When and I find it hard to
When it was written in 1925, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, by Anita Loos was heralded as a tremendous novel. It was seen as cutting edge and insightful, yet somewhat risqu in its portrayal of Lorelei Lee and her escapades.
I can see how this may have been thought at that time, seeing as how women were looked at in such a different way then they are currently. The fact that a women with as little know-how as Lorelei can manipulate men the way that she does, leaves no question as to who is the superior gender in Loos mind. While the books is quite amusing, and does have many strengths, if it is looked at in the context of womens struggles with issues such as domesticity, sexuality and socioeconomic standing it seems less and less like such a brilliant, satirical social commentary.Lorelei seemed to come from a middle class family.
She mentions that she attended business college, and that her father was sending her away to learn how to become a stenographer. This indicates that it was not out of the question for her to work for a living, although after she fell into the hands of Gus Eisman she does nothing of the sort. After living under the care of Mr. Eisman, she easily makes the transition from being a part of the working middle class to the life of leisure of the upper class.
This of course would be a tremendous event for most people, but Lorelei seems not to dwell too much on it. She chooses, rather to focus on other more important things like diamond tiaras. So, instead, I will focus on it for a moment.
It seems completely out of line for a book that claims to be such an intelligent commentary on womens lives, to focus on a woman of such privilege. I know that the fact that she is so privileged adds a very amusing edge to the novel, but it really seems quite inaccurate. Since it was originally published in Harpers Bazaar, it has to be noted that the women who would be reading such periodicals would be of the working or middle class. Seeing a protagonist like Lorelei who rose to the top without working may have been nice for these women to read, something akin to a fairy tale, it still is certainly unrepresentative of the average woman.
Taking into account the inflation of the past seventy-five years, I still do not know anyone who would call up their father (or father-like person) and ask them for $10,000. It is the things like this that make me completely unable to identify with Lorelei, and I find it hard to believe that many women at the time would have been able to either. Something that I feel many women at the time, and still some to this day can identify with, is Loreleis use of her sexuality to get what she wants from men. It reminds me of the whole treating phenomenon mentioned in Cheap Amusements. While did not have sex with men for the presents they gave her, she certainly wasnt above putting on a neglige and batting her eyelashes to make them give her presents or do her favors.
There was not a man in the book who did not fall victim to her in one way or another. Whether it was Mr. Jennings, who paid with his life, or Sir Francis Beekman, who paid with a $10,000 diamond tiara, all of the men in the novel paid a price for the company of Lorelei. So, if one looks at her critically, maybe through the eyes of a moralistic reformer, Lorelei is nothing but a prostitute. Although, she draws definite lines for herself about what nice girls do and do not do, she does not draw the line at pulling the wool over a mans eyes in order to get what she wants.
One of the aspects of the book, that I did find amusing, however, was the fact that she had the capability to do this. Lorelei, despite all of her efforts to educate herself, was far from being among the best and the brightest. But even this, upon closer examination, turns from witty to sour.
Even though Lorelei did not seem to have more than one brain cell to her name, she was able to persuade men. So, is that what it comes down to? Is that all women are worth? If you are nice to look at and know how to gaze at a man just right, you can get just what you want. Regardless of the fact that Lorelei thought that Australia was a place in England, the men still hurled marriage proposals at her right and left. It is a little disconcerting that when the brain and personality of a woman are whittled away and all there is left is raw sex appeal, that she still makes a definite place for herself in life. Another issue that comes to mind when thinking of Lorelei is her complete lack of domesticity. Written in 1925, when women were throwing conventional Victorian morality to the dogs and cutting their hair and their dresses short, it seems that Lorelei is taking this route.
However, what seems weird is the fact that it is never even mentioned. She receives one marriage proposal after another and the things that she seriously considers are along the lines of how boring parties will be with her new husband around. She feels no maternal or familial obligation. This is especially surprising because to her new husbands family, she claims to be such an old-fashioned girl. It makes me wonder how boring parties will be to her once she has one or two little ones to care for. When you take a step back and look at it, its obvious that the men in Loreleis life are stupider than she will ever be.
They are blinded by her beauty and hand her dollar after dollar as they sit there drooling while she rambles on about colledge, and how much she likes the Ritz. I have no idea if Loos original audience picked up on all of these subtleties. It would have been awful if they had not, and came away with the book at face value. While it was an amusing book to read, I think that its a little much to call it the great American novel.