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Women in The Great Gatsby

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  • 0:02 ''The Great Gatsby''
  • 0:46 Daisy Buchanan
  • 1:39 Pammy Buchanan
  • 2:14 Jordan Baker
  • 2:56 Myrtle Wilson
  • 3:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

'The Great Gatsby' is an American novel about life in the 1920s. This lesson will explore the significance of the female characters in the book and will end with a brief quiz to test what you have learned.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby, a novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, takes place in the summer of 1922 on Long Island in New York. It is a story of love, loss, and scandal in a time of great social unrest. The author uses the characters and events in the book to make a statement about the many changes that were taking place in 1920s America. This era is frequently called the Jazz Age or Roaring Twenties because America was transforming from a very conservative country to a liberal one.

The role of women was also changing significantly because they had just been given the right to vote, and they were becoming more independent. Four women are featured in the novel, each facing different challenges and representing different ideas. Let's take a closer look at the significance of each of the women in the book.

Daisy Buchanan: Typical Wealthy Wife

Main characteristics:

Daisy is the pampered wife of Tom Buchanan, the mother of Pammy (Tom's child), and the object of Jay Gatsby's affection. She is described as the epitome of beauty and desirability. Despite the fact that Daisy lives a life of glamour and great wealth, she never seems satisfied and is frustrated by her husband's infidelity. She constantly seeks attention and the approval of others and is unfulfilled in life and in her opinion of herself.

Daisy represents the stereotypical married wealthy woman of the 1920s. She consumes herself with shallow relationships and places her value as a person solely on her appearance. She is essentially an extension of and puppet for her husband with no real personal power or freedom.

To Gatsby, Daisy represents the unattainable American dream. Gatsby's newfound wealth is not enough to win Daisy back. It does not grant him the social stature that is possessed by old-money families, like Tom Buchanan's.

Pammy Buchanan: Beautiful Fool

Pammy is the young daughter of Tom and Daisy Buchanan. She is rarely featured or spoken of in the book yet provides significant insight regarding the ideal woman in the story. More specifically, Daisy expresses her ambitions for her daughter to become 'a beautiful little fool.'

This notion that Pammy should strive toward beauty without intelligence demonstrates the struggle that women have faced throughout time: good looks are valued. Women who are outspoken are viewed as insulting to males and less attractive in general. Daisy's wish for her daughter highlights Daisy's frustration with her own empty life and with her lack of power and control.

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