What is the role of women in 'The Great Gatsby'?

The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby. Scribner

Question: What is the role of women in 'The Great Gatsby'?

The Great Gatsby is filled with characters who appear to be larger-than-life, living the American Dream in true, BIG, 1920's Jazz-Age style. But, if the men are making all the money and supporting the lavish lifestyles, what are the women doing? What roles do they play on this splendorous stage?


The female character we usually think of in The Great Gatsby is Daisy, who is mentioned by Nick here: "Daisy was my second cousin once removed, and I'd known Tom in college. And just after the war I spent two days with them in Chicago."

Daisy appears almost removed, as an after-thought, of an importance only as the wife to Tom. Later, according to Nick: "I looked back at my cousin, who began to ask me questions in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down, as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again. Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered 'Listen,' a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour."

Yet, Daisy is the reason that Jay Gatsby moves heaven and earth to set himself up in the lavish lifestyle. She's the reason, the hope-for-a-future that makes him dare to dream, and even dare to reinvent himself (from the small-town, farm boy to the successful Jay Gatsby).