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Noah Chance
Fall 200-
Dr. Fegley

La Belle Dame:

Women in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

Many critics have categorized female characters in the fiction of F. Scott

Fitzgerald as weak and static figures who exist as little more than over-valued prizes in

the battle between powerful male combatants. Yet, such a view over-simplifies

Fitzgerald’s approach. Indeed, the women in Fitzgerald’s novels do serve as prizes; but

they offer something more than the physical entity of a prize. A character like Daisy

Buchanan in The Great Gatsby actually confers something upon the men who battle for

her, something which lies at the heart of every quest in Fitzgerald’s novels; for the female

possesses the power to determine the male characters’ perception of themselves. In this

manner the female characters of The Great Gatsby function as pivotal entities, assuming

the role of judge that Nick Carraway abdicates.

Annotated Bibliography

Eble, Kenneth. F. Scott Fitzgerald. 1963. Boston: Twayne, 1977. 75-95.


Gumwort, Emile. “La Belle Dame Plus Three: The Beautiful and Damned as

Fitzgerald’s Prototypical Novel.” Arizona Quarterly 36 (1983): 351-61.

Though considered by many critics to be a failure, The Beautiful and Damned,

Fitzgerald’s second novel, establishes the basic thematic structure that he uses in all his


subsequent novels. In doing so, Fitzgerald moves beyond the far-flung rhetoric of his

first novel, This Side of Paradise, and creates a prototype for his two masterpieces, The

Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night. That prototype aligns the idea of the failure of the

Romantic hero who places faith and love in the empty vessel of La Belle Dame sans

Merci with his perception of the three forces and possibilities that shaped man at the

dawn of a new century and, more importantly, a new era of human history: moralism,

Romanticism, and modern materialism.

Although Fitzgerald’s female figures remain for the most part static objects of

desire, while his male figures are increasingly dynamic and result from a more complex

method of character development, such male protagonists as Anthony Patch discover in

the women around them the only means by which they can measure their own stature.

Thus they become enslaved by the perception of the women that they have idealized into

an unnatural conception of La Belle Dame. In Fitzgerald’s development of this woman —

the protagonist’s misplaced anima — Gloria Gilbert stands as the model for Fitzgerald’s

most famous female characters, Daisy Buchanan and

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