Feminism and F. Scott Fitzgerarld’s ‘The Great Gatsby’

The Great Gatsby uses anti-feminist themes to promote ideas that are pro-feminist.

 

Scott Fitzgerald’s American classic ‘The Great Gatsby’ is a novel that has received copious amounts of both praise and criticism, particularly in regards to feminism. Fitzgerald has managed to polarise opinions, leading readers to alternate and debatable conclusions. It is argued that ‘The Great Gatsby’ is an anti-feminist novel and that Fitzgerald’s portrayal of women is seemingly misogynistic. That being said, it would be perfectly reasonable to suggest that he uses anti-feminist themes in order to make a pro-feminist statement by drawing attention to such societal misconducts. His portrayal of women could be split into three main power categories: the power men have over women; the power of women over men; and women’s power within society.

 

Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald appears to present women as being objects for men to posses and repress as they please – though, in doing so, he highlights it as being an issue which needs to be resolved.

At the very beginning of the novel during the opening chapter, Nick Carraway explains that he “drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanans.” Here, the man seems to personify the entire family. The pluralisation of ‘Tom Buchanans’ gives the impression that Tom has monopolised his family and they are subsequently regarded as if they were part of his franchise. It also reflects the ignorant assumption on society’s part that worth can only be found in names and titles and could alternatively lead people to believe that it suggests shallowness on the woman’s part for marrying for prestige; however, it more so directs attention to the pressure inflicted upon women by their families and by society to marry well.

Again in Chapter One, upon Carraway’s arrival, we witness a scene which showcases the physical repression of women. Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker are shown to be enjoying themselves when there came “a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died about the room…” the onomatopoeic noun ‘boom’ feels very masculine, as it has connotations of violence and force. The verb ‘died’ too is quite dramatic, and could have been used to hint that there was a sort of subtle war occurring within the room. Following this, “the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor.” This highlights the impact of men on the women’s state of mind; the simile ‘ballooned slowly to the floor’ especially so, with the noun ‘balloon’ having connotations of celebration, parties and fun – the kinds of things that Gatsby later comes to offer. It seems to imply that women are liberal beings who become repressed in marriage.

The fact that Tom Buchanan has ‘a woman in the city’ again objectifies women by presenting them as if they were items to be collected. When he first suggests that Carraway should meet Myrtle, Buchanan says “I want you to meet my girl”. The use of the possessive pronoun ‘my’ gives the impression that he owns her. The noun ‘girl’ suggests immaturity, as if she has a lower social footing and is lesser developed than himself. Carraway then reveals that “though I was curious to see her, I had no desire to meet her.” This implies that women should be observed but not interacted with, as if they are specimens. This ‘seen but not heard’ view again links to the idea of women having a lower social footing, as if they were children.

It is revealed that, on the day before their wedding, Tom Buchanan gifted Daisy with “a string of pearls at three hundred and fifty dollars”. Some may regard the act as romantic, or as a means of satisfying Daisy’s apparent materialistic appetite. However, it could be suggested that, by offering the pearls the day before the wedding, it is as if Tom is putting down a deposit on her life, using it as insurance in case she was to change her mind at the last minute. Using the noun ‘string’ as opposed to ‘necklace’ is interesting, as the former holds business-like connotations, again linking to this idea of franchising. It is as if by marrying her, he is making an investment and is treating her as some kind of business deal.

This objectification of women is an ongoing theme throughout the novel, and so it draws a lot of attention to itself. By doing so, Fitzgerald is – whether intentionally or not – highlighting the societal misdemeanours of his time and is therefore covertly calling for change.

 

Although seemingly oppressed, Fitzgerald’s female characters are not without their strengths, which are incorporated in order to highlight the certain powers that women have over men.

Chapter Two introduces us to Myrtle Wilson, whom is treated barbarically by Tom Buchanan. During an argument, he is described as having “broke her nose with his open hand”. The act is ironic, since it is his immorality and unfaithfulness which is being addressed, yet he responds aggressively at the mention of it. The fact that Myrtle provokes him and is able to conjure such a reaction despite her own adulterous behaviour shows that she holds some power over him in this situation. Due to class divisions, she is in some ways freer than Daisy, who cannot speak so liberally within her marriage, so perhaps Tom was not used to such brash behaviour.

Jordan Barker is arguably the strongest female character in the novel. Her success is self-made and without male influence; even within her relationship with Nick Carraway, she is presented as his superior in certain aspects (E.g. the way she holds herself when they first meet). The fact that she became famous playing golf – a game stereotypically regarded as being a man’s sport – and that the name ‘Jordan’ itself is very masculine could be interpreted as meaning that she only achieved such success by possessing male attributes and that her femininity had nothing to do with it. In Chapter Three it is implied that Jordan did not obtain her fame fairly. Carroway states that “dishonesty in a woman is a thing you never blame deeply.” This seemingly patronising statement suggests that women can only achieve the same level of success as men by lying/cheating to get there. It seems incredibly belittling to suggest that the strongest female character is only such because she cheated. However, parallels can be drawn between Baker and the novel’s dominant character Gatsby, who ‘cheated’ his way to being rich by bootlegging alcohol. This symmetry puts man and woman back on equal footing within the novel.

The fact that the novel’s central plot is focused around two powerful men fighting over a woman is itself an example of the power of feminine influence. Daisy is portrayed as being attracted to wealth and materialistic things, leading the men to go to great lengths in order to make her happy; Gatsby with his extravagant parties and Buchanan with his expensive gifts. In the end she chooses to return to her life with Buchanan and is described as having “vanished into house, her rich, full life, leaving Gatsby – nothing”. The verb ‘vanished’ has fairy-tale connotations, presenting Daisy as if she were something just out of reach – a mystical creature that could not be possessed. The hyphenated ‘– nothing’ is added on as if it was an afterthought. It seems a hyperbolic choice of noun considering Gatsby’s wealth of material possessions, yet they were only ever present as a means of pleasing Daisy. She physically left Gatsby and by doing so stripped everything he owned of its worth.

Even the ‘strengths’ that the female characters possess can be considered as highly sexist, since, on the large part, they are to do with sex and physical attraction or are attributed to male characteristics. It is ironic that this should be where women found their ‘power’ given that the novel was produced at a time where women faced sexual repression. In limiting the span of feminine power over men, Fitzgerald shines a light on the drastic imbalance within heterosexual relationships.

 

Perhaps most importantly, Fitzgerald confronts the expectations of women and their role within society, particularly in regards to the upper classes.

In some instances, he does so by drawing on his own life, such as in Chapter One when Daisy talks about the birth of her daughter: “I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” These words were in fact spoken by Zelda Fitzgerald upon the birth of their own daughter. The adjective ‘beautiful’ suggests that without a strong physical appearance, women would struggle to do well within the world, as if they were incapable of making their own accomplishments outside of marriage. The use and repetition of the noun ‘fool’ seems to emphasise the fact that blissful ignorance is the key to happiness, perhaps implying that it is better to be unaware of any wasted potential. Arguably, the entire novel was centred on the Fitzgeralds’ relationship and its ultimate demise. If Fitzgerald’s aim was to win back his wife, then surely he would not attempt to do so using blatant misogyny.

Daisy is often presented as being disagreeable, yet her conservative, materialistic nature can easily be put down to the societal conducts imposed on women of her class. In Chapter Eight, she is said to have “wanted her life shaped now, immediately – and the decision must be made by some force – of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality – that was close at hand.” The triadic list ‘love’, ‘money’ and ‘unquestionable practicality’ gets further away from what a modern audience would consider a suitable force with each entrant, but it also reflects the hierarchical pyramid of what was expected at that time. Marriage was mostly arranged on a purely practical basis, so Daisy’s decision may have been self-sacrificial rather than self-indulgent.

Similarly, in the same chapter, Gatsby explodes at Buchanan, stating that Daisy “only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me”. Again, this seems to portray Daisy in a negative light, even though it is supposed to be an attack on Buchanan. The verb ‘tired’ clearly implies impatience, as if Daisy could have sat around waiting for as long as she desired. However, considering the societal pressures imposed on women like Daisy during Fitzgerald’s time, it would have been highly impractical since they rarely worked and would have depended on there being a breadwinner present – not to mention how they would have been judged/perceived by their families and peers.

Due to Fitzgerald’s questionable portrayal of Daisy Buchanan, it can be difficult for the reader to see past her seemingly materialistic, self-sufficient persona and read the undertones of repression, but they are definitely present. Through this portrayal, Fitzgerald subtly draws attention to the expectations and pressures of women within society.

 

As is the case with any piece of literature, the author’s true intent can never wholly be known, but that is beside the point. By incorporating clear anti-feminist themes into his novel, Fitzgerald draws his audience’s attention to the oppressive nature of his world, therefore conjuring a strong pro-feminist response. Perhaps ‘The Great Gatsby’ is an example of a novel where the reader’s reaction defines the meaning rather than the writer’s intent. Or perhaps Fitzgerald knew exactly what he was doing all along.

 


 

Personally, I really enjoyed The Great Gatsby so naturally I feel pretty defensive of it. Do you think I have been blinded by adoration, or do you agree with my thesis? Please let me know!

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I’m Published! The Wicked Young Writer Awards // London 2017

wicked.png

As briefly mentioned in my mid-year review post, I was super lucky to have made it into the top twenty finalists for the 18-25 category of the Wicked Young Writer Awards 2017. Last Friday (June 23) I attended the award ceremony at the Apollo Victoria theatre in London and got to share the stage with a wealth of truly inspiring writers.

Vlogging Failure

I did attempt to vlog the day but like an idiot I used up all my space before  we even arrived at the venue. I did, however, manage to catch a couple of snaps.

 

 

Poetry Workshop

At the event, workshops were organised for the various age categories. In ours, we took the opening two lines of the Jeff Kass poem ‘Underneath’ and produced our own self-analytical pieces. Here’s what I conjured:

Under my shirt is my skin,
Under my skin is my heart,
Further still is a world torn apart.

Beneath that, an image lingers on
Like the words to a forgotten song.
Between the lines a scene forms,
One of despair and raging storms.

Like a magic eye, the image clears,
Allowing me passage through the clouds.
Patterns morph, distorted by tears –
My skin keeps it all in, tight like a shroud.

An extract from Paths

Although I did not win, I am honoured to have made it so far and had the opportunity to share in such a brilliant experience. My piece ‘Paths’ was published in the official anthology, making it my second creative writing piece to have been published in a physical book.

I smiled, but it was not returned. My old friend registered my presence, but did not really see me. Instead, she stared solemnly through me and into some internal abyss, making no attempt to stifle the heavy raindrops that tumbled over the curve of her eyelashes and down her porcelain cheeks. If she had have smiled, I thought to myself, the fragile surface would have surely crumbled.

Allowing my own smile to slip and be replaced by a look of uncomfortable concern, I offered her shelter beneath my umbrella. She thanked me, but declined the invitation, instead opting to pull back her hood, allowing the weather to corrode her further, gradually saturating her dusty blonde hair and turning it black.

Worried, I asked her if she was feeling OK. Our paths had not crossed in a long while, yet I was all too aware of the abnormality of her actions. I pointed out that she was likely to catch her death if she did not accept my refuge.

Shrugging disinterestedly, she explained that umbrellas are untrustworthy. They are liable to break, leak or get turned inside out by the wind. Then when the rain hits it is more of a shock since you have grown accustomed to staying dry. She argued that it is far more sensible to embrace that which could potentially bring us harm than to be betrayed by that which is designed to protect us.

Until next time, *clicks fingers poetically*. 

WYW

In Memory of Anton

anton yelchin

A year ago today (June 19) yet another flame was snuffed out by the unforgiving year that was 2016. Anton Yelchin’s death was so sudden and bizarre. With such a wealth of achievements already under his belt by age 27, one can only imagine the greatness he could have gone on to accomplish later in life.

Though the subject of my latest Movie Pilot piece was a sombre, the tone is a celebratory one. Read my full piece Remembering Anton Yelchin, One Year On and join me in remembering a fantastic young actor.

When the Worlds of Music and Movies Collide

a hard day's night

“Musically historical movies are the best when it comes to reliving some of our favorite musical moments of the past. They help bridge generation gaps and open up a whole new audience to music that they might have regrettably missed out otherwise. One can only wonder what the next iconic music scene to be immortalized in film might be.”

Be sure to check out my full Movie Pilot piece – Dance To The Video: 8 Movies Based On Iconic Music Scenes.

Mid-Year Review!

I’ve done so much so far in 2017, yet I’ve documented very little of it. Here’s a brief little update of the books I’ve read, the concerts I’ve attended, some fresh finds, what I’ve been up to in terms of writing and where the rest of 2017 is set to take me.

Literature

Currently reading: Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain

Vera Brittain.png

I’m falling a bit behind on my reading schedule lately due to all the writing I’ve been doing, but I’m still determined to complete 60 books this year. Some of the books I’ve read so far this year have been the best I’ve ever read, particularly the works of Graham Greene – who is fast on his way to becoming my favourite author.

Books read:

  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Trial
  • To The Lighthouse
  • Brighton Rock
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and other stories
  • An Unfinished Revolution: Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln
  • Bit of a Blur – Alex James
  • Howards End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading From Home
  • The Pat Hobby Stories
  • Tales of the Jazz Age
  • Mr Manchester and the Factory Girl: The Story of Tony and Lindsay Wilson
  • Crash
  • Scorched Earth, Black Snow: Britain and Australia in the Korean War, 1950
  • The End of the Affair
  • Old Goriot
  • Autobiography – Morrissey

Also, I’ve had a Great Gatsby essay stowed away since the start of the year which I plan to polish up and post, so keep an eye out for that.

Music

  • Gigs

Taking Back Sunday / Muncie Girls / Frank Iero and the Patience

Creeper / Milk Teeth / Energy / Puppy

All Time Low / SWMRS / Waterparks

  • Fresh Finds

Waterparks ~ SWMRS ~ Cabbage

I wasn’t so sure about Waterparks at first, but after hearing Royal I fell completely and unashamedly in love with them. Seeing them support All Time Low also helped further cement this adoration.

I had tried listening to SWMRS a while ago but for some reason they didn’t take back then. However, since seeing them the other month, I have been completely won over, and I can’t understand why I wasn’t instantly sucked in.

There has been some controversy surrounding Cabbage lately, but standing aside from all that, their music is beyond solid. I love their general aesthetic and the themes they cover in their songs.

Writing

  • New Job!

I have recently started writing for Movie Pilot – a film/popular culture website powered by the Creators.Co blogging site. I have just been promoted to Verified Creator which means my work is able to reach a wider audience and I get to make a little money in the process.

Give my profile a gander creators.co/@TETurner96

  • Wicked

In other big news, I thought I’d give this year’s Wicked Young Writer Award competition a go and entered a new piece I had written entitled ‘Paths’. I was pleasantly surprised and chuffed to bits to find out that I had made the top 20 finalists! I can honestly say I will be content whatever the outcome, but I will find out the results at an award ceremony in London later this month.

Still to Come

  • London – for the Wicked Young Writer award ceremony. Expect a vlog of the day.
  • Green Day – Dreams do come true.
  • University – I’ll be trying my hand at being a student again this September, but at a different uni. I already have a great feeling about it this time around.

Political Movements: Why Demonstrating Individualism Within Collectivism Is The Best Method Of Achieving Progress

 

suffragettes

Political movements have often fallen victim to criticism – some of it fair and some unfounded – whether it be due to the actions and attitudes of some activists or ignorance/lack of understanding on the onlooker’s part. Because of this, a lot of people feel uncomfortable getting involved in movements that they might otherwise support for fear of a negative stigma rubbing off on them.

It is unfortunate that this is the case when so many of the movements in question are inherently good and deserve to be supported by as many people as possible, whether it be causes regarding gender and race politics or an affiliation to a political party. Debate and discussion is a vital part of any group or organisation – without it, very little progress would be made.

Labels

Over this last year, I have experienced a metamorphosis on both personal and political levels. I have always been a leftie, but for a long time I was reluctant to associate myself with certain leftist movements that I did not completely agree with – I was too individualistic for that and feared being tarred with the same brush as those I criticized. With my fickle nature, conforming to labels is something I was never comfortable with, even when it came to trivial things such as style and subcultures since my tastes and interests were likely to alter within a week. It is not such a problem when it comes to self-identity since labels can be restrictive and stunt personal growth, but in terms of politics they play a vital role in aiding progression. It is impossible to do everything on an individual basis when there are so many voices fighting to be heard. It is very rare – if not impossible – to find something or someone that you agree with or feel defines you 100%.

After a long period of growth and self-analysis on my part, dissecting my morals and opinions to their very bones, I came to feel comfortable enough in myself and my own beliefs to be able to adopt labels without feeling as though they defined me on an individual basis. It feels perfectly natural calling myself a feminist even though there have been times in the past where I have fiercely disagreed with certain advocates of the movement. I feel perfectly at home as an active member of the Labour Party even though I might not share the same views as every single member/supporter. It is all about the bigger picture and using these labels as vessels to achieve progression.

Vessels 

The vessels metaphor is by far my favourite at the moment and is one that makes a lot of sense to me personally. I see movements as vehicles or ‘vessels’ which house a wealth of different beliefs and opinions that are all ultimately heading for the same destination. It’s like a colossal carpool – why waste energy fueling your own transport when you could chip in and have a greater impact in the process?

As long as you retain your strong sense of individualism within a movement and do not succumb to sheep syndrome, you can use your voice to help steer your vessel into a direction you wish to take. A difference in opinions is a great thing – without it, movements would come to a stand-still. As previously stated, there can be no progression without debate, even within a group you largely agree with.

Final Thoughts

Individuality is something that should be cherished and used to change our own worlds and those of the people around us, but there is strength in unity that can be made all the more powerful through debate and discussion. Do not be afraid to contribute to a movement you believe in. Challenge ideas you don’t agree with and learn to compromise on certain issues – a unified voice is much louder than a solitary one fighting to be heard above the din.

Do you agree that individualism within collectivism is a good idea, or would you rather go it alone/blindly conform?

Long Live English Pop-Punk!

Son of Dork

There is definitely a pattern when it comes to naughties English pop-punk bands, it is just a shame that, due to their short lifespans, such fallen heroes have become fossilized and neglected in our memories. However, given the success of the Busted reunion, perhaps we might start see more bands making a comeback. If not, at least we will have the internet to feed our nostalgia.

Head over to my Creators.Co post and allow me to refresh your memory with 7 sadly short-lived English pop-punk bands.

4 Backmasked Messages in Popular Songs

Backmasking is a recording technique that artists have been using for years in order to hide secret messages within their songs for fans to discover. Most of the time, said messages are humorous or are included ironically in order to rattle critics’ cages, though sometimes the results can be pretty unnerving.

#4 Iron Maiden – Still Life

iron maided

London born heavy-metal pioneers Iron Maiden are no strangers to controversy. All throughout their career, they have suffered accusations of devil-worship and satanic tendencies brought on by the dark themes that encumber their music and image.

Drummer Nicko McBrian explained that the band were ‘sick and tired’ of such accusations and so decided to incorporate the hidden message as a direct attack on their critics who tried to look for meanings that weren’t there.

The aforementioned message can be found on the band’s fourth studio album ‘Piece of Mind’ at the beginning of the sixth track, ‘Still Life’. When played backwards, the phrase “what ho said the t’ing with the three ‘bonce’, do not meddle with things you don’t understand” can be heard spoken by McBrian and punctuated with a burp.

In it, Nicko is mimicking a line from the satirical 1975 John Bird and Alan Coren album ‘The Collected Broadcasts of Idi Amin’ in which Bird speaks the line in an impression of Idi Amin. It is undoubtedly an epic middle finger to those who read too deeply between the lines.

#3 Pink Floyd – Empty Spaces

The Wall

‘The Wall’ – the epic rock opera by English prog-rock band Pink Floyd released back in 1979 – tells the tale of the fictional rockstar known as Pink and his subsequent descent into madness.

By the time the album’s eighth track ‘Empty Spaces’ comes around, Pink is contemplating the completion of his emotional ‘wall’, which he is constructing in order to shield himself from problems within his marriage. Right before the vocals kick in on the track, a garbled message can be heard that, upon first listen, comes across as completely nonsensical. However, when played backwards, a hidden message can be clearly deciphered:

“Hello, hunters… Congratulations. You have just discovered the secret message. Please send your answer to Old Pink, care of the Funny Farm, Chalfont…”

“Roger! Carolyne’s on the phone!”

“Okay.”

The message is said to potentially depict one of two things: either the foreshadowing of Pink’s eventual descent into insanity, or an allusion to former lead singer Syd Barrett’s stint in a psychiatric hospital. Either way, the numb tone in which the phrase is delivered

#2 Marilyn Manson – Tourniquet

Marilyn Manson

‘Antichrist Superstar’ – the second studio album by Marilyn Manson – has been the subject to heavy criticism over the years due to its controversial content and nature of Brian Warner and his band themselves. However, the album’s second single ‘Tourniquet’ deals with a surprisingly tender topic, depicting a character trapped in a merciless state of sorrow.

Within the opening few seconds of the track, the presence of a backmasked messaged is made known. When reversed, the phrase “This is my lowest point of vulnerability” can be heard.

With the topic matter of the songs on ‘Antichrist Superstar’ supposedly having been influenced by the dreams endured by Manson, such a message can be seen as slightly unnerving. The delivery of the line itself with the low, barely audible murmur is enough to send shivers down your spine.

#1 The Beatles – Free as a Bird

The Beatles Anthology

The Beatles’ 1995 single ‘Free as Bird’ was originally a home demo recorded by John Lennon in 1977, three years before his death. The studio version came into being twenty-five years after the band’s demise, when the surviving Beatles decided that they wanted to put out something new as part of their Anthology project, but were hesitant to do so in the absence of their band mate.

The solution saw Paul McCartney approach Yoko Ono in the hope that she might have some unreleased recordings by her late husband in her possession, with the intent of using them to build something new around as if Lennon was still alive.

Contributions from McCartney, Harrison and Starr were recorded in early 1994. Subsequently, a brief outro was added to the track, featuring Harrison on the ukulele and the ethereal voice of Lennon played backwards. McCartney stated that the reasoning behind this was “to give all those Beatles nuts something to do”, referring to those who had found none-existent meanings and messages in previous releases.

When flipped the right way around, Lennon can clearly be heard saying “Turned out nice again”, the catchphrase of George Formby, whom the Beatles were big fans of. However, in a touchingly eerie twist, the backwards version of the phrase sounds a lot like “made by John Lennon”, which McCartney has since said was completely unintentional.