In his timeless novel The Great Gatsby, author Francis Scott Fitzgerald draws attention to the irrational nature of women and the effect it had on their lives during the 1920s. The female characters in the novel tend to irresponsibly think with their hearts rather than with their heads. Time and again, this way of the thinking leads these women to a life of unhappiness and insecurity. Fitzgerald utilizes tools such as paradox and imagery to effectively display the negative consequences of their choices. Fitzgerald’s purpose is to emphasize the true sufferings of women caused by their own lack of reason. He establishes a candid tone throughout the novel in order to demonstrate to readers that the true source of the emptiness and sorrow felt by women in the 1920’s does not come from the men in their lives, but from their own incoherence.
Fitzgerald primarily uses paradox as a strategy that best exemplifies the irrational behavior and decisions women in the novel make. Early on in the novel, Jay Gatsby hosts grand parties at his home hoping to one day lure Daisy, the woman he is madly in love with, back into his life. Most women attend Gatsby’s parties not because they are friends with him, nor because they were invited, but instead to have a carefree time at a stranger’s expense. Jordan regularly attends these extravaganzas at Gatsby’s home; she confesses to Nick one night, “’I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.’”
Her statement associates grandness with privacy and security, and smaller affairs with loneliness and discomfort. Jordan demonstrates the senseless thinking of many women of the era. They feel the need to be surrounded by strangers and indulge in the finest of things in order to feel intimate or secure. These gatherings are one way women fill the emptiness in their souls. They drink their pain away, dance off their fears, and gossip incessantly. These females are blinded by the spotlight given to them at these affairs. Wealth is mistaken for security as attention is for love. In the same way, Daisy loses the voice of reason in her own life when she marries Tom for his wealth despite being madly in love with Gatsby.
The day before her wedding, Daisy is described to be “lying on her bed as lovely as the June night in her flowered dress-and as drunk as a monkey” (76). Fitzgerald’s use of paradox exemplifies the struggle Daisy is facing. Although it is her wedding day, and she looks beautiful, the discontent she feels is obvious. Fitzgerald strategically employs paradox to portray the insecurity and despair the women of West Egg feel throughout their lives. Furthermore, Fitzgerald demonstrates the pain of women through his use of imagery.
At the first party Nick attends, he witnesses a woman, who although dressed beautifully, and surrounded by glamour, is visibly in misery. She “had drunk a quantity of champagne, and during the course of her song, she had decided, ineptly, that everything was very, very sad” (pg.51) This vivid description of the woman represents the pain felt by many women during this time period, and wealth’s inability heal it. In the same way, Fitzgerald uses imagery to shed light on Daisy’s unhappiness after her marriage to Tom. Gatsby describes Daisy’s life as a single woman as innocent and pure.
Fitzgerald uses color imagery to exemplify this. She owned a white car, lived in a home described as a “high white palace” and lived what Gatsby thought was a “white girlhood”. The use of color imagery emphasizes the purity before she was corrupted by the idea that one could marry for money and still be happy. This use of color imagery once again acknowledges the senseless decisions women made during this time period, and the despairity that backfires on them because of these choices. In the Great Gatsby, author F. Scott Fitzgerald portrays women as irrational in their thinking, behaviors, and actions. This senselessness is supported by the lifelong insecurity and loneliness the women feel as a result of their actions.
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