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Themes

Up until the twentieth century, one of the most common questions in literature was, "What do men expect from women?" After a certain point, however, the question changed. In "Bernice Bobs Her Hair," we see a new issue emerge: what do women expect from women? This story asks us to evaluate and challenge traditional expectations of womanhood and femininity in comparison to a new kind of woman that exploded into life in the post-Victorian era. However, in the end, neither definition is totally satisfactory; Fitzgerald asks us to question whether or not we should create clear-cut models for femininity at all.

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. Is there any one "right" notion of femininity that emerges at the end of the story?
  2. What do you make of Marjorie's rather hypocritical means of defining the liberated woman by what men like and don't like?
  3. In your opinion, does Bernice eventually emerge as a successful modern woman?
  4. How might we define the difference between Marjorie's generation and her mother's?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The conflict between Bernice and Marjorie reflects society's uneasily changing attitude towards women in the 1920s.

Through the unresolved ending of his story, Fitzgerald demonstrates that any attempt to clearly define the ideal standards of womanhood in a certain way is ultimately satisfactory.

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