How might the portrayal of women in the The Great Gatsby be considered misogynistic? Overall, where do women seem to fit in Fitzgerald's examination of the American Dream?

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choucksolace eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Misogyny is the systematic hatred of women. Misogynistic portrayals in literature tend to present female characters as physically, mentally, emotionally, or morally deficient. The Great Gatsby has three major female characters: Daisy Buchanan, Jordan Baker, and Myrtle Wilson, all of whom display moral corruption and have a negative impact on the male characters of the novel. Although the male characters in the novel are depicted as complex individuals with varying degrees of morality, the female characters do not receive the same treatment.

Jordan Baker is defined by her dishonesty, having earned media attention after she cheated in a golf tournament. Although she is in a relationship with Nick Carraway, she remains emotionally detached and incapable of sincerity. Fitzgerald depicts Jordan as the typical 1920s flapper, who rejects traditional morals in pursuit of material, and particularly sensual, pleasure.

Daisy Buchanan, a close friend of Jordan who shares many of her personality traits, is the character who causes Jay Gatsby's downfall. Gatsy's desire to win Daisy's love and admiration leads him to transform himself from a poor farmboy into an Oxford scholar and wealthy businessman. Fitzgerald objectifies her, making her a symbol of the American Dream and the prize that Gatsy works so hard to obtain, despite the fact that she is currently married to another man. Her loveless marriage to her unfaithful husband Tom represents the failure of traditional domestic ideals. Gatsby's pursuit of Daisy eventually leads to his death, positioning Gatsby as a tragic hero and Daisy as the stereotypical temptress.

Myrtle Wilson is the wife of a mechanic, who seeks to achieve social mobility by becoming Tom Buchanan's mistress. She, too, represents the failure of traditional values; however she pays the ultimate price for her sins. Although Tom showers her with gifts, he also physically abuses her. When she runs out into the road to meet Tom, she is fatally struck by Gatsby's automobile, with Daisy at the wheel. Fitzgerald uses the incident to illustrate how women who are materialistic and immoral are both dangerous, causing the death of others, and doomed to misery and death themselves.



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The Great Gatsby

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