Hearing Daisy’s Voice in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby: A Powerful “Beautiful Little Fool”

Kendall Kartaly

Abstract


Even with the changing ideas of women’s roles in the 1920s, women were still subject to patriarchal power. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Daisy seems to be subject to Tom’s power. Daisy admits that the best thing a girl can be is a “beautiful little fool,” and she fulfills that role. In the scholarly conversation about Daisy, most scholars agree that Daisy’s choice or lack of choice of Tom over Gatsby makes her a “beautiful little fool.” Yet, is this the right way to read and understand Daisy’s actions as a result of foolishness? Isn’t this scholarship, much like the patriarchal narration, continuing the tradition of not seeing Daisy’s power? Even the scholars with critiques of the patriarchy do not assert Daisy with power. In my paper, I will enter the scholarly conversation and assert that Daisy’s role as a fool is constructed, not innate, and that she does indeed have power through using her voice as a tool of manipulation against Tom and Gatsby. While some scholars might believe that her manipulation is an act of survival or merely limited by her selfishness or beauty, it is more than that—Daisy is messing with the patriarchal power, thus redefining women and gender roles. My research methodology consists of close textual analysis, the current scholarly conversation, and scholarly works outside of The Great Gatsby. I will also compare Daisy with another fool, Kismine, from Fitzgerald’s “Diamond as Big as the Ritz” to show Daisy’s success through her performative role as a “fool” and that Kismine’s true foolishness leads to failure. This research is significant because it shows that when Daisy is not seen through a patriarchal lens she is powerful. This gives a new understanding to literary characters who have already been defined a certain way by scholarship.


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