Feminist Criticism of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
810 Words4 Pages
Feminist Criticism of The Great Gatsby
The pervasive male bias in American literature leads the reader to equate the experience of being American with the experience of being male. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, the background for the experience of disillusionment and betrayal revealed in the novel is the discovery of America. Daisy's failure of Gatsby is symbolic of the failure of America to live up to the expectations in the imagination of the men who "discovered" it. America is female; to be American is male; and the quintessential American experience is betrayal by woman. Fetterley believes that power is the issue in the politics of literature. Powerlessness characterizes woman's experience of reading not only because…show more content…
It is she for whom men compete, and possessing her is the clearest sign that one has made it into that magical world. Gatsby's desire for Daisy is enhanced by the fact that she is the object of the desires of many other men. Daisy is the most expensive item on the market as Tom points out when he gives her a string of pearls valued at $350,000 on the night before they are married. She is that which money exists to buy. Having her makes Tom Buchanan's house in East Egg finished and "right"; not having her makes Gatsby's mansion in West Egg incomplete and "wrong." Daisy is viewed as a possession rather than a person. There are no emotional relations between Gatsby and Daisy to give an account of; there is only an emotional relation between Gatsby and his "unutterable visions," of which she is the unwitting symbol.
Not only are women treated as inanimate objects in The Great Gatsby, they are also shown as childlike and without morality, whereas it is actually the men who have these characteristics. One can see this in the way that Nick Carraway treats Daisy and Jordan. Nick conceals the fact that Daisy was the driver of the car that killed Myrtle Wilson, supposedly because of his loyalty to Gatsby. But his deceit derives not simply from his loyalty to the dead Gatsby; it is equally the product of his assumption that women, rich women in particular, are incapable of moral responsibility. He even admits to having a different standard of honesty for women than he has for
Women share much of the focus that the men do in this book; however, they are not always shown in a positive light. In fact, they are often seen as negative things that only hold the men back. As we begin the book, Daisy is seen as a sort of pessimist when mentioning her newly born female baby. When she first offhandedly mentions her daughter, she doesn’t even specify the gender. This could be taken several ways. One way is that Daisy doesn’t care much about her daughter at all. This idea is supported later when Daisy says after Nick has asked about her daughter, “I suppose she talks, and–eats, and everything” (Fitzgerald 16). Another way to look at it, which seems to be more plausible given the context of the book, is that she is disappointed in having a female, rather than a male, child. When Daisy is explaining to Nick her daughter’s birth, she explains how she wept and said of her daughter, “…I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool” (17). This not only shows Daisy’s cynicism for the world they live in, but also her idea of women in the world. In her eyes, women have no place in this world to be intelligent, only beautiful and stupid. The best thing a woman could be in the world is eye-candy for the hulking brutes. To her, that is the best way for a woman to get ahead in life. While this may seem as recognition of the plight of women in the world from Daisy, her actions later in the book imply that she wants to do nothing to change it. Gatsby describes her as having a “voice full of money” (120). The ideal woman Gatsby once loved has been corrupted with money and the lifestyle that Tom has provided for her. She has allowed herself to become a snooty, rich American. When Daisy is finally confronted with whom she should choose, Tom or Gatsby, she ends up staying with her cheating, hulking, brute of a husband. While this may seem the fault of the husband, and cheating most certainly is his fault, going back to him even though she knows he is a cheater makes her look nearly as bad because she is comfortable with her wealthy lifestyle that Tom provides for her.