What was the role of women in 1920s, as shown in The Great Gatsby

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that Fitzgerald's depiction of women in The Great Gatsby is a complex one.  Certainly, one element is that he shows women to be an active part of a social scene that does not really validate true emotions.  In a configuration where people seek to get ahead, display materialist notions of the good, and use others as means to an end as opposed to an end in their own right, women are shown to be an active agent in this cycle.  Myrtle is used and, rather than recognize this and empower herself, she looks down on George as nothing more than a bumpkin.  Daisy is shown to be one who lacks the moral fiber or the courage to be able to break free of a setting where she is nothing more than an ornament of wealth.  Her flight to Tom and rejection of Gatsby where her own sense of independence in character could be defined is evidence of this.  Finally, Jordan Baker is amoral.  She is shown to be willing to do anything to get what she wants.  The depiction of women is one in which the most glamorous and yet the worst of the flapper is shown.

However, I tend to think that Fitzgerald is using the women in the book to illuminate something larger about what it means to be a person living in the spirit of the Jazz Age.  There is a hollowness in the women that Fitzgerald sees as part of the time period.  It is not as if the men of the time period are honorable, sincere, and authentic and only the women are shallow and materialistic.  Fitzgerald's genius is that he recognizes this in the time period with the entire of society.  Men and women are fraudulent in their emotional connections with one another.  Men and woman are duplicitous, and men and women are creatures that truly believe in “a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy's wing.”  This is where Fitzgerald's depiction of women is more of a statement on the time period, as a whole.

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The Great Gatsby

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