The Great Gatsby
Nick Carraway says, ‘Dishonesty in a woman is a thing you never blame deeply’. In the light of this comment, discuss ways in which Fitzgerald presents female characters in The Great Gatsby.
The quote ‘Dishonesty in a woman is a thing you never blame deeply’ is very important in particular to two of the female characters. Daisy and Myrtle are both women who fall under the category of being dishonest however it is looked over and they both are able to get away with what they do.
Daisy is a good example of the quote in two ways; she has an affair and although she is the person who murdered Myrtle, the blame is passed on to Gatsby. The affair is not blamed on Daisy and Tom in fact is in a lot of denial. In chapter 8 when the affair between Gatsby and Daisy is revealed, Tom is adamant that Daisy does not really love Gatsby and that she doesn’t know what she is doing. The blame is actually passed on to Gatsby even though Daisy is guilty too. “Daisy loved me when she married me and she still loves me now,” is Tom’s defence. He doesn’t feel like Daisy would so such a thing because they have been married for so long. Even once Daisy admits she doesn’t love Tom but she did once he immediately jumps in and says “She didn’t even know you were alive. Why-they’re things between Daisy and me that you’ll never know, things that neither of us can ever forget.” This shows us that Daisy is not blamed and that Tom is forgetting that it is said because he loves his wife.
Love for Daisy is also shown after Myrtle’s death when Nick asks Gatsby if Daisy was driving the car, he replies with a yes “but of course I’ll say I was.” This statement shows that Gatsby cared for Daisy so much that he wouldn’t want to see her get into trouble and hurt. In this case as well she is not blamed and the blame is passed onto someone else, Gatsby again. Despite this Daisy is shown as a strong woman who is loved by two men in different ways. Nick’s comment is proved to be correct here as Daisy is able to get away with things, one which is very serious, because she is cared about by the two women. It shows in a way that she is very powerful as she has this effect on two completely different people. She is shown by Fitzgerald as someone who can have it all and still get through and he has done this to show the attitudes in the 1920’s and how this contrasts with what was going on.
Myrtle is another character which fits into Nick’s comment as she is having an affair with Tom. In the novel however this is not portrayed as a bad thing, similarly to Daisy. Myrtle is introduced as Tom’s mistress in chapter 2. In the chapter they go to New York and she is able to act as if she really was with Tom and lived the luxuries which she wasn’t able to get with Wilson. Nick describes the scene in her apartment and explains how Myrtle was acting. “Sitting on Tom’s lap Mrs Wilson called up several people on the telephone” this shows that she felt like she was in charge. The thought of having a life like this had gone to her head and she acted as if she was really with Tom. She was able to show her relationship with Tom to the people in the apartment and is not blamed or accused because of the fact she is married and so is he.
She is not blamed for wanting to live the life of luxury as well. Myrtle is a good example of someone who wants to live well but cannot and is stuck in the decline of the American dream. She is very disillusioned on what she could have and what she wants from her life that she lives the two lives that she does. When in New York she is able to flounce around without a care in the world. Fitzgerald uses imperative language when she speaks “I want to get one of those dogs” to show how different she is when she is not with Wilson. However, although she is demanding and wants all good things she is not stopped or blamed. She is encouraged by the thought of what her life could be. She thinks about what could be too much and she is acting different from who she is. She cannot afford to live luxuriously however the acting and her dishonesty are not blamed and she continues the way she is when she isn’t around Wilson. She is not only being dishonest to others but also herself. The fact that she is so disillusioned by her dreams transfers the blame in some ways off of her because she isn’t really that person.
Daisy is presented as a very feminine character “their dresses were rippling
and fluttering” shows this feminism and the verb enables her to sound very dreamlike. Daisy is a character that seems to have everything which she wants. Fitzgerald presents Daisy through Nick Carraway’s perspective. She is described as a very attractive woman and it is revealed that Nick is very fond of her through the way he describes her. “Feeling its lovely shape” infers Nick’s attraction and fascination towards his cousin. She is portrayed as a very pretty woman in contrast to Myrtle. As well through verb choices Fitzgerald is also able to present Daisy; “’Gatsby?’ Demanded Daisy” makes her sound forceful and heavy sounding which contradicts what Nick has been saying about her already. In comparison to Daisy, Myrtle is presented from Fitzgerald through Nick as well but in a different way. “Thickish figure of a woman” and “contained no facet or gleam of beauty” are ways in which Nick describes Myrtle. His description of Myrtle is an important way for Fitzgerald to present Myrtle as it shows the contrast between the two women in the novel. Daisy and Myrtle are both connected to Tom and it is important for Fitzgerald to show the differences of the women as they are both fairly important characters. Fitzgerald shows how she changes when she is with different people through her speech. Through what she says as well we gain an insight to what she is like. When she speaks to Wilson in chapter two she is disrespectful and as Nick reveals she speaks in a “course voice” to him when she orders him around. “Get some chairs” is an example and Fitzgerald uses this imperative language to a show how she acts with one person. When they are in New York she changed and Fitzgerald presents her in a very different way. Words like ‘earnestly’, ‘eagerly’ and ‘enthusiastically’ are used to present the change in her voice when she is with Tom. Fitzgerald enables the reader to identify this change because this is very important and shows us a different side to Myrtle.
Jordan is another female character in the novel. Although she is not a main character as such, her appearance is important. Jordan represents a different sort of woman. The name alone encourages the reader to think of a male because it is more of a masculine name. The introduction to Jordan is important because first impressions of her person are made by Nick. As well as the other women, Fitzgerald has used Nick to reveal Jordan’s personal description. “She was a slender, small-breasted girl” and “her gray
sun-strained eyes looked back at me” are how Nick described her. As well he reveals “I enjoyed looking at her”. However even though he described her in good qualities, Fitzgerald also exposes through Nick, her more ‘masculine’ qualities. Compared to Daisy these things are not as feminine as she is; “she nodded at me almost imperceptibly” and “yawned Miss Baker, sitting down at the table as if she were getting into bed”. These together show a different person to Myrtle who hasn’t been introduced in the novel just yet and Daisy. However Fitzgerald has shown some fascination or fondness in Nick towards Jordan as he did in Daisy.
The three women in the novel are all presented by Fitzgerald in different ways however the one main way is through Nick’s narrative. He enables us to see the characters as he does and what they are like. Referring back to Nick’s comment, Fitzgerald has shown that this is very much correct and has shown in the women how this is the case. Their dishonesty is not something greatly dwelled on and is in fact passed on to somebody or something else.