The Portrayal of Women in American Literature
Throughout American Literature, women have been depicted in many different ways. The portrayal of women in American Literature is often influenced by an author's personal experience or a frequent societal stereotype of women and their position. Often times, male authors interpret society’s views of women in a completely different nature than a female author would. While F. Scott Fitzgerald may represent his main female character as a victim in the 1920’s, Zora Neale Hurston portrays hers as a strong, free-spirited, and independent woman only a decade later in the 1930’s.
In F. Scott Fitzgerald's, The Great Gatsby, the main female character, Daisy Buchanan, is portrayed by, Nick, the narrator, only by her superficial qualities. “Guided only by Nick’s limited view of her, readers often judge Daisy solely on the basis of her superficial qualities” (Fryer 43). What the reader sees through the eyes of Nick only appears as a woman whose impatience and desire for wealth and luxury cost her the love of her life, Gatsby. Nick’s narrow perception does not allow one to see that “…[Daisy’s] silly manner conceals a woman of feeling or that her final ‘irresponsibility’ towards Gatsby stems from an acute sense of responsibility towards herself” and that Nick “…clearly does not understand what motivates her” (Fryer 43). One can easily view Daisy as a victim. Fitzgerald distinctly exposes Daisy’s need for stability, which, according to Fitzgerald or perhaps the mentality of the time period, can only be found in a man. “Her need for stability was immediate, and she attempted to satisfy that need through something tangible, something close at hand” (Fryer 51). This “need” that Fitzgerald displays on Daisy’s account is for “…an attainable partner who could provide –through marriage- the sense of identity and stability she so desperately craved” (Fryer 51). As seen in society today as well as in Fitzgerald’s time, men will have affairs outside of their marriages, and the wife, falls victim to this violation of faith. Daisy falls victim to Tom’s affair with Myrtle: “Daisy’s affection for Tom…was soon shattered by his breech of her trust” (Fryer 51). Matters take an abrupt turn in the novel however, when Daisy’s sudden insistence for honesty emerges. At the hotel in the city, when Gatsby pressures her into proclaiming that she never loved Tom she can no longer bear the anxiety. She refuses to deny her love of Tom.
Daisy’s sudden, simple respect for the truth is startling to the reader because Nick’s perceptions of her throughout the novel are so very limited to her superficial manner … her stubborn honesty … is a logical outgrowth of her inner struggle to resolve conflicting needs. It is a brief, futile attempt to declare emotional independence (Fryer 54).
Of course after this unpleasant, yet necessary upheaval, Daisy retreats into her melancholy and monotonous life of superficiality,...