They saw that her left breast was swinging loose like a flap, and there was no need to listen for the heart beneath.

from F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby (Chapter VII) on Rap Genius

Meaning

Though this is a gruesome image, Fitzgerald’s diction is unmistakably clear. The phrase “swinging loose like a flap” is a critique and a warning to the liberated “new woman” of the twenties, the “flapper”. Scott and Zelda were mainstays of the New York “scene”, and would likely have been witness to the erratic behaviors of these rebellious young women of the day (see chapter 2, 3, and 6 for more detailed descriptions of the antics and outrageous styles of the flappers). Clearly Scott was a bit of a sexist, and the warning to the new woman was this: yes, you do have the right to vote now, but don’t take your newfound independence too far, be careful that you don’t “swing too loose”, for like America of the 20s, this reckless behavior will have consequences.

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