“One of these days, Alice... Bang! Zoom! Straight to the moon! ” Gender roles play an important part in our social lives, an ever present reminder of the differences, and similarities, between the two sexes. Nearly all of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novels, including “A New Leaf,” have reoccurring representations of social roles, which defines his work and makes it his own.
Fitzgerald's social roles are the traditional equivalent of those found in the early to mid 20th century, where men work to earn money for the maintenance of the women, and men are dominant over women.The females in his novels are typically seen as more invested into caring for children, finding a suitable man, and concerning themselves with beauty. Its a typical stereotype throughout early work of that era. This social role presented by Fitzgerald shapes and conforms his works in multiple ways.
Gender roles in “A New Leaf” portray men as the providers and dominant, females as subordinate caretakers, and it vastly limits decision making to choices that are deemed “appropriate” for men and women alike.The outward appearance of the genders are subject to the writer's portrayal of the sexes, causing the reader to view each sex a certain way. While in “A New Leaf,” neither sex is outright good or bad, but different nonetheless. Men appear to the reader in one of two extremes, the “safe” guy, and the “bad boy. ” The safe man is everything that a family would look for, everything someone would want to live comfortably with, stable job, loyal, honorable, and protective.
But on the other hand, women more often than not will choose the “bad boy,” at least at first, because he is dangerous and exciting.The “bad boy” has a hit or miss job, often well outside of legal boundaries, constantly addicted to some self destructive drug or habit, most likely unfaithful, but the women enjoy having drama and uncertainty in their lives. Only one female character is present, and while not viewed as immoral or evil, the reader will most likely view her as fickle and unintelligent, choosing between men rather than bettering herself to move ahead in life. “Dick Ragland? Because he's got the worst reputation of any American in Paris.“I don't believe a word of it, he's too tremendously attractive. ”[Fitzgerald 386] Handsome men and pretty clothing dominate her life, far above intelligence and honor.
Similar to the outward portrayal of the sexes in “A New Leaf,” there is a distinct line drawn between the social roles of men and women in the work. Women are not asked to do much of anything in the social construct, left alone to beautify themselves in search of the perfect man for them. Aside from that, they are entrusted to the care of children for the family. When he was sad, Julia made him her baby, caring for him and holding his handsome head against her breast. ” [Fitzgerald 394]Men, in this work, are pictured to be providers, keepers of order, and leaders, mostly in order to impress a well endowed lady.
The social structure in “A New Leaf” revolves around relationships and sex more than anything else. While the gender roles of society outwardly effect each character, and how the reader will ultimately view them due to the society that the character lives in, gender influence ill each character inwardly by shaping the community around the character, and by limiting decision making capabilities so far that characters are often limited by the society's view of appropriate gender behavior into a single path of progression. In order to understand how the character's choices are affected, one must know; What exactly is deemed appropriate for each gender in society? In “A New Leaf,” these appropriate actions are implicitly stated through careful examination of the context that the characters find themselves in.Julia, our only female character follows her appropriate behavior perfectly. Society wants the females to follow instructions, wants her to be feminine, to be beautiful, and loyal.
Females outside of the social norm for a perfect woman are degraded and shunned, often called harlot and whore. Julia is a a beautiful woman of wealthy upbringing, obsessed with her own beauty and the approval of the man she pines for, following exactly under society's influences, and she is rewarded with an easy life for it.Men are nearly the polar opposite of the females, as far as societal rules go. They are forced to be the patriarch of the family, great and honorable, almost indestructible gentlemen. Even when everything opposes them, they are meant to look brightly and face the world head on, no matter the ending.
Hoffman is an example of the rule, and Ragland is the exception. Exceptions to the rule are always punished, as shown by Ragland ending the story with his own death because he could not stay faithful or willfully strong, whereas Hoffman is rewarded with the woman he has pined for.Now that you know what society deems appropriate, you can understand how that will affect the character's choices every step of their path towards the eventual end. Women are left two choices, either abide to the trophy figurine that is asked of them, or be branded as a whore.
Men have the option of holding their will strong in the face of life, and if they cannot stand and they fall, become outcasts themselves, forced to live a bum's life on the outskirts of societal norms.Society wants Julia to choose Hoffman in the end, even after she is almost married to Ragland. “He didn't drink right? He held true to his promise? That was it. He kept his promise and killed himself doing it.
” [ Fitzgerald 397] Hoffman holds honorable in the face of defeat, not revealing to Julia that he was right all along about Ragland. He, even after losing his woman for years, would still throw away his own self gratification for the happiness of others. He earned his fairytale ending through years of hardship and wait.Gender is of far greater importance than one may notice at a first glance of any novel, but under further inspection, every work with female and male characters present is shaped and warped by gender roles in massive ways. Gender roles determine how, even stereotypical it may be, the basic characters impulses will act.
Society will view genders in different lights, affecting the three major roles in society, portrayal, role action, and ultimately, every decision that the characters will make or ever be able to make.