The great Gatsby is one of the oldest novels having been written in 1925. From the novel, it is evident that it was written in the days when the society was by far patriarchal. By exploring how much men had dominated the society which led to women discrimination; the novel will help us understand the concept of feminist critique.
Feminist critique is an aspect that seeks to explore the extent of men domination in the social, economic, and political sectors. It seeks to expose how much women have been discriminated in the society through study of literature. This essay will apply the concept of feminist critique with reference to the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald to expose some of the aspects of patriarchal society as revealed in the novel.
The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby starts by bringing in a male character, Nick Carraway, as the narrator. First, the narrator is just from the First World War and seeks to settle and takes a job in New York. In search for wealth and happiness, he rents a bungalow in West Egg next to a generous and mysterious bachelor Jay Gatsby, who owned a mansion.
Nick describes the mansion as “a colossal affair by any standard- it is an imitation of some hotel de villa in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and garden” (Fitzgerald 1).
The introduction brings out an aspect of male occupying the greater portion of wealth. These two men were relatively young and yet so rich to own such property at their age. The mentioned women, Daisy, Jordan and Myrtle are just an attachment to the men in the society since they all at some level depict an aspect of lack of independence since men dominate their every aspect of life.
Socially, men seem to dominate in the relationships. Tom’s financial power sets him way ahead that he can afford to have an affair outside marriage. This he does openly as he invites Nick, Daisy’s cousin to meet his mistress Myrtle Wilson. Nick’s reflection on the relationship between Tom and Daisy, Tom and Myrtle show a break of social norms.
Tom’s relationship with the two women is abusive and of so much control. He abuses Myrtle publicly in the name of making her straight by even beating her. Tom comes out as a man who has so much power to bully everybody, including Myrtle’s husband Wilson, he also has so much control in Daisy his wife.
Normally, one will expect that Nick being a cousin to Daisy will resist seeing their close relatives get involved in extra-marital affairs. Nick being a man supports other men, Tom and Gatsby in their moves. After knowing that Gatsby had been in love with Daisy before she got married, he allows a reconnection to happen in his own house despite the fact that Gatsby’s credibility was still in question to him.
His admiration of Gatsby in having “an extra ordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness he had never found in any other person and which it was not likely he could ever find again” (Fitzgerald 1) overpowered his questions on Gatsby’s character and that of his company. This shows that men dominance was key since women were to follow what the men wanted them to, not their choices.
The novel was written in a time when men could batter women if dissatisfied by their actions. In the meeting with Myrtle, when an argument ensued between Tom and the mistress, Tom broke her nose in the name of shutting her up. The whole thing looks normal and even when George complains to him, he is not moved by his cry.
Tom is the dominant character in the novel. He harasses people starting with his wife, his mistress, George and even Gatsby. Tom is seen doing the same thing Gatsby does; dating a married woman, but he has the guts to confront him on his affair with Daisy. When Myrtle died, he fires a battle between Gatsby and George by convincing him that Gatsby had an affair with Myrtle.
George kills Gatsby before killing himself as a sign of revenge. The revenge was purely egotistic to reclaim his position as Myrtle’s husband since his status as a man on top of the relationship had been invalid. This leaves a mark in moral decadency, which only happens in a patriarchal society that cannot be controlled by any other voice than the male voice.
The novel has so much influence geographically and culturally due to the approach used and the structure itself. Tom Buchanan’s treatment of his wife and mistress and Gatsby manipulation of Daisy, Tom’s wife brings out the aspect of male domination.
The male has a dominant part in the exploitation of power in the relationships, and marital status is nothing of a worry when one wants to pursue their mistresses. Men in the text have idolized women, and they justify their reasons for exploitation of women.
For example, Gatsby’s life is made true by the fact that he managed to have a relationship with a lady he had loved before. He does everything to get her, which include him “buying a house in West Egg just so that Daisy would be just across the bay” (Fitzgerald 1). This was a key sport in being strategic in his plans.
Tom, on the other hand, uses his physical and financial powers to prove that he is in control. He and Gatsby set social structures that attract women to them. However, Nick the narrator was not able to relate with the unpredictable and manipulative Jordan Baker. Jordan Baker’s character of believing that she could do as much as a man could do, scared him away. She is unlike Daisy, who chose to stay with Tom, despite the fact that she was in the relationship for financial gains.
She is described by Gatsby as one with “voice is full of money” (Fitzgerald 1). For Jordan’s belief in herself, Nick later blames his failure to cope with her on her partying, smoking and drinking character without really revealing that he had the same character of being pragmatic.
Women in those days had been accustomed to so much submission; an example is in Daisy’s character. She has a complacent kind of a character that makes it difficult to make her own individual decisions.
She exhibits incapacity to have an independent sense of self-will that Gatsby takes advantage of to win her by flattering her with words like “You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock” (Fitzgerald 1). The fact that she had a relationship before with Gatsby was enough to lead her in deciding to have an affair with him.
Myrtle also falls in the same category as Daisy as she engages in a relationship with another woman’s husband just because they met and liked each other. This aspect manages to bring out a clear definition of gender roles and identity in the earlier days when the novel was written. Men ask, and women respond without looking at what could be affected in their decisions.
The novel brings out an aspect of both genders reclaiming their positions in the society in terms of gender relations. Though the male has dominated, and the female has proven to be dependent on men, they both have a need within themselves to redefine themselves having become victims of social norms.
The male gender has dominated in economic and social part of the society making sure that women are subjects to the male exercise of power. This has been shown clearly by women getting trapped in the manipulation set by men hence making it hard for them to stand by their choices. Their gender nature dictates the character choice in the male-dominated world.
The male exercise their power over female by ensuring that they remain the sole financial sources, and the women exercise their dependence by remaining in their marriages despite their involvement in affairs outside marriage. Though there are men like George, who have lost their position, they still exhibit their ego through defending their marriages.
Fitzgerald, Scott. The Great Gatsby. University of Adelaide, 2005. Web. 12 January 2012.