The Great Gatsby Gender Roles

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Young men and women have wrestled with gender conventions throughout the centuries. In previous decades, men and women had different expectations and were allocated various obligations based on gender. Thankfully, gender conventions have adjusted to meet the current culture. However, despite the immense efforts to reach absolute equality between men and women, certain misconceptions remain. For instance, men are typically considered to earn more money than women, while women are supposed to be responsible for cooking and child care. In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, stereotypes and gender norms between young men and women are prominently displayed through the main characters’ features, actions, and decisions.

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Fragile

Frankly, Fitzgerald depicts male superiority over females. A compelling example is  Myrtle Wilson and Tom Buchanan. Furthermore, after discovering his wife’s adultery, George Wilson states, “I have Myrtle locked up there… and she is going to remain there till the day after tomorrow, and then we are going to leave” (Fitzgerald, 1925, page 143). Thus, it may be concluded that he is the leader without question. However, it is the precise opposite for women. The value of women is consistently portrayed as equal to their outward appearance. For instance, “I’m pleased it’s a girl,” Daisy says of her baby. She hopes to one day be “a lovely little idiot” as well (Fitzgerald, 1925, page 21). Daisy is a representation of contemporary gender roles. She is an artificially created beauty with no control over her destiny. In this way, Fitzgerald demonstrates how prevalent cultural views and gender norms are.

American Dream

Perhaps the most glaring and obvious example of a character who breaks with the gender norms of Fitzgerald’s day is Jordan. Jordan is a fantastic role model for those who identify as gender nonconforming since they find it difficult to conform to female or male gender stereotypes. Fitzgerald’s character name for this kind of person was deliberately chosen to imply ambivalence and ambiguity about gender norms. Additionally, Jordan’s character partakes in various pursuits more often associated with males, such as those seen in sports and popular culture. Just as Jordan’s behavior and appearance break with the conventions of gender and time, so does his attitude. For instance, “I observed that she wore her evening dress, all of her equipment like sports attire.” (Fitzgerald, 1925, page 46). Her movements had the vitality of someone who had just learned how to stroll about golf courses on clear, crisp mornings.

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The definition of such a definitive word eloquently illustrates Jordan’s unfamiliarity and discomfort with the feminine apparel of her peers. Given her demeanor, it can be concluded that she started trading in ruses at an early age to satisfy the needs of her strict, energetic body and maintain the calm, haughty appearance she presents to the world. No longer could she tolerate being outmatched. Fitzgerald emphasizes Jordan’s defiance of convention and does not necessarily match established gender standards throughout the historical period by focusing on this discrepancy in something as fundamental as attire.

Furthermore, Fitzgerald represents the other women in the book to assist in reinforcing the old gender stereotypes that were prevalent at the time and, to a considerable degree, still dominate our perception of gender and gender roles today. For instance, Myrtle is shown as incredibly sensual, paying particular attention to her physical features and the revealing attire she dons throughout the book. Myrtle is efficiently objectified and sexualized due to the story’s restrictions, perfectly enacting conventional gender norms for women (Thornton, 1979). Not content to leave Myrtle and Daisy’s interpretation to the rules of traditional gender roles, Fitzgerald draws attention to the ironic contrast that arises when both women wear white dresses. This action appears to be a symbol of innocence and purity but is far from illustrative of both of these women’s lives.

The fact that Fitzgerald, sarcastically analyzing the absence of innocence in these two women’s lives, uses conventional gender norms as a yardstick to judge whether or not they can be classed within the confines of the period is particularly noteworthy. Fitzgerald describes this dynamic as “the solitary fully immobile element in the room was a huge sofa on which two young girls were hoisted up as though atop an anchored balloon” (Tripp, 2020).

In conclusion, Although F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work may be interpreted in various ways, the gender roles and how they are shown in the novel’s narrative offer the characters and the challenges that ultimately befall them with arguably the most clarity. Scott Fitzgerald provides the reader with multifaceted characters that stand for different aspects of the human gender dynamic and the impacts of the emerging sexual freedom and the feminist movement. As a result of both conventional and unconventional gender roles, this is feasible.

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  1. Fitzgerald, F. S. (1925). The Great Gatsby. Matthew Bruccoli (foreword). Scribner (June 1, 1995).
  2. Thornton, P. P. (1979). Sexual roles in The Great Gatsby. ESC: English Studies in Canada, 5(4), 457-468. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/692834/summary
  3. Tripp, S. (2020). The Great Gatsby, Gender, and Masculine Anxiety. Merrimack ScholarWorks. Merrimack College. https://scholarworks.merrimack.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1052&context=honors_capstones
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