feature in the novel. Throughout The Great Gatsby, Daisy is repeatedly referred to in a pronoun which extracts her own liberation, removing her from moments of heated discussion such as when we first meet the Buchanans in chapter two and Tom is discussing racial distinctions. “This is the idea that we’re Nordics. I am, and you are, and you are, and…” following an infinitesimal hesitation he includes Daisy with a slight nod. Tom appears as a caricature of patriarchy. It would seem that Daisy’s limited involvement is a result of fright and worry, although, it could be argued that in Fitzgerald’s fiction wealth leads to the infantilisation of women: Daisy has such a love for material goods that she comes across as a fully dependent child where both Tom and Gatsby are more a father figure as opposed to a lover. Nick is mystified in chapter two to learn from the McKee’s; Tom’s view that Daisy is “keeping them apart, she’s a Catholic an...


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... of The Catcher in the Rye as he is able to seduce women with his prominence and physicality. The most alluring aspect of Stradlater is that he’s “one sexy bastard” regardless of his conduct.

The cultural expectations on women expressed in The Great Gatsby certainly seem to work against empowering women. Feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft described marriage as “legal prostitution” which is in keeping with Fitzgerald’s presentation of female characters, being fond of repulsive, destructive men simply because ‘money talks’, magnifying the emptiness of relationships. Tarnishing an era with a label is difficult to widely prove, though, it would perhaps seem that the women of the 1920’s received their comeuppance as they were antithesis to love and therefore willing to be the subject of emotional and physical distress, so as long as it resulted in material wealth.

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