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Feminist Criticism of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

Feminist Criticism of The Great Gatsby

The pervasive male bias in American literature leads the reader to equate the experience of being American with the experience of being male. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the background for the experience of disillusionment and betrayal revealed in the novel is the discovery of America. Daisy’s failure of Gatsby is symbolic of the failure of America to live up to the expectations in the imagination of the men who “discovered” it. America is female; to be American is male; and the quintessential American experience is betrayal by woman. Fetterley believes that power is the issue in the politics of literature. Powerlessness characterizes woman’s experience of reading not only because her experience is not articulated, clarified and legitimized in art, but more significantly because to be universal in American literature is to be not female.

The Great Gatsby is an American “love” story centered in hostility to women. The vision of love is played out as a struggle for power in an elaborate pattern of advantage and disadvantage in which romance is but a strategy for male victory. Gatsby’s imaginative investment in Daisy is evident in his description of her as the first ‘nice’ girl he had ever known. The quotation marks around “nice” indicate that the word is being used not as a reference to personality but as an index to social status and that Jay Gatsby’s interest in Daisy Fay lies in what she represents rather than in what she is. She is for him symbolic rather than personal: he later remarks to Nick that Daisy’s relation to Tom was just personal.

Gatsby thinks of Daisy in relation to the objects that surround her. He cannot separate his vision of her from his vision…

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… Gatsby, in the eyes of a feminist critic, is based on a lie of a double standard that makes female characters in classic literature not persons but symbols. It makes women’s experience no part of that literature’s concern. The male romantic imagination wants women to remain outsiders so that they can be forever available as occasions for the heroic gestures of men and as scapegoats for the failure of men’s dreams.

Works Cited

Feminist Criticism.

Fetterley, Judith. The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Fiction. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978.

Lee, Elizabeth. Feminist Theory – An Overview.…t/landow/victorian/gender/femtheory.html

Meese, Elizabeth A. Crossing the Double-Cross. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986.

Free Essays: Nature in Dickinson’s Poetry

Nature in Dickinson’s Poetry

The Imagery of Emily Dickinson, by Ruth Flanders McNaughton, in a chapter entitled “Imagery of Nature,” examines the way the Emily Dickinson portrays nature in her poetry. Dickinson often identified nature with heaven or God (33), which could have been the result of her unique relationship with God and the universe. There are a lot of religious images and allusions used in her poetry, such as the rainbow as the sign of the covenant God made with Noah. Dickinson always held nature in reverence throughout her poetry, because she regarded nature as almost religious. There was almost always a mystical or religious undercurrent to her poetry, but she depicted the scenes from an artistic point of view rather than from a religious one (34).

One of the most obvious things that Dickinson did in her poetry was paying minute attention to things nobody else noticed. She was obsessed with the minute detail of nature—paying attention to things such as hills, flies, bumble bees, and eclipses. In these details, Dickinson found “manifestations of the universal” and felt the harmony that bound everything together (33). The small details and particulars that caught her eye were like “small dramas of existence” (39). Each poem was like a tiny micro-chasm that testified to Dickinson’s life as a recluse. Dickinson’s created “dramas” were not static, but everything from the images she used to the words she chose for impact contributed to a “moving picture” (39).

In the following poem, Dickinson writes how nature acts as a housewife sweeping through a sunset:

She sweeps with many-colored brooms,

And leaves the shreds behind;

Oh, housewife in the evening west,

Come back, and dust the pond!

You dropped a purple ravelling in,

You dropped an amber thread;

And now you’ve littered all the East

With duds of emerald!

And still she plies her spotted brooms,

And still the aprons fly,

Till brooms fade softly into stars—

And then I come away.

Dickinson artistically shows the “sunset in terms of house cleaning” (36). The themes of domestic life and housewifery are displayed in the preceding poem. Only somebody with the observational powers and original creativity like Emily Dickinson could see something so unique and refreshing in a sunset.

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