The Great Gatsby is a classic American novel that depicts the luxurious American dream of the 1920’s and the lust that accompanies it. In the book, three romantic relationships take place: Tom Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson, Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, and the marriage of Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Although there is a miniscule female presence in the novel, The Great Gatsby, their roles in the book put them in unhealthy love affairs with men who think for them, are abusive and/or controlling in different ways throughout the entirety of the book. The Great Gatsby displays the unjust power relationships among men and women as glamorous throughout the book by explicitly portraying its main female characters insignificant in comparison to their male counterparts.
Daisy and Tom Buchanan, are first introduced as, a married upper-class family living in East Egg of Long Island New York. They are seemingly happy from the outside, but within the interior of their marriage, it is inevitably revealed that their marriage is not what it seems. For example, Tom Buchanan has a mistress whom he visits at his own leisure. Thus, Tom was even absent during the birth of his first child, and left Daisy alone in sadness during it, ‘She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. ‘All right, ‘ I said, ‘I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she ‘ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool ”(Fitzgerald 112). This quote from Daisy is popular and quite possibly the most well-known quote from the novel. This quote, illustrates that Daisy becomes fed up with her husband’s deceitful ways, but knowingly she decides to ignore her doubts. By doing so, she hopes that her daughter, will one day, be less self-aware than Daisy, so she will not have to endure the same emotional pain caused by her husband who is abusive and adulterous.
Furthermore, Tom Buchanan illustrates a superego viewpoint by believing that what he does is not wrong, and that his acts are not harmful, but it’s ‘OK’ because he always comes back to her, “He nodded sagely. ‘And what’s more, I love Daisy too. Once in a while I go off on a spree and make a fool of myself, but I always come back, and in my heart, I love her all the time.”(Fitzgerald 251-52). Mr. Buchanan views his own affairs with women as minor and insignificant. Despite his lenient views, he views the affair of Gatsby and Daisy as distasteful, unruly and unjust (to him). His hypocritical views are most evident in the novel when he remarks to Gatsby, “Self-control! Repeated Tom incredulously. I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that’s the idea you can count me out […] Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions, and next they’ll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white.”(Fitzgerald 229). This is the epitome of Tom Buchanan’s hypocritical views, as he talks about standing up for family values; however, he is, indeed, committing the exact same wrongdoing to a woman, which in the end, contributes and even creates the Butterfly effect within this novel. In addition, Tom’s superego clouts his judgment by proving how insecure he is by fearing that another man may take Daisy from him. It becomes evident that Tom feels less of a man, and is insulted, within this portion of the novel, by Gatsby’s presence. Instead of accusing Daisy and Gatsby from mere assumption, Tom avoids embarrassment by making the two uncomfortable.
On the contrary, however, the main premise of the novel begins when Gatsby attempts to rekindle his love with Daisy by showing Daisy all of his material possessions, by proving his wealth and his more than equipped ability to take care of her financially. The ultimate issue arises, in the end, when it becomes evident that Gatsby is chasing a dead dream, and is simply no longer feasible. Daisy is depicted as the type of woman who is almost emotionless in that while she also values the material possessions she owns, she would much rather live in a stable and promising household, married to an unloyal man and deprive herself of true love. Gatsby’s intentions toward Daisy are revealed when Nick notices, “He hadn’t once ceased looking at Daisy, and I think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes. Sometimes, too, he stared around at his possessions in a dazed way, as though in her actual and astounding presence none of it was any longer real. Once he nearly toppled down a flight of stairs.” (Fitzgerald 112). At this point in time, Gatsby is foreshadowing how, perhaps, that he is chasing an achievable dream that has long gone expired.
It becomes evident to Gatsby, at this point in time, that all of his material wealth has begun to cease to have meaning when, “Gatsby lives alone with just some servants in his colossal mansion. Drawing from Freudian theory, we can say that Gatsby tries to maintain his own loneliness. He wants to stay away from people and real situations in which he just feels emptiness”(Bui 44) This quote, further cements the argument that without Daisy in his life, he is truly empty, and the material possessions that he has gained in order to win over are now empty as well, since it has failed. After he has amassed such a large quantity of material wealth, Gatsby realizes that perhaps what he was after is something that has already come and gone. Thus, deep down that Gatsby is aware and that is why he isolates himself in his mansion, so he never has to face his own bleak reality.
Myrtle Wilson is the wife of a mechanic in the Valley of Ashes in New York, and is also Tom’s mistress in the novel. Tom and Myrtle’s love affair is the least healthy out of all the relationships in the book. They met on a train, as recalled by Myrtle to Nick Carraway, and her only description of Tom is the fancy clothing he was wearing, because she initially was attracted to Tom because of rich demeanor and wealth. Tom was attracted to Myrtle because he knows that she views him a rich king, and she will do anything for him, which includes being the victim of physical abuse when Tom gets upset with her, “Some time toward midnight Tom Buchanan and Mrs. Wilson stood face to face discussing, in impassioned voices, whether Mrs. Wilson had any right to mention Daisy’s name. ‘Daisy! Daisy! Daisy!’ shouted Mrs. Wilson. ‘I’ll say it whenever I want to! Daisy! Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand” (Fitzgerald 125). It is evident that, within this instance, Myrtle is proving too comfortable for Tom’s liking, and the mention of his wife ‘s name by his mistress was enough to initiate his aggressiveness, perhaps due to guilt and the realization of how wrong his actions are. In reality, Tom is insecure about the fact that despite his loads of wealth and material possessions, Daisy is just enamored by him, or at least like she used to be. Thus, he takes out his pented insecurities on someone who will treat him like he wishes Daisy would treat him, like a king.
On the contrary, the female characters in this book portray the typical roles of women within the 1920’s, an era where women were still fighting to gain equal treatment and rights in comparison to their male counterparts. Furthermore, The Great Gatsby, further portrays gender stereotypes by exhibiting male roles consist of wealthy, powerful businessmen, and, in the case of Tom Buchanan, he portrays brutish and physical traits towards women. The women are essentially given a price in this book, and Daisy is the most expensive of all. While Myrtle is characterized as cheap and expendable, Tom mentions how, despite of his affairs, he always returns to Daisy. The reality is that Daisy is the ultimate jewel, within the novel, and Tom cannot afford her, even after marrying her. However, due to Tom’s destructive nature his actions have left Daisy emotionally unstable, and while she may want a divorce, her conservative views prevent her from doing so by, “Daisy is very at home in her social world (as seen by how uncomfortable she is at Gatsby’s party), and also values her reputation, keeping it spotless in Chicago despite moving with a fast crowd. Would Daisy really be willing to risk her reputation and give up her social standing, even if it meant being free from Tom and his affairs?” (Wershoven). It is evident that Daisy is unable to distance herself from her toxic marriage; she finds the comfort of a safe place where she knows she will live a fruitful life over the uncertainty of ruining her reputation, even if she would be free from her abusive husband, Tom Buchanan.