Discuss the following quote: "In spite of the context in which he was writing, Fitzgerald's female characters are oddly passive."  

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missy575's profile pic

missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I agree with every word above, in addition, I would like to contribute some ideas about context.

The 1920s were an era of women's empowerment. Women received the right to vote, flappers in particular started pursuing men instead of waiting for men to find them, and the prohibition movement meant lots of sneaking around for both sexes. Women would have experienced more excitement over such secrecy.

In a previously male driven world, women were beginning to ask men to dance, to work jobs just like men did, and with the right to protest for the right to vote, they did so.

20s women were aggressive and strong. These three women in The Great Gatsby all contradict that notion.

mstultz72's profile pic

mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In The Great Gatsby, the three female characters Daisy, Jordan, and Myrtle are indeed oddly passive; more, they are archetypal temptresses and flat, static characters who are described in the novel as materialistic, dishonest, and careless fools.

Daisy admits that the only thing a woman can hope to be is a "hopeless little fool."  She is a neglectful mother: she only dresses her daughter (others raise her).  She is a wife in denial of her husband's adultery.  She flirts with sailors, goes out on a date with Gatsby, and runs over Myrtle as revenge (instead of confronting her personally).  Nick characterizes her the same way Homer does the sirens from The Odyssey, as a temptress who dooms men.

Jordan Baker seems like a modern woman with her bob cut and athletic resume, but she is of little substance.  She says she hates careless people, but she doesn't realize that she's one of them.  She gossips, cheats at golf, and never commits to any man.  The Enotes essay "The Paradoxical Role of Women" says this:

Jordan Baker, whom some critics regard as little more than a device to bring Nick Carraway into the plot, is neither married nor engaged and apparently lives largely on her own except for a shadowy aunt who serves as a titular chaperone.

Myrtle is little more than Tom's "bitch."  Like the dog she buys in New York, Tom buys her.  A resident of the Valley of Ashes, Myrtle opportunistically leaps social class status during her flings in New York.  She is materialistic and spiteful.  Worse, she is a willing victim of Tom's brutality.  In the end, she naively thinks Tom is coming to take her away, and she gets run over in the process.

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