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Character Analysis in Bernice Bobs Her Hair
Character Analysis Examples in Bernice Bobs Her Hair:
"awfully slick girl..." See in text (II)
In this context, the adjective “slick”—a slang term—means smooth in manners or suave. Marjorie suggests that Martha is popular because she uses her wit and personality. This suggests that women were judged for more than their beauty in this time period. It also reveals that Marjorie partakes in the contemporary social scene because she uses popular jargon from the time.
"She's sensitive enough to know she's not getting away with much..." See in text (II)
The adjective “sensitive” in this context means perceptive of another’s feelings. In this statement, Marjorie defends her cruel response to her cousin and justifies her aversion to having Beatrice stay longer by blaming Beatrice. In claiming that Beatrice “must know” why she is unliked, Marjorie relieves herself from blame.
"womanly woman..." See in text (III)
Notice the irony in Marjorie’s thinking. She claims that the “womanly woman” is inferior because she spends all of her time “whining” and criticizing other women who do not fit into standards for conventional femininity. However, readers have just seen Marjorie complain to her mother that Bernice does not conform to the conventions of flapper society. While Marjorie thinks that she is much smarter and more carefree than the previous generation, she embodies similar reactions and patterns of behavior.
""The womanly woman!" continued Marjorie. "Her whole early life is occupied in whining criticisms of girls like me who really do have a good time." ..." See in text (III)
Fitzgerald’s collection of stories Tales of the Jazz Age, in which this story appears, sought to capture the culture and lifestyle of the 1920s. Marjorie’s character embodies the ideology of the Jazz Era. She actively rejects traditional femininity, or the “womanly woman,” because this lifestyle is about criticizing others rather than focusing on oneself. Marjorie is more concerned with her good time then on condemning the actions of others.
"Bernice admitted it by bursting into tears. Marjorie's eyes showed boredom...." See in text (III)
Again, the narrator juxtaposes Bernice’s emotional response with Marjorie’s apathy. Marjorie seems to have rejected common social conventions that encourage sympathy and comfort to someone who is crying. She seems almost inhumanly cruel because of her lack of care.
"Misty waves were passing before Bernice's eyes, while Marjorie's face wore that rather hard expression that she used when slightly intoxicated undergraduate's were making love to her...." See in text (III)
Notice Marjorie’s apparent lack of feeling. Unlike Bernice who feels offended, rejected, and sad, the narrator uses this parallel to show that Marjorie is apathetic even in situations where she should have some kind of emotional or physical response. The stark contrast between the two girls reveals the unsettling, apathetic mentality of the Jazz Age.
"She had not talked about the weather or Eau Claire or automobiles or her school, but had confined her conversation to me, you, and us...." See in text (IV)
Beatrice’s conversation is seen as charming because it remains present. It focuses on the participants and current moment rather than referencing outside or objective things. Bernice discovers that the trick to appealing to this society is to engage in it fully.
"Bernice had all the sensations of Marie Antoinette bound for the guillotine in a tumbrel...." See in text (V)
Marie Antoinette was the queen of France from 1755 to 1793 during the beginning of the French Revolution. After the rebels abolished the monarchy in 1792, they convicted Marie Antoinette of high treason against the French people and executed her by the guillotine. Bernice dramatizes her walk to the barbershop by comparing herself to the extravagant queen who was sentenced to death. This reveals both Bernice’s dramatic nature and the gravity with which she perceives this situation.
"the sphinx of sphinxes...." See in text (V)
A sphinx is a mythological creature that had the head of a human and the body of a lion. In Greek mythology, sphinxes were treacherous and merciless. They posed riddles to anyone who came across their path and ate or killed anyone who could not solve the riddle. They are depicted as ravenous, crafty, and manipulative monsters. This characterization of Marjorie, as the beast of all beasts, suggests to the reader that Marjorie’s retaliation will be severe.
"an expression flashed into her eyes that a practiced character reader might have connected vaguely with the set look she had worn in the barber's chair—somehow a development of it. It was quite a new look for Bernice—and it carried consequences...." See in text (VI)
While the narrator suggests that beauty is the only thing that can grant social power to women—especially in Marjorie’s understanding of the world—the “set look” that Bernice has in the chair becomes her means to power. A “new look” can be a physical style that one adopts or it can refer to the “look” in Bernice’s eyes. In this way, Bernice’s mental resolve usurps her physical appearance and gives her access to power and self possession.