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Driving in The Great Gatsby
An interesting motif in The Great Gatsby is driving, particularly women drivers. I noticed a contrast between the driving abilities of the two main female characters . The first time it is brought up is when Jordan and Nick are together and Jordan is driving erratically.
“You’re a rotten driver,” I protested. “Either you ought to be more careful, or you oughtn’t to drive at all.”
“I am careful.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Well, other people are,” she said lightly.
“What’s that got to do with it?”
“They’ll keep out of my way,” she insisted. “It takes two to make an accident.”
“Suppose you met somebody just as careless as yourself.”
“I hope I never will,” she answered. “I hate careless people. That’s why I like you.”
In this case, Jordan is the woman driving. Despite her lacking this skill she is otherwise a very capable and strong willed person. She might have 'almost knocked a button off of some poor man’s coat', but she doesn’t actually get into an accident. It might be luck, or it might be that her carelessness is an affectation. Another affectation (her character has several).
She is the most masculinized female character in the novel, and therefore in some sense the strongest. The only time the tables are turned on her, is when Nick breaks things off with her, and that was a result of romantic idealism--- a trait Fitzgerald usually assigns to men. This idealism is shown as her belief that Nick was honest: “You said a bad driver was only safe until she met another bad driver? Well, I met another bad driver, didn’t I? I mean it was careless of me to make such a wrong guess. I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person. I thought it was your secret pride.”
The other case of a woman driving is Daisy. Of course, Daisy (being the weak willed, close minded, feeble woman that she is) gets into an accident. And not just an accident, but a deadly one. This provides another example of a woman being provided for or taken care of by a man. Daisy manages to shirk all responsibility for the accident. All in all though, the situation is exactly as was foreshadowed in the earlier conversation about driving, an accident resulting from two careless people meeting, in this case Myrtle (another weak female character) and Daisy.