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Gatsby, Chapter 1 Feminism
Transcript of Gatsby, Chapter 1 Feminism
Looking at Chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby through a feminist lens
Nick's view of women:
the physical side
Nick’s description of the women is highly sexualized: Daisy’s voice is “low, thrilling”(9). Miss Baker is a “slender, small-breasted girl, with an erect carriage, which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet”(11).
Nick's description of Tom
Nick's view of women's:
the intellectual side
Power Relations between the sexes
"It couldn't be helped," cried Daisy with false gayety.
She has to pretend that everything is okay (15).
Unlike the women, Tom is described with powerful words: “hard mouth,” “shining arrogant eyes,” “leaning aggressively forward,” “enormous power of his body,” “a cruel body” (7). Tom controls Nick: "turning me around with one arm" (7), continually interrupting the women and directing the conversation
Tom clearly has the power.
He hurts his wife: "You did it, Tom"
He interrupts people
He steers Nick around: "he turned me around" (7), "wedging his tense arm under mine...as though he were moving a checker to another square"
He is having an affair and everyone knows, but Daisy is powerless to stop it: Jordan says, "You mean to say you don't know? I thought everybody knew.....Tom's got some woman in New York"(15).
“I know you didn’t mean to, but you did do it. That’s what I get for marrying a brute of a man, a great, big, hulking physical specimen of a –.”
"I hate that word hulking," objected Tom crossly" (12).
The women are portrayed as vacant: “two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house” (8).
The women “talked at once, unobtrusively and with a bantering inconsequence” (12).
"--then she laughed, an absurd, charming little laugh"(8)
Daisy understands the unequal power differential between the sexes: “Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling, and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl and so I turned my head away and wept. ‘All right,’ I said, ‘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’"(17).
Nick is a sexist character: his descriptions of the women are highly sexualized and the women are portrayed as weak, vacant, stupid. Tom, on the other hand, is portrayed with power - directing the conversation, as well as physical movements in the room.
But it isn't just Nick. This is clearly a sexist society, where even though women are "new women," with the freedom to drink and smoke and party, they are looked at as inferior. So far, the men are very patronizing of the women, and Nick's descriptions indicate that he (and maybe Fitzgerald) doesn't view them very highly.
Looking at issues in the text related to gender, sexuality, and power.