In the light of this comment, compare and contrast the presentation of central female characters in the two novels you have studied. Both Plath and Fitzgerald effectively present female characters in “The Great Gatsby” and “The Bell jar,” In The Great Gatsby female characters are presented via social class and relationships with other characters. The Great Gatsby presents the various characteristics of women in the 1920s through the variety of woman characters which represent different aspects of life.
The main characters which are presented in the novel are Daisy, Myrtle and Jordan. These three women represent class physical and revolutionary differences and their role in society and how the use their gender to manipulate the relationships’ they have with other characters and how they are perceived to the audiences by challenging woman stereotypes of the time. In comparison In The Bell Jar female characters are presented through themes and also their role in society and how their actions and relationships affect the people around them and society treats them.
The main characters which are presented in the novel are Ester a woman, who finds it hard to comply with the glamorous lifestyle around her and the opportunities she is offered with. And woman which represent the opportunities which ester is faced with such as Doreen the part animal, Joan which is suffering from mental illness and commits suicide and Dodo who’s only ambition in life is to have kids.
The difference between The great Gatsby and Bell Jar is that it is written by opposite sex therefore gives prospective of life from two different angles but the similarities are that both Gatsby and Ester are similar as they are both deprived but as they get older gain access to the high life which reflect auto biographical events of both writers. In Great Gatsby Fitzgerald uses three separate woman to present the various aspects of life in 1920s but Plath uses a combination of all these women in one character Ester as she shows characteristics of Daisy, Myrtle and Jordan.
As women in Great Gatsby are shed in a more negative view Plath manipulates these traits to make them seem better than they are. Daisy and Ester are similar as they both have a child but don’t think motherhood is central to the life which suggests they are both very selfish and maybe step out of the boundary for a traditional woman. Quoted from the Great Gatsby, “Haven’t you ever seen her, never”.
This shows that considering Daisy is a mother, she pays no attention to being a mother and is resistant to some aspects of traditional life. This is similarly like ester as she is a career orientated woman and having children are not in her priorities, “having the time of my life,” this shows a carefree attitude to life not responsible for another being, it also shows that she is persuaded by the actions of Doreen who is Ester’s friend and as outgoing which suggest that in this case Ester picks the easy life to live.
Daisy and Ester are also similar as their reactions and behaviour in relationships shows no remorse and maybe less consideration for others as Daisy doesn’t consider feelings of Gatsby when she lures him to his death she is a attention seeker like Ester as her relationship with her mother is an unstable one especially when she falls ill, she doesn’t consider how her behaviour is effecting others around her and the consequences it is having on her relationships’ with her friends such as Joan who later kills herself.
Unlike Daisy ester is frightened of having relationships maybe at the fact that one of the causes of her breakdown as due to getting raped by a male character, Mark which shook her confidence, on the other hand Daisy seems in control of her relationship with Gatsby and Tom. Daisy’s relationship with Gatsby may be a lustful and genuine one but Daisy apparent sweet nature is leaked when Gatsby is murdered which suggest Daisy isn’t as innocent as she seems, Daisy disappears like a ghost after Gatsby’s death which suggest mystery about Daisy’s character.
This also suggest he frail figure is deceiving as she ultimately betrays Gatsby as she chooses Tom over him which overall shows her physical ‘light and airy’ complexion, she is deceiving and disloyal to her relationships which shows she is selfish. Ester also presents modern woman pressure like Myrtle, she is a independent woman who is thrived by career like myrtle who has a aggressive composure which would come across as the liberated and free woman of the 1920’s, But both novels shows the restrictions on women’s role in society as they are suppressed by what society think of them and the male dominance.
As in The Great Gatsby Myrtle is given a collar made out of diamonds this suggest that Tom is in control and Myrtle is like his pet he can use her whenever he feels like it but also suggest Myrtles lust for the higher life and that she will stop in any level to feel the riches he desires. Similarly to ester who is controlled by society and the headlines as she is exposed to the public when she is found under her house, this suggest that women to a certain degree are free but still have to hide under the shadow of male or in ester’s situation the press who expose her breakdown violently.
Also Myrtle and Ester are similarly as Myrtle is killed by her lover’s wife and therefore blood is shed in bell jar Ester on several occasions tries to commit suicide as when she slits her wrists her heart beats, “I am, I am, I am” the repletion of this phrase stays in the audiences head and creates sympathy for ester but also suggest her break down as resulted her becoming more in a trance like as she is obsessed with the thought of death.
Ester is like the fig tree which is references to the novel and the bible as like the fig tree which prospered but die to conditions and its surroundings withered away and fell, ester is metaphorically like the tree as throughout the novel she grows to be a successful woman at the magazine but then through her breakdown and mental illness crashes.
Ester is also similarly like Jordan as both women are juggling and competing with modern society but Ester fails to meet the changes as she is reserved but Jordan cheats her way into life to get to the top more like the charter of Jay cee the older and successful woman which is in charge of the magazine.
The term “Bell jar” applies to Ester, Daisy, Myrtle and Jordan as they all try to liberate themselves through relationships and how they treat life but due to being women times are harder and therefore are like being under a bell jar unable to breathe and communicate fully with the outside world as they are so compressed and confide in a small society and succumbed by stereotypes and male dominance.
The differences is that Ester in the ends survives her ordeal she is inspiring for women as she under goes so much as a result for feminist she is a hero on the other hand in The great Gatsby is from a male prospective woman are perceived negatively. Overall the woman figures in great Gatsby are very contrasting ones and present all aspects of woman of the time.
Daisy suggest the old fashioned, traditional woman of the time Myrtle much more of the ‘It’ girl type, who is earthy and makeshift. Jordan is the most modern and has both traditional but modern and masculine features. In comparisons Plath also successfully present Ester tot the audience as she is a combination of Daisy, Myrtle and Jordan as she is a modern woman is struggling to keep up with the times and class but also bears a child.
At the same time she successfully presents the opportunities women are presented with in the 1960’s and how the pressure of modern women may affect and individual it is the liberation of women but also her decline. Women the Great Gatsby are perceived to be negative manipulative and very deceiving women but the bell jar sheds a complete different light on women and how they may face ordeals and effect them and overall how it makes woman stronger.