The Portrayal of Women in the Novels This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

The Portrayal of Women in the Novels This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

In the 19th century females were to ‘play’ a limited role in what they do, how they act and how they should look. Women have always fallen under specific categories, and This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy are no exceptions. They are portrayed as being weak and fragile, and are unable to think and act for themselves. The male characters in both novels treat the female characters as unintelligent beings, not like today’s society. With women being treated inferior compared to men, they have no chance or opportunity for things to get better. Women would have no chance of progress. Both authors show this by using imagery, classism, and tone.

In War and Peace Leo Tolstoy portrays the female characters in a stereotypical light by discussing their outer appearance. Leo Tolstoy discusses a female characters beauty, before anything else, he describes “her pretty little upper lip, on which a delicate dark brown was just perceptible, was too short for her teeth, but it lifted all the more sweetly, and was especially charming when she occasionally drew it down to meet the lower lip. As is always the case with a thoroughly attractive woman, her defect – the shortness of her upper lip.”(Tolstoy 10) Leo Tolstoy goes on about her beauty, but falls into discussing her “defect” which ruins her beauty. The author doesn’t discuss the male appearance, because, from 1800-1845 the male appearance didn’t matter much. The male characters are shown to be wealthy, educated, and have power. While the women characters in the novel are portrayed to be simple, they aren’t educated and are only viewed based on their beauty and who their significant other is in reference to society.

Just like in War and Peace, This Side of Paradise written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, uses imagery as a way to portray women in a light of ignorance, and superficial out looks. In This Side of Paradise, the female character are discussed, and judged strictly on their outer appearance in the novel, there are many different references to female characters, such as discussions about, “Marylyn De Witt she’s pretty, got a car of her own and that’s damn convenient; there’s Sally Weatherby she’s getting too fat; there’s Myra St. Claire, she’s an old flame, easy to kiss if you’d like.”(Fitzgerald 48) As Amory Blaine talks to his roommate, about the girls he’s been with he only discusses their appearance, by not mentioning anything about their character or intelligence he stereotypes them. By stating, “she’s getting fat” he bases his relationships with these female characters solely on image, and the ‘ideal’ image that society had and still does portray women as being.

Within War and Peace women are portrayed to be in a separate social class then men. Although both the women and men are from the same social class viewed my society, within the higher class it is then again divided, separating men and women, with men being the ‘dominate’ class within their own society, because they work, are educated, and thus having the money, which makes them powerful, “‘it is most kind of you, Monsieur Pierre, to come to see a poor sick woman,’ said Anna Pavlovna, looking anxiously across at her aunt as she steered him in her direction… when Pierre walked off without hearing about her majesty’s health.”(Tolstoy 11) With Pierre ignoring the gesture of Anna Pavlovna to go see her majesty because she’s ill, he acts as if Anna Pavlovna is below him by walking off rather than listening to her thoughts and ideas about a specific event.

Also, in This Side of Paradise, social class is a major issue among women and men. In this novel, Rosalind and Amory change roles. Amory, although from a wealthy class in society, as he grows up he changes from what he use to be. Once he reaches adulthood he changes who he is and what is important to him. Rosalind, decides not to be with Amory because he isn’t wealthy enough, she decides to be with someone else, even though her new husband doesn’t appreciate her thoughts, ideas, values she stays with him anyways because of his wealthy standing in society, Dawson has a control over Rosalind, “Dawson say’s [she’ll] learn to love him”(Fitzgerald 181) by stating that she’ll learn to love him he’s keeping a control over her, which indicates that Dawson believes that Rosalind is unable to conduct her own thoughts and ideas about what she wants for herself.

Finally, the tone used throughout the novel War and Peace is directed towards the women characters, is rude. The women in the novel, when voicing an idea about politics, education, or a worry towards a male character they are spoken to in a tone where what they’ve said has no importance because of their emotional states and that stereotypically females are portrayed as being hysterical, and over-come by emotion when spoken to about serious issues, “all these women making a fuss! Women, women!” (Tolstoy 768) the tone directed towards women is rude, he states that women are always in a hysterical state and indicates that women are incapable of making decisions because they are “making a fuss” which by the males point of view is how they view women, which influences their opinions about how females are unable to make decisions.

Finally, This Side of Paradise has a tone that is directed towards the main female characters also. Within the novel the women who appear in the novel are shown as being insignificant compared to the men in the novel. When the women characters show a worry the male protagonists ignore their worries and go ahead with what they want, disregarding their worries and thoughts, “’your shirt stud – it hurt me – look!’ She was looking down at her neck where a little blue spot about the size of a pea marred its pallor… ‘Don’t touch me!’ She cried ‘haven’t I enough on my mind and you stand there and laugh!’” (Fitzgerald 88) With Amory laughing while Isabelle is concerned about the mark, it shows that he has no concern for what she feels, and that it is childish of her to worry about it because he suggests to “massage” it, “with a laugh in his voice” this all indicates that Amory has no concern for how Isabelle is feeling, showing that the male protagonist don’t believe that the female protagonist are equal to them.

In This Side of Paradise and War and Peace females are portrayed as being inferior to the male protagonist. They are shown as being weak and fragile, they are also portrayed as being unable to think and act for themselves. The male characters in both novels treat the female characters as unintelligent beings. Both authors had shown this by using imagery, classism, and tone throughout both novels.