Both texts explore the idea that society imposes an identity on women that they arguably won’t be able to achieve because society requires women to be perfect and the idea that a perfect woman exists is absurd, however many still strive to achieve this identity as this is what is considered to be the desirable and valued for a woman. In Carter’s exploration and portrayal of women throughout her anthology, she is clearly arguing that in society mirrored through literature such as The Great Gatsby women are compelled to understand that they are unable to defy the value of female absence in a phallocentric society. Women are taught to suppress who they are and conform to societal standards whereas men have been always appreciated more than women and attain better privileges, opportunities and possibilities. From a feminist perspective, Starrett states that: “The young girl who expresses opinions on all subjects with forward confidence is regarded by all thoughtful and cultivated people as one of the most disagreeable and obnoxious characters to be met with in society” (Strarrett, H. 1920).
This is proven true in both texts, women are silenced such as when Myrtle is hurt by Tom in The Great Gatsby and their opinions and thoughts are discarded and regarded as foolish as clearly seen in the dynamic between the Marquis and the narrator in The Bloody Chamber. Whilst Carter is making a feminist point, Fitzgerald is arguably simply highlighting the status quo initiated by the society he worked within. Women are forced to take on viewpoints and outlooks that are approved by societal standards which they have to accept unless they want to be seen as ‘obnoxious’.
This is shown through Daisy when she utters that she wishes that her daughter becomes a “beautiful fool” (ch.3). The traditional role of women was the idea that they were the ‘angel of the house’ and were pure and domesticated however this was modified in the 1920s when women started embracing more independence. One way they did this was by gradually decreasing their hemlines and becoming what was known as flapper women. Women attained independence by working and defied societal judgement by drinking and smoking which was seen as taboo at the time yet despite this, it was still clear that a patriarchal society would evermore prevail superior as women couldn’t reach positions they coveted without the help of men.
Myrtle in The Great Gatsby, for example, attempts to attain the American Dream through the affair she has with Tom Buchanan thus Fitzgerald is ultimately asserting that the female characters in his novel aren’t capable of reaching their aspirations or goals without a male so they fabricate an identity in order to achieve them. We are able to see that Daisy acknowledges this as she states that she wants her daughter to be a “fool, that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful fool”(ch.3-page 30) Daisy understands that female intelligence isn’t valued and the subservience of females to men is desired, she is seen to put across a persona that presents her as an airhead as females should be heedless and senseless in order to avert disorder from objecting social norms of how women should function. Daisy’s inferior status in her relationship with Tom enables her to understand that it is impermissible for women to demonstrate their worth in a phallocentric society. This is further developed when Nick discloses that he “drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanans” (ch.1-page 13) He doesn’t refer to Daisy but simply put her under the category of Tom as if she has no identity or is not of importance to mention.
Similarly, Myrtle is reliant on Tom for materiality to gain the life of a noblewoman, all Myrtle ever wanted was to leave her social class but through her death Fitzgerald made it clear that this was ultimately unattainable. Myrtle is objectified even through death and is seen as a sexual object as her “left breast was swinging loose like a flap” (ch.7). Fitzgerald continues to portray her sexually even after death, which could signify that a woman is just a sexual object and nothing more.
Another interpretation is that he is punishing Myrtle for deviating from her expected infidelity and that women should remain loyal and keep their purity with one man. Feminists would argue that Tom Buchanan is seen not to receive any punishment for his unfaithfulness. This indicates that Fitzgerald is a misogynist who doesn’t agree with the concept of the ‘new woman’ just as many other men in the 1920’s who felt threatened by the concept.
Fitzgerald seems to be implying that due to 1920s being a predominant patriarchal society, women need to suppress their true identities in order to achieve their goals and maintain security as women can’t get by life without a male superior by their side.