F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby’ tells the story of Jay Gatsby’s and Daisy Buchanan’s lives through the eyes and experiences of Nick Carraway, the narrator. Gatsby once fell in love with Daisy. However, after their separation, Daisy marries Tom, a West Egg stockbroker and wealthy individual who is highly regarded in society. Gatsby dreams for five more years of Daisy’s return and longs to reunite with them.
But his dream does not come to pass as he expected. Daisy chooses Tom over him and leads to Gatsby’s demise. Daisy Buchanan is the controversial character in “The Great Gatsby” and can be read in many different ways. One could argue that Daisy Buchanan, the innocent, charming and sweet victim of the novel is Daisy, while the other can be argued Daisy is the reckless and manipulative character who is the main cause of the tragedy.
The symbolism of the name Daisy is in its name. Daisy is symbolic. We associate daisies often with innocence and purity. Daisy’s golden heart could be represented by the yellow center of a daisy. Daisy’s only flower-like quality is her beautiful looks.
Daisy’s name is ironic because of her character. Instead of being delicate, she is destructive and innocent. Leslie A. Fiedler describes Daisy as “the first notable antivirgin of American fiction”. As Daisy is initially presented as a woman who is somewhat manipulative but not terribly heartless, readers will likely have different opinions about her character and personality throughout the novel.
As the novel progresses, Daisy’s other flaws are revealed. Her shallow and self-conscious attitude is exposed when she accidentally kills Myrtle. Gatsby takes the blame. The novel’s first appearance of Daisy is when Nick visits her. We are first to notice that she is pure because she is wearing white and that she is delicate.
This idea of weightlessness, rather than being delicate, can be seen as a representation of the emptiness in her character. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s description of Daisy to the world gives us a glimpse of her personality and how she wants people to see her. The reader must decide if Nick’s perception of Daisy is accurate. Daisy laughs twice when she meets Nick, “as though she had said something very funny,” which gives the impression that she hides behind her laughter.
Daisy speaks to Nick very quietly, and he states that it is only to make people turn towards her. It is endearing even though it is. Nick says that her murmur is to make people gravitate towards her, but it does make the reader think that this is part of her charm to make her more popular and charming. We also see her making Nick feel welcome by her “(Daisy), looking up at me, promising that she would see no one in this world so she so desperately wanted to”.
This shows the reader that she is able to charm people and create a magical aura around them. This partly explains why Gatsby later falls in love with Daisy. He too has been taught that Daisy believes there is no one she would rather spend time with than him. Daniel Burke, a critic, noted that Daisy is not the innocent little victim she is made out to be. She is a manipulative woman who uses her looks to get what she wants.
Leslie A. Fiedler also discusses how Daisy uses her appearance to her advantage. She even links Daisy’s manipulative abilities with witchcraft, stating that “her fairy glamour was illusory” and that she once approached the White Maiden, it was revealed as a White Witch and the golden girl as an idol. We can see how Daisy uses her fairy glamour to deceive others if we read the novel. She tricks Tom by going behind his back and seeing Gatsby. Gatsby is led to believe she will give her life for Tom.
Daisy is not the innocent and sweet girl we see her as at the beginning of the novel. She leaves Gatsby and goes to live with Tom. This leads to Gatsby being blamed for Myrtle’s death, which then leads to Gatsby’s murder. Nick has changed his opinion about her and no longer finds her charming. Instead, he says that Tom and Daisy were careless people. They smashed things up and then retreated into their wealth or their carelessness… and let others clean up the mess.
In Nick’s final opinion, Daisy’s emphasis on her dependence on money to enable her to pursue her goals supports a point made in Louis Orwell’s critique. He said that Daisy’s reliance on money is what makes her unique. Without it, her reckless and destructive lifestyle would not be possible. Daniel Burke, another critic, says that Daisy’s reckless attitude is due to her obsession with herself. This is partly due to the fact she was spoiled her whole life…so she has learned to only think about herself and not consider the people she may hurt.
It is obvious that Daisy was spoiled in her childhood. She grew up in a wealthy family where her looks were very prominent and she had a lot of men who wanted to spoil her. She has become the shallow and selfish person she is today because of her simple upbringing. You can also see how she thinks only of herself and doesn’t care about others when she leads Gatsby along and makes him believe they have something together, but then leaves him and lets him take responsibility for Myrtle’s death.
Leland J Person defends Daisy, saying that Daisy is more victim than victim. Daisy is first victim of Tom Buchanan’s ‘cruel’ power, then Gatsby’s increasingly depersonalized view of her. This is an interesting point. Tom does not always treat Daisy as he should. He often shouts at Daisy and orders her around. Daisy is also aware that he has an affair with Myrtle. Although she knows it, she pretends it’s not happening, because she can’t change it. This makes it difficult to sympathize with her.
In a way Daisy is also a victim to Gatsby’s increasingly depersonalized view of her. The Daisy Gatsby loves and adores is the Daisy he met five years ago. And even then, it was a dream-like Daisy that he loved and not the real Daisy. This is evident when he describes to Nick his first kiss of Daisy. He says that ‘the leaves were dropping’, he ‘the sidewalk was lighted by moonlight’ and then he kissed her. When he touched her lips, she bloomed for him like an angel and the incarnation began’.
Gatsby dreams of Daisy every day for five years. In that time Daisy has become less of an individual to him and more of a desire object. This is what he craves more than anything. Gatsby dreams about Daisy so often that he believes she is something he isn’t. This makes Daisy feel like a victim, as she can’t live up to Daisy’s expectations. Leslie A. Fiedler however dismisses the notion that Daisy is passive. He writes that Daisy is “no longer an abused woman… but the abuse woman”.
This is evident in many ways. The most notable example is Daisy’s killing of Myrtle. She then drives away, making it seem like Gatsby killed her. After letting Gatsby think that something might happen between them and that they could begin new lives together, Daisy carelessly leaves Gatsby to Tom and doesn’t even attend Gatsby’s funeral. She seems to have forgotten that Gatsby was the one who was responsible for his death. Henry T Rennison wrote that Daisy falls in the familiar pattern of Fitzgerald women.
These women are beautiful, delicate, and “romantic”, but they are essentially parasitic and emotionally frigid. When we look at Daisy and Fitzgerald’s love, we see that Daisy is a representation of Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda. There are many parallels between these two characters. Zelda Fitzgerald’s love had refused to marry him because he was too financially unstable for her. Daisy refused to marry Gatsby because she believed that rich girls shouldn’t marry poor men. Daisy refused to marry Gatsby because he was too poor. This shows that she values money more than her love.
Daisy is described as both delicate and loving in the text. She is said to look like a butterfly and is also parasitic in that she lives off Tom’s money. This in turn drains Gatsby of his entire life. He spends his life trying to make herself good enough to get Daisy, but he never achieves his goal. Rennison continues, “Daisy” is a trapped woman. She is trapped in a unhappy marriage and in a world that doesn’t allow her to be independent or free. She is dependent on her husband, who takes her for granted.
Although she is unhappy in her marriage and knows her husband has an affair, this is not true. Gatsby gives Daisy the opportunity to leave Tom and go with him. Tom takes Daisy for granted and treats her like a possession. He only realizes this when she threatens to leave him.
He said to Daisy, “I’m going take better care” and he knew he had mistreated her. Daisy realizes she cannot be independent or free because she is a woman. She says this to her daughter when she talks about her daughter. “That’s the best a little girl can be in this whole world. F. Scott Fitzgerald portrays Daisy as a weak mother figure. This reveals another flaw in Daisy’s character.
Her child is more like an accessory she uses to display to her friends. Daisy meets Nick in the novel for the first time. She says “Irrelevantly”; “You should see the baby.” She later reveals that her child is not something she brings out to admire. Daisy also hired a nurse to care for her child. This shows Daisy doesn’t want to have to worry about the child and only wants the pleasure of having it come out when she likes it.
Daisy also tells Nick that Daisy said to Nick when she had her baby, “I’m glad it is a girl.” And I hope she will be a fool. These words are bitter and alert the reader that Daisy may be realising that a girl born to a wealthy and privileged family must be foolish and ignorant and be content with what she has if she wants to be happy. Leslie A. Fiedler frames the story in a mythic setting and states that Gatsby’s reward is the white girl in the golden palace. But this is not a happy end at all… the dark destroyer is the golden girl.”
True, we can see that Daisy’s appearance in Fiedler’s novel could be both the ‘dark conqueror’ and ‘golden girl’. Daisy often wears white in the novel, which is similar to a princess from a fairy tale. Fitzgerald also changes the description of Daisy’s appearance, which reveals different aspects of her character. When she tells her child, “Did mom get powder on your yellowy hair…She looks like me,” she describes Daisy as having blonde hair.
She has my hair.” In other parts of the novel, however, we see her with darker hair. “A damp streak of hair lay like blue paint across her cheeks.” The contrast in her hair colors could represent two sides of her personality. Her blonde hair might be considered angelic and innocent while her ‘blue hair’ could be considered more aggressive and darker. F. Scott Fitzgerald uses Daisy’s character several times in the novel to depict the era she lives in, which is known as the Jazz Age’.
The lack of direction and motivation she displays in her life (‘What’ll you do today, tomorrow, and the next 30 years’) can be seen as representative for the dominant attitude at the time. This can be viewed in two ways by readers. You can see it in a sympathetic way. It is not Daisy’s fault that Daisy lacks direction. But it is the era she lives in that has taught her little of value. This has caused her to live a meaningless life and to be less successful than she could have been.
It is easy to see that her lack of direction and motivation can only be attributed to her. She was a child with poor education, a spoilt childhood and a spoiled lifestyle. Her indecisive attitude made it impossible for her to make her own decisions. The 1920’s saw the ‘American Dream’ as a popular idea. People wanted to travel to America to live the American dream, which included making lots of money and enjoying a lifestyle of luxury and indulgence.
What does Daisy symbolize?
Daisy represents one aspect of the ‘American Dream’. Her character, Daisy, is living out this dream with her lavish, carefree, and luxurious lifestyle. F. Scott Fitzgerald shows Daisy as a character who lives out the American Dream. However, this is not the American Dream that people believe it to be. The novel shows that Daisy isn’t always content with her life. Her husband has an affair and Daisy is not a perfect character with her shallow attitude, recklessness, and careless lifestyle.
F. Scott Fitzgerald is demonstrating that people are more concerned about their wealth and their personal happiness than they are with their own well-being. This is leading to society’s destruction. Leland J. Person summarizes Daisy’s role in the American Dream, stating that she “stands for corruption of the American Dream”. Gatsby sees Daisy as an essential part of his American Dream and believes that Daisy is what he needs to fulfill his dreams.
He has the money but he is desperate for the girl. He is symbolically unable to find the girl he desires and thus ends up in death. Fitzgerald suggests that blind faith in materialism’s American Dream is leading to society’s destruction. It is not always within everyone’s reach. Daisy could be seen as the whole American Dream in Gatsby’s eyes. This is because the reason Gatsby changed name, created a new life and made a lot of money was to get Daisy.
Gatsby discovers that money can’t buy him everything, even though the American Dream says it can. Daisy’s voice is also a symbol of the American Dream. Fitzgerald often presents Daisy’s character through Daisy’s voice. Her voice is seductive and enthralling, much like the American Dream promise, and similar to a mythical Greek siren that lures men to their deaths.
Nick, the narrator, comments on Daisy’s tantalizing musicality. He says that her voice is “the kind of sound the ear follows up-and-down, as if it is an arrangement of notes which will never be played”, and that he had followed the sound for a moment with his ear alone before any words were heard. It suggests that her voice has a magic quality that makes people want to listen to it. However, there is no content to the sounds she makes or the words she speaks.
Nick describes her voice with a ‘clear artificial note’. This reveals all of the artificiality in her character and suggests that her words are not necessarily true, but what she wants people believe about her. Nick memorably said that Daisy had a ‘voice full of money’. This shows that Daisy seems to have it all and it shows in her character. It could also show the reader how important money is in Daisy’s life. She talks about it constantly to show her wealth and how she uses it for her own personal gain.