F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby can widely be considered the construction of a male-dominated society – where majority of the main characters were of the male gender. Restrictive environments for females in the 1920’s have been depicted through the characters of Daisy and Myrtle; the identity of women, even in a relatively rich and flourishing society, are limited to their roles as either being a faithful wife or being a rebellious female who shows the decay and failure of traditional roles. The depiction of the female gender throughout The Great Gatsby is a representation of the society of the 1920s; through the eyes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, his life and wife act as inspirations for this classic. Females throughout The Great Gatsby are Fitzgerald’s ‘misconceived perceptions’; he associates the attitudes and emotions of females as being proportional to class and wealth, along with the social norm of a stereotypical understanding of women.
Women in the 1920’s were distinctly divided into different social classes but the independence and power possessed by these women were limited. Daisy was worn into a wealthy family, and belonged to society’s upper class from birth; Daisy has a very prevalent upper-class mentality where she walks and talks in the way that she was taught. Daisy and her voice are both almost represented in the way an investment or a prized possession would be represented. “Her voice is full of money” (Fitzgerald, 120); Gatsby makes a remark about Daisy’s voice that ultimately has its way of connecting back to money and wealth. The way Daisy speaks is a very elegant, glamorous, and ‘socially high class’ manner; connections between her voice and the way someone wealthy would talk can easily be made. Since Tom is born into a family with a lot of wealth and old money, this wealth is something that Daisy, being Tom’s wife, will take advantage of. Looking at Daisy’s foil, Myrtle is a character living a life on the opposite end of the spectrum. She was not happy with the class that she was born to, and is surely not happy with the class that she married into. Myrtle – even though belonging to a lower social class – carries herself as a woman of high class with freedom, something that is evident in her affair with Tom. George Wilson’s class is very low, and he is a submissive character which is why Myrtle is not afraid of him; “then she wet her lips, and without turning around spoke to her husband in a soft, coarse voice” (Fitzgerald, 26). The character of Myrtle pins everything onto money and is a representation of the challenge of gender roles in the society where women wanted to escape from their domestic roles and be free from patriarchy. Myrtle shares a relationship with Tom that is based off wealth and Tom’s money. Regardless of her being in an abusive relationship with Tom, she comes back every time, failing to realize that Tom is only in an affair with her because of the lack of power she possesses. Being born into families of different classes have their depiction through the characters of Daisy and Myrtle. Their attitudes and emotions are something that develops and change throughout the book, with the help of the idea of money. Fitzgerald portrays women as being willing to do anything in order to attain a life of wealth and luxury, which is why Daisy and Myrtle had no difficulty in having an extramarital affair because they are essentially getting the recognition, attention, and the glamour that is associated with the upper class.
The Great Gatsby, along with being a construction of the male-dominated society, is an interpretation of the society of the 1920s where women were under-appreciated and had limited social freedom. Daisy does not bear the responsibility of taking care of her own child, Pammy; as a rich woman, she does not have much to do – and in families like these, the women do not have any goal except to flourish and live off of their husband’s wealth. Because Daisy moves far away from her life and her duties as a mother, she is considered to behold the role of a gold-digger. On the other hand, Myrtle is bound to the four walls of her house and is bound to her domestic expectations. She has a purpose in life to climb up the social ladder, even though this was considered ‘unethical’ of a woman to pursue, especially through infidelity. In the end, eventually, she pays the price for her actions and gets the punishment of death for committing the sin of cheating on a faithful husband. Daisy and Myrtle are both affected by patriarchy and the aggression that the male-dominated figures express; “I glanced at Daisy who was staring terrified between Gatsby and her husband” (Fitzgerald, 134). Throughout the entirety of the story, not once were we ever exposed to the ambitions of Daisy and Myrtle; they were always connected to a male figure. There was an evident gap in the discussion on the topic of education and other rights between the female and the male characters. Women were not given the freedom and the ability to have their own thoughts and flourish independently because they were glorified and manipulated as per the expectations of the male.
As women fought to be considered as legal persons in the construction of a male dominated society, men had comparably more rights than women did. The identities of Daisy and Myrtle have a clear-cut relationship with class and wealth, but also have a negative, and realistic, illustration through female associated stereotypes and traditions. Throughout The Great Gatsby there are many examples of females trying to break free from social norms. The underlying truth is that women who try to break out of social barriers and male domination are exposing themselves to the danger associated with patriarchy and oppression.