Study Guide

The Great Gatsby: Gender Quotes

By F. Scott Fitzgerald

Gender

 
Chapter 1
Nick Carraway

The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room, and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor. (1.27)

Ah, the sweet smell of foreshadowing. Here, Tom literally—or is it metaphorically?—deflates the women, just like (SPOILER) he's going to do later on.

At any rate, Miss Baker's lips fluttered, she nodded at me almost imperceptibly, and then quickly tipped her head back again—the object she was balancing had obviously tottered a little and given her something of a fright. Again a sort of apology arose to my lips. Almost any exhibition of complete self-sufficiency draws a stunned tribute from me. (1.32)

Complete self-sufficiency—or complete self-sufficiency from a woman? We get the feeling that Nick is half in love with and half repulsed by Jordan because he can't deal with the fact that, unlike Daisy, she doesn't need a man. After all, she's got a phallic symbol of her own: that golf club.

I looked back at my cousin, who began to ask me questions in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down, as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again. Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered "Listen," a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour. (1.33)

We're not saying that Daisy Buchanan was the first Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but we're also not saying that she wasn't.

Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water, and the history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanans. Daisy was my second cousin once removed, and I'd known Tom in college. And just after the war I spent two days with them in Chicago. (1.15)

Oh, fun. Notice how Nick doesn't even say "the Buchanans," just the "Tom Buchanans"? This is evidence that the girl Gatsby was in love with—Daisy—no longer exists.

Daisy Buchanan

"It'll show you how I've gotten to feel about – things. Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling, and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. 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.'" (1.116-118)

Daisy thinks that the best a girl can do is to be dumb enough not to realize how awful her life is. Awesome. No wonder she cries.

Chapter 2
Myrtle Wilson

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! Dai –– "

Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand. (2.125-127)

Women have words. Men have fists. Guess who wins? (Hint: sticks and stones can break your bones, and … yeah. It pretty much ends there.)

Chapter 3
Nick Carraway

It made no difference to me. Dishonesty in a woman is a thing you never blame deeply – I was casually sorry, and then I forgot. It was on that same house party that we had a curious conversation about driving a car. It started because she passed so close to some workmen that our fender flicked a button on one man's coat. (3.159)

Women. Just remember to lower your expectations and you'll never be disappointed, right?

Chapter 7
Jay Gatsby

"Yes," he said after a moment, "but of course I'll say I was. You see, when we left New York she was very nervous and she thought it would steady her to drive – and this woman rushed out at us just as we were passing a car coming the other way. It all happened in a minute, but it seemed to me that she wanted to speak to us, thought we were somebody she knew. Well, first Daisy turned away from the woman toward the other car, and then she lost her nerve and turned back. The second my hand reached the wheel I felt the shock – it must have killed her instantly." (7.396-398)

Gatsby immediately says that he'll take the blame. This is chivalry at work—great, right? Well, maybe, until you realize that it means women never having to take responsibility for their actions, and never having to grow up. Personally, we'll take the responsibility.

Chapter 8
Nick Carraway

It was after we started with Gatsby toward the house that the gardener saw Wilson's body a little way off in the grass, and the holocaust was complete. (8.112-114)

Myrtle's already dead, but we have to wonder: would Wilson have killed her, too? Is he avenging his wife's honor—or her death?

Through this twilight universe Daisy began to move again with the season; suddenly she was again keeping half a dozen dates a day with half a dozen men, and drowsing asleep at dawn with the beads and chiffon of an evening dress tangled among dying orchids on the floor beside her bed. And all the time something within her was crying for a decision. She 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. (8.19)

You get the feeling that Fitzgerald thinks that women are fundamentally incapable of making up their minds, and so they have to have some dude do it for them. In that way, The Great Gatsby is really about the fight between Gatsby and Tom: whose vision of America is going to win?