Role of Women in The Great Gatsby The deep-seated conservative quietism that circumscribed Fitzgerald’s temperament, for all his vaunted brawls and flamboyant public misdemeanors, takes also one other and subtler form of nostalgia and retreat than those proclaimed in his nostrums: one evident in his presentation of women. We have seen that Fitzgerald’s metaphysics of defeat stipulates high political gloom; and, despite some sharp ambivalence toward the elite, we shall see that his perspective on the underclass is marked by a fearful alienation. In these tense conditions, Fitzgerald opts (one might say opts out) for the solace of a purely individualist gratification.
Although at one level the “fast” life of his heady, competitive success culture is elating (Nick enjoys “the racy, adventurous feel of [New York] at night, and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye” ), the cumulative strain is telling. “It was borrowed time,” Fitzgerald later wrote, “the whole upper tenth of a nation living with the insouciance of grand dukes and the casualness of chorus girls. . . . A classmate killed his wife and himself on Long Island, another tumbled ‘accidentally’ from a skyscraper in Philadelphia, another purposefully from a skyscraper in New York. One was killed in a speak-easy in Chicago; another was beaten to death in a speak-easy in New York and crawled home to the Princeton Club to die. . . . [M]oreover these things happened not during the depression but during the boom” (“Echoes” 18, 16). Cold shadows of violence flicker over the names of the partygoers on the blue lawns: “Civet, who was drowned last summer[,] . . . Edgar Beaver, whose hair they say turned cott…
…e condition of blissful inaction, self-loss in ease and union. In the last analysis, then, woman haunts the novel as the lost and craved womb: refuge from economic injustice and political tension, solace of quietistic individualism. Ascending from the seductive to the maternal, she confers sublimity upon opting out.
Fetterley, Judith. The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Fiction. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1978.
Raleigh, John Henry. “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.” Mizener 99-103.
Sklar, Robert. F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Last Laocoon. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1967.
Spindler, Michael. American Literature and Social Change. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1983.
Trilling, Lionel. “F. Scott Fitzgerald.” Critical Essays on Scott Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby.” Ed. Scott Donaldson. Boston: Hall, 1984. 13-20.