Gender Roles in the Great Gatsby

Written by: Professor Candy
Updated: Apr 30, 2024
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Gender Roles in the Great Gatsby

This essay will discuss the portrayal of gender roles in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” It will examine the characters of Daisy, Tom, and Jordan, and how they represent the gender norms and expectations of the 1920s. The piece will explore themes of power, freedom, and societal constraints, analyzing how Fitzgerald critiques the era’s gender dynamics. It will also consider how these gender roles influence the novel’s plot and the tragic fate of its characters. PapersOwl showcases more free essays that are examples of Gender.

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Looking at F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby through a feminist lens shows us how women in the twenties were portrayed within literature. Fitzgerald shows this by including gender roles, patriarchy controls, and double standards between the sexes. He shows these ideas though the lives of his characters such as Tom, Daisy, Nick, Jordan, George, and Myrtle. Fitzgerald is one of the best feminist writers of his time, he did not realize the impact that he would have on society.

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Throughout the story of The Great Gatsby gender roles play an important part in displaying feminism. The life of Daisy and Myrtle shows the audience of these roles many times. As the story progresses Daisy and Myrtle slowly become marginalized, they fade into the pages as the men eventually push their voices away.

According to Methods of Advanced Literary Studies the audience can see that the women throughout the story are being marginalized  when the only real opinions or demands being heard are from the men. The women within the story are pushed to fit within social feminist norms. The audience can see this by how Daisy and Myrtle are both dependable on men, and can’t fully do anything by themselves. According to Cross Reference Project, The only character that resist social norms is Jordan Baker, she does this by not leaning on men in relationships to take care of her. Women within The Great Gatsby are portrayed as weak, fragile, and emotional beings. They are viewed as being worthless, and only useful when they become a commodity. Daisy is a good example of this because she is a commodity for Tom and Gatsby. Tom uses her as a trophy wife, only there for the show.

While Gatsby uses her just to show people that he has finally has everything. These two men both fight over Daisy, even though they say they love her, they both have different intentions for the relations. In the end the audience realizes that they both wanted to say that they had the “golden girl.” Another way feminism is prominent throughout the book is how men think of women as property. The audience sees this in the relationship between Tom and Myrtle. Tom buys Myrtle anything she wants to keep her there to please him.Tom thinks that he can get any women as long as he is able to buy her. This relation merely dabbles on the views of men towards women. It shows that its a mans worlds, and women are just pulled along for the ride.Men within The Great Gatsby are portrayed as being strong, dependable, intelligent, etc.

The audience can detect this within the lives of Tom, Gatsby, and Nick. Tom is very well off thus being dependable. Gatsby shows strength by fighting for his girl even when difficulties come. Nick shows his intelligence through his job as a politician. In the twenties gender roles were very straight forward. According to  NCpedia “Men were expected to deal with business and politics while women were to deal with the house, children, and religion.”Also within the story of The Great Gatsby there is a collection of patriarchy controls shown throughout. It shows that women within the twenties were oppressed socially, economically, politically and psychologically.Women were oppressed socially by not being able to speak their voice. This was because in those times women were known to have lower mentality than men causing their answer or opinion to just be a waste of time. An example of this in the book is when Myrtle was unable to speak her opinion about Daisy without getting hit by Tom for punishment.The Great Gatsby also shows quite a deal of economic oppression towards women.

Women were frowned upon if they got a job, they were not meant to be independent. A women’s “ideal” job within the twenties was to stay home, bare children, and to make the man look good. The only character that was able to escape this oppression was Jordan Baker, she was a well-known golfer who needed no man to support her. Jordan was a very independent women causing many within her community to frown upon her independence.Another type of oppression that women faced in the twenties was being political oppression. Women were being oppressed politically by not being able to vote. They were forced to be quiet and to stand behind their husbands with their decisions Daisy believed that standing behind their decision was the easiest way for women. She shows this by referencing to her daughter, “I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool,”(21).

Women were also oppressed psychologically. Whenever women had any ideas men would automatically shut them down. Women were of the lower of sex thus making any of their ideas out of the question. When the ideas were shut down it made women feel as if they have no meaning. In the twenties women opinions were worthless.Within The Great Gatsby a double standard is also present. It shows the audience that men are above women and  society equality among the sexes has no meaning.This is shown many times throughout the book. For example when Tom and Myrtle were having their secret affair,  Tom was able to talk about George Wilson in a not very nice tone, but when Myrtle happened to say a thing about Toms perfect trophy wife Daisy, Myrtle gets a punch to the nose and a threat to never say anything again.

The double standard here is that Tom gets to talk trash but Myrtle is not allowed to. Myrtle is a women allowing anything she said to be wrong, and any man who does not like her opinions she says is able to take matters of punishment into their own hands.Another double standard shown throughout is how men are able to cheat and not be judged, but if a women was to cheat they would be criticized for their actions. For men it’s seen as an accomplishment but for women it just stigmatized them. An good example of this is the many relationships of Tom Buchanan. Tom was a married man with a family, but yet he was not satisfied so he got into a relationship with an unnamed mistress. Eventually when she wasn’t good enough to satisfy his needs, he would toss that girl aside and go to the next. This time the next just happened to be Myrtle Wilson. These relationships that Tom held shows his opinion on woman’s worth, and the audience can clearly see that he thought little of them.

As shown The Great Gatsby has many aspects of feminism within it. The audience sees this multiple times. Fitzgerald shows gender roles, patriarchy controls, and double standards between the sexes very clearly. He does an excellent job in making them easily inferred.  He also does a good job at including all of these aspects within the character lives. Fitzgerald made sure to not only include these ways in Gatsby life but also Tom, Daisy, and Nicks. Fitzgerald showed that women within the twenties were definitely not treated with equality, but rather that they were pushed under many standards that men did not have to follow.

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Gender Roles in the Great Gatsby. (2021, Apr 16). Retrieved from