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Scott Fitzgerald’s book, “The Great Gatsby,” writes about gender roles conservatively, portraying women as having fewer rights than men who take this opportunity to establish power and reputation. According to Sarah (2020), Fitzgerald’s literature illustrates a culture that the patriarchy controls, clearly showing double standards between sexes and inequality as women are pushed under many standards that their male counterparts do not have to follow. Gender roles throughout the novel are pretty traditional, with men dominating over women who have low expectations for any possible achievement placed among them by society. Besides, men labor to earn cash for women to spend on themselves, a phenomenon instilled in them at a younger age where women and men are assigned specific jobs and told what their future holds for them. Fitzgerald depicts a society where women have to be attractive and reliant on men while men have to be strong and authoritative. The author portrays gender roles through men’s superiority and women’s characterization, which ensures the reliance on males appears significant. As a result, preconceived gender roles define social identity and characterize individual personalities.
Gender Roles Stereotyping in “The Great Gatsby”
While Fitzgerald wrote “The Great Gatsby” during a period when women’s roles were dramatically changing, the book has its women characters subdued by the men with their physical and authoritative strength. Despite women’s roles changing from homemakers to workers who can play more significant roles in society, Fitzgerald manifests that women are still in many ways powerless by making men superior to women. Daisy and Myrtle’s way of living displays this phenomenon, with the two characters having to deal with emerging ideas of women’s place in society but gradually becoming disregarded while fading into the novel. The only thoughts and demands overheard are from males, and women throughout the book have to become assimilated within common feminist customs. Daisy and Myrtle’s survival depends on men, an act that makes them delicate and emotive beings. They are frowned upon for getting jobs as society does not mean for them to be independent, with a large population in their twenties settling to stay at home, bear children, and make their men look good. Besides, they face political oppression having to remain quiet and stand by their husbands’ decisions as social equality among sexes has no meaning. Daisy references her daughter by saying, “I am glad it is a girl. And I hope she will be a fool: That is the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool”, a sentence that shows how powerless a woman is and gender double standards (Fitzgerald, 2003). Throughout the book, patriarchal control thrives, there is a lack of gender equality regarding economic freedom, and society pushes a woman under many standards men do not follow (Lyons, 2016). Women adhere to a silent, deep-rooted social code that stresses conventionality depicting their place as the kitchen or the arm of their men rather than the significant roles of building society.
Masculinization and Feminization of Roles in the Book
The world of “The Great Gatsby” has gender norms shaping the social life dynamics that reflect pervasive gender customs in today’s setting. While masculinity is typical amongst men characters, with husbands supposed to be commanding and violent in romantic relationships, feminism commands women who have to be happy and quiet. The roles of women versus men in marriage are pretty traditional, and the author’s unwillingness to change this outlook creates a male-dominated society. Tom is allowed to be violent and vulgar to Myrtle, whereas she is not allowed to defend herself. Besides, despite being married, Tom can move from one relationship to another without criticism, whereas such an action from a woman leads to society’s judgment (Zeven & Dorst, 2021). The book has its women characters oppressed psychologically, the author allowing men to shut them down as their opinions are automatically worthless. In one instance, Fitzgerald states, “…the ownership of women, specifically Daisy, reinforces the myth of women as Commodity. Just as Gatsby replaces $265000 party dresses, Tom acquires Daisy with a string of $350000 pearls” (Fitzerald, 2003). This quote illustrates women as a commodity rather than a privilege and a prize to be won. However, Sarah notes that the book portrays masculinity as a concept divorced from softer virtues of emotional sensitivity and compassion and one that evokes aggression and physical strength as its main component. Jenner (2022) supports Sarah’s perceptions by stating that men exert physical power to control women, with the books depicting their continued dominance over women. Besides, they maintain their societal position by repudiating their emotional interior and penetrating the dynamic mysteries of other males. The aggressive masculinity becomes co-opted by the wealthy, who utilize their hardness to guard themselves against feminine characteristics of leisure life and become entangled with the valid means of producing wealth.
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Fitzgerald chooses to display gender roles in the book conservatively while somewhat differentiating between the independence of female characters and male dominance within society. While his book revolves around the period when women become liberated and exert a more significant degree of power, the book’s social setting portrays men’s dominance over women regarding gender roles. This depiction of double standards and feminine characters’ portrayal combine to produce a reader’s subconsciousness of a changing society yet to achieve gender equality. As a result, female characters are less important to the novel, with the author depicting a culture where women have to be attractive and reliant on men. In contrast, men have to be strong and authoritative. Besides, male characters must work to earn money and maintain their women.
- Fitzgerald, S. F. (2003). The Great Gatsby: The Only Authorized Edition. Scribner.
- Jenner, M. (2022). Gender Roles. The Great Gatsby Guide. https://javinny.weebly.com/gender-roles.html
- Lyons, C. (2016). Gender Roles in the Great Gatsby [Slides]. Prezi.com. https://prezi.com/nesjrbhfhzsl/gender-roles-in-the-great-gatsby/
- Sarah, T. (2020). The Great Gatsby, Gender, and Masculine Anxiety. Honors Senior Capstone Projects. Merrimack ScholarWorks. Merrimack College. https://scholarworks.merrimack.edu/honors_capstones/53/?utm_source=scholarworks.merrimack.edu%2Fhonors_capstones%2F53&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages
- Zeven, K., & Dorst, A. G. (2021). A beautiful little fool? Retranslating Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby. Perspectives, 29(5), 661-675.