Fay Weldon’S The Life And Loves Of A She-Devil And Fitzgerald’S The Great GatsbyGatsby vs. Ruth: The Battle of Self-Creation
In Fay Weldon’s The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the main characters, Ruth and Gatsby, go through a process of re-inventing themselves. Each character tries to change themselves so they can, in some way, improve their lives. Though each character tries to re-invent themselves, both of their reasons for doing so are completely different. The characters may have different reasons for changing themselves, but both end up almost in the same spot.
In The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, Ruth is the character that goes through the transformation. After being cheated on by her husband, Bobbo, ridiculed by him in front of his parents, and basically deserted with her two children and the dog, Ruth decides that she needs to make a change. She wants to make Bobbo suffer for all the pain that he put her through.
Ruth goes to the extreme limits to make Bobbo suffer. In order to make him suffer, Ruth has to change her whole life around. The first thing she does, is blow up their house. Ruth wants to get rid of the past, so she can start a new. She then drives over to Mary Fisher’s house, Bobbo’s mistress, and drops off the two children with him. Next, Ruth gets a job at Restwood Retirement Home, the same place where Mary Fisher’s mother was a resident. After a while, Ruth sets it up so that Mrs. Fisher is kicked out of Restwood, and forced to move in with Mary, Bobbo, and his two children. Then, Ruth starts to work on herself. She changes her name to Vesta Rose, and starts the Vesta Rose Agency. This agency is a ?temp? service that trains women basic secretarial skills, and even gets them jobs. While working there, Ruth starts sneaking into Bobbo’s office in the city with the spare key she still had. Ruth would transfer money from Bobbo’s clients’ accounts to Ruth and Bobbo’s joint account. She would then spend this money on anything she needed, including plastic surgery for herself. Olga, the banker that got her job from the Vesta Rose Agency, would make sure that Bobbo never saw any of the bank statements.
Bobbo then gets audited, and then arrested. Ruth gets another job as the nanny at Judge Bishop’s house, the same judge on Bobbo’s trial. After sleeping with him many times, Ruth convinces Judge Bishop to sentence Bobbo to seven years in jail. While he’s in jail, Mary has to care for the children and her mother. Ruth ultimately destroys both of their lives.
I think that Ruth was very successful in her destruction of Bobbo. She made him feel unloved and unwanted, which was exactly how he made her feel when they were together. Through her destruction of Bobbo, Ruth re-invented herself. Physically, she had plastic surgery done, so she would not have such a ghastly appearance. Emotionally, Ruth made many changes. She no longer let people take advantage of her. Nobody could tell her what to do, and it seemed like nothing could get in her way. Also, she found a new level of confidence, which powered her in her quest for revenge. I do think that Ruth may have gone a little overboard, but everything worked out the way that she wanted it to.
When Ruth was together with Bobbo, she could not voice her opinion on any subject. She was always told what to do, and she could not argue with him. When Bobbo leaves her, Ruth decides that that is the last straw. Blowing up her house, shows that Ruth can be independent. She now has to live on her own, and not get supported by Bobbo. Ruth also sheds her ?good girl? image. She begins stealing money, manipulating people, and she becomes ruthless. Ruth stops trying to please other people, and only tries to please herself.
In The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby is the character that re-invents himself. When Gatsby goes off to fight in the war, Tom Buchanan takes Daisy away from him. Daisy began to feel lonely, so she decides to marry Tom, because he is very, very rich. When Gatsby returns from the war and finds his Daisy married to Tom, he is devastated. He then decides that he will do any, and everything, in his power to get Daisy back.
After examining the situation very carefully, Gatsby realizes that the only way to get Daisy back, is through money. Soon after, he starts gambling, bootlegging, and taking part in organized crime. Gatsby gains his fortune slowly, but surely, and begins to try to get Daisy back. He buys a huge mansion, expensive furniture, and a very fancy car. In attempt to try and lure Daisy to his house, Gatsby throws many parties. Daisy finally attends one of the parties, and Nick introduces her to Gatsby. Once they meet, the spark between them is immediately re-ignited. Gatsby then begins to go through another transformation. He does not care about his money anymore, and he just focuses on how to get Daisy away from Tom. His mansion falls to ruins, and he dismisses all of his servants. This massive lust for one another is ultimately what gets Daisy and Gatsby killed.
I think that Gatsby was successful in his re-invention. He got Daisy to love him again, and that was his only purpose. Gatsby seems to be a little pathetic for doing this, but he shows that love is a very strong thing. Before going into the war, Gatsby was a normal man, with good morals. He throws all of his morals away when he tries to get Daisy back. Being rich and sophisticated is the image he feels he needs to portray. He gets his money through organized crime, and he becomes sophisticated with all of his expensive things, and his fake background, which includes an education from Oxford. Gatsby successfully turned himself into a rich, scholar.
Ruth goes through her transformation for revenge. Gatsby re-invents himself for the love of another person. Each character was successful in their transformations, but each had a different motive. On the other hand, the way that each of them went about their changes were somewhat similar. Ruth and Gatsby needed money, and each of them got it by stealing. Gatsby used organized crime, and Ruth embezzled the money from Bobbo’s clients. Each character faced the risk of getting arrested, but their drives for revenge, or love, were strong enough to overcome that fear.
I feel that each character was successful in re-inventing themselves, but they also destroyed other people’s lives. Obviously, Ruth destroyed Bobbo’s and Mary’s lives, but she also ruined her children’s lives. Mary Fisher is definitely not prepared enough to take care of them. They will be forced to grow up with no real family atmosphere with all of the servants and butlers. Ruth will have to live the rest of her life knowing that she cannot help her children grow and develop. Gatsby ruined the lives of Daisy, Myrtle, George, and himself. Daisy will have to live with the thought that she killed Myrtle, and that was the reason why George killed Gatsby, then himself.
Weldon and Fitzgerald both intrigue us with their tales of self-invention. Each use, basically, the same methods for their re-creations, but each use different modus operandi. Weldon uses revenge as the path to a better self, and Fitzgerald uses love as his path. It does not matter which path they took, they both ended up in the same spot: Guilt.