Yet to Shatter the Glass Ceiling
The Roaring 20's were an important part in changing the role of women globally. Many had gone into work in factories during World War II. In 1920, the 19th amendment to the constitution gave all women in America the right to vote. Seeking sexual liberation, women began dancing as flappers as well as smoking cigarettes. Thus emerged a more comfortable style of clothing for women which was more convenient to their activities. However, despite all the modern changes, the majority of women still remained housewives without enjoying the same social privileges men did. In his novel, The Great Gatsby, written in the heart of the Roaring 20's, Fitzgerald conveys the complicated relationships between men and women, as well as their journey to liberation. While Myrtle, Daisy, and Jordan all attempt it differently, they all strive to break away from the traditional female gender roles, yet ultimately fail because of the men controlling their lives.
Despite pursuing an affair apart from her marriage and breaking that traditional gender role, Myrtle simply fills another one by becoming an object to the men in the novel. Leaving behind her marriage with George Wilson as "he wasn't fit to lick [her] shoe" (34), she fills this void with Tom as he is "the first sweetie she ever had" (35). The first time Nick meets Myrtle, he describes her physical appearance, focusing on her body. She was "faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can" (25). Even though describing her physical appearance does not mean Nick is objectifying her, he is still degrading her since he only describes her body. More importantly, Tom sees her as an object. When Nick joins Tom and Myrtle on their commute to their apartment, they stop downtown as a result of Myrtle wanting a dog. Speaking to Tom, the dog seller says, "Look at that coat. Some coat. That's a dog that'll never bother you with catching a cold" (27). The man advertises the pet to Tom as easy to care for; something that won't bother him. This is important as he views Myrtle as his own pet dog. Their apartment away from his real life keeps Myrtle in her place. He only looks after her when he is there. This also does not affect him considering he sees her as just an object, but to Myrtle it is devastating for the reason that it leaves her to her real life, with her husband whom she doesn't care about. To Gatsby, Myrtle is also an object. After she has been run over by Gatsby's car, Tom says, "He ran over Myrtle like you'd run over a dog and never even stopped his car" (178). To almost all the men in the novel, Myrtle serves only as an object.
While Daisy does seek a relationship outside of her traditional marriage, it is only for material wealth and she ultimately stays with her husband. During the dinner party hosted by Daisy, Gatsby tells Nick that "her voice is full of money" (120). She only wants to be with Gatsby in the interest of his wealth. Daisy says, "They're such beautiful shirts… it makes me sad because I've never seen such — such beautiful shirts before" (92). Only after Gatsby due to his material wealth, Daisy settles on Tom as he is also affluent. Additionally, Daisy continues to stay with Tom even though she knows he is cheating on her. Despite being offered everything she ever wanted, Daisy chooses to stay with Tom, filling the traditional role of wives at the time. She even lets him have his affair. Gatsby watches them from outside. He sees that "there was an unmistakable air of natural intimacy about the picture" (145). Moreover, this shows how she is unable to break the gender roles set in place by their current society. Fully aware of the sacrifices she is making to herself, Daisy chooses to stay in her marriage with Tom. Daisy, telling Nick, says she hopes her daughter is a fool as it's "the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool" (17). Daisy hopes her daughter will be naive enough; so that she does not wish for liberation like her mother.
Despite Jordan's independence and tomboyishness, she never fully breaks the traditional gender roles as she has to lie to reach the position she is in. Unlike both Myrtle and Daisy, men do not hold Jordan back, it is society itself. Achieving a great deal on her own, Jordan represents the Roaring 20s' "modern woman," as she boasts a highly successful golf career. When Daisy properly introduces Jordan to Nick, he says, "Oh — you're Jordan Baker" (18). Nick even says later he "was flattered to go places with her, because she was a golf champion, and everyone knew her name" (57). However, despite her success, Jordan never fully breaks the stereotypes since her career is a facade of the "modern woman." Jordan still fails to accept herself for who she is and must continuously lie to keep her career. Nick says that "the bored haughty face that she turned to the world concealed something" (57). Jordan hides who she genuinely is to society, which ultimately keeps her from accepting herself. Even though she has broken away from the control of men, she ends up being controlled by society.
The Roaring 20's was revolutionary to women. They were exploring how to free themselves from the social constraints put in place by society. Nonetheless, they were not highly successful. Mass media "encouraged women to believe that their economic security and social status depended on a successful marriage" (Louis Benner). The modern woman's behavior was "also a concern to older feminists, who saw in her pleasure-seeking, taboo-breaking ways a younger generation's disregard of all for which the suffragettes had fought" (Mackrell, the Guardian). Young, independent women faced scrutiny from all parts of society. They were unable to fully separate themselves from traditional gender roles. Tom even says, "women run around too much these days to suit me" (103). Speaking for many men in their time, Tom shows that society still thought of women as housewives. This novel speaks to current times as women fight for their rights through the Me Too movement. Based on believing women, the movement aims to turn society to accept women who speak up against sexual assault. Even in 2020, we still face many gender stereotypes; all we can do is accept every woman as who she wants to be. Homeworkfor.me is a place where you can have a look at various rhetorical analysis topics. They are absolutely free and can be used to do your own assignments.