How do general expectations for male and female affect their behavior?
In the Great Gatsby, Daisy is described as a captivating, young girl that leads others on with her naive and innocent presentation. She builds the American Dream by showing the beauty and happiness that the dream portrays. She uses her beauty at her advantage in order to live the glamorous life that she wants. When it comes to class orthodoxy in the 1920s, the roles of women were still confined to the concept of “cult of domesticity”. They were seen as possessions or accessories of men. “Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth…” (Fitzgerald 14) Daisy is part of the glamorous American Dream. Her feminine beauty is demonstrated through her role as a trophy for Gatsby as well as Tom. In the beginning years of Gatsby’s life, Daisy is the symbol of the upper world, of the wealth and prosperity in that world. After he comes back from the army, Daisy to some extent becomes his faith. To some extent, Gatsby loves Daisy as his illusion instead of Daisy herself as an individual.
“‘I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.’ Her eyes flashed around her in a defiant way… ‘God, I’m sophisticated!'” (Fitzgerald 22) Daisy is at the top of the social ladder. Daisy’s status allows her to expand her knowledge. The personalities and unique attitudes of the women reflect and construct the American Dream. It also separates the women from the men; this is shown in the novel because their demands are highlighted over the Men’s preferences. Daisy is deceiving for she has become an artificial fantasy which allows men to desire. “There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of these dreams – not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man can store up in his ghostly heart.” Nick, as a spectator, talks about how Gatsby had created an illusion of Daisy being perfect. Daisy has the qualities that enable her to create that illusion. He seems almost detached from the scene and comments from a godlike perspective. To some extent Nick is also subject to the established patriarchy, reflecting how subtle and pervasive the patriarchal influences are within our society.
Paul Theroux’s essay Being a Man reveals a mindset that “it is very hard to imagine any concept of manliness that does not belittle women”. In a sense, little girls are traditionally urged to please adults with a kind of coquettishness while boys appear to be show less girlish intimacy. From a very young age, expectations for boys and girls differ in a way that is so consistent throughout history before and after all the women’s rights reforms. Because of unalterable gender limitations such as giving birth to a child, women and men have certain images to portray. In some respects, Fitzgerald writes about gender roles in a quite conservative manner. In his novel, men work to earn money for the maintenance of the women. Men are dominant over women, especially in the case of Tom, who asserts his physical strength to subdue them. The only hint of a role reversal is in the pair of Nick and Jordan. Jordan’s androgynous name and cool, collected style masculinize her more than any other female character. However, in the end, Nick does exert his dominance over her by ending the relationship. The women in the novel are an interesting group, because they do not divide into the traditional groups of Mary Magdalene and Madonna figures, instead, none of them are pure. Myrtle is the most obviously sensual, but the fact that Jordan and Daisy wear white dresses only highlights their corruption.
In Margaret Sanger’s Women and New Race, she wrote: “She need not fear that the masculine mind, almost universally dominant, will fail to take care of its own. Her mission is not to enhance the masculine spirit, but to express the feminine; hers is not to preserve a man-made world, but to create a human world by the infusion of the feminine element into all of its activities.” This quote explains that the American Dream is essentially about the women. Women have expressed their feminism through different elements within the dream. Although the dream is directed towards the men, women have their own interpretations of the dream. When women talk about independence and self-sustainability, they almost instinctively try to fit themselves in the traditional roles of men who are responsible for the finances. Emma Watson asked why men were expected to be masculine and powerful in her UN speech about feminism, which brings out the other side of the question: why can’t women be the strong side? Ironically, when women of the new era look up to men’s self-sufficing lifestyles they already acknowledge the fact that men are expected to take the stronger stance in society and any oppositions to that fact is a revolution rather than an innate right.