The Great Gatsby
Feminist literary criticism is the product of the women’s movement of the 1960s. It suggests that woman in literature were historically presented as objects seen from a male perspective. Feminist criticism concerns itself with the stereotypical representations of genders and it examines the ways in which literature reinforces or undermines the economic, political, social, and psychological oppression of women.
Throughout history, women have always struggled to gain equality, respect and the same rights as men. This has been made difficult because of patriarchy, an ideology in which men are superior to women and have the right to rule them. The representation of women in literature provided roles which were stereotypical for men and women. In 19th century literature, women rarely ever worked and they were always bound to the house and doing daily housework. Instead, the focus was on women’s choice of marriage partners, which will decide her ultimate social position and determine her happiness and fulfilment in life, or the lack of these. Men were always portrayed as rational, strong, protective and decisive, while women were emotional, weak and submissive. Modern feminist literary criticism found its roots in the 1960s feminist movements. Women have also begun to employ anti-patriarchal themes to protest the historical censorship of literature written by women. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald, 1925) was set in the 1920s, a period of enormous social change in America, especially in the area of women’s rights. After the war, women’s appearance and behavior changed, and they were given the right to vote. Many of the female characters are seen enjoying the freedom in the Jazz Age. Jordan Barker is independent and has a career of her own playing golf, which is usually viewed as a male-dominate field of profession. During the 1920s, title, wealth and beauty were highly valued. This shows how women were looked upon as objects of affection. They were simply a beautiful prize to be owned by men. Tom wanted to be known for having it all and having a wife that was desired by many men, made her more valuable to him. He used her beauty to make himself look more popular and wealthy and to display his dominance. He also believed that all women could be bought with jewels and clothes. Gatsby, on the other hand, truly loved Daisy and he placed her above everything else. No other women could compare to her, which is the opposite of the view that all the men had. However, he became wealthy just for Daisy. He felt that that was the only way to win her heart. Daisy was aware of her position in society. She masked her sadness, and accepted the fact that she was powerless in her marriage. This can especially be seen when she is telling Nick that she hopes her daughter will grow up to be “a beautiful little fool”.
To sum up, feminist criticism is a type of literary criticism which studies the rights of women. It originated as a product of the feminist movements of the 1960s. It is based on social, political and economic equality for women. When reading The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald, 1925) from a feminist point of view, we can clearly see how women were oppressed during that era. It was unacceptable for them to be unfaithful, while men could do as they please. This is especially shown in Tom’s attitude toward his wife and his lover. Despite everything, Daisy had no choice but to stay with Tom, since had no right to request divorce.