Read a character sketch of Daisy Buchanan
Daisy’s exquisite beauty masks her essential lack of character, her lack of any idea of responsibility, and her shallowness. She is not only beautiful but sexy. Her voice alone is of a special quality. When narrator, Nick Carraway, goes to visit her early in the novel he is struck by it:
I looked back at my cousin, who began to ask me questions in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down, as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again. Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered “Listen,” a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour.
Daisy is the daughter of a wealthy Louisville, Kentucky family. She is a cousin of the narrator, Nick Carraway. When she was a young woman she was popular among the young officers posted at a military base in Louisville and she enjoyed their attentions. One of them, Jay Gatsby, fell in love with her and misled her about his background, telling her that he came from a wealthy family. She returned his love and promised to wait for him when he was sent to fight in the war. She did not wait for him, however, and married Tom Buchanan, the son of a wealthy aristocratic family, who was approved of by her parents.
Although we see her as something quite wonderful at first – charming, sophisticated, graceful and loving – we are seeing her through the idealistic eyes of the love-stricken Gatsby. In reality, although her charm, grace and sophistication are apparent, she unfolds as shallow, fickle, careless, and irresponsible. Nick describes her as one of those rich people who smash things up and then retreat behind their money. She reveals the depth of that characteristic when, confronted with the choice she has to make between Tom and Gatsby, she chooses Tom and, driving home with Gatsby, allows him to take the blame for killing Myrtle in the accident where she was driving the car. When Gatsby is killed, after all that has happened, and her part in it, she doesn’t even attend his funeral, but moves away, with Tom, back to Chicago, without even leaving Nick an address.
As a character Daisy is very disappointing. Her shallowness and monstrous selfishness are carefully masked by Nick’s fascination with her and Gatsby’s obsessional love. Fitzgerald constructs her with images of light, innocence, and purity. Right at the beginning of the novel, when Nick visits her she is dressed entirely in white, on a huge balloon-like couch with her dress “rippling and fluttering as if she had just been blown back in a short flight around the house.” She is consistently associated with the colour white – her car is white, she fills the house with white flowers etc. She seems to exist as something pure in a corrupt environment – a cheating husband and a best friend who cheats at golf – and presents herself as being worthy of Gatsby’s deep, enduring love
It is easy for the readers to fall in love with her, too, but she is, of course, the opposite of how Fitzgerald is portraying her with those images, and it is because of that portrayal that we are finally shocked by what she is really like.
Although Daisy is quite capable of affection it is money, comfort and luxury that she is really in love with. She is unable to sustain the feelings of love and affection that she shows from time to time. That affection is not supported by loyalty or empathy. Even her little daughter is an object of indifference. While she gushes over her the child is mainly out of sight and clearly out of Daisy’s mind. Pammy appears only once. Instead of displaying any real affection Daisy treats her like a beautiful object to be shown off to visitors.
We have hints of Daisy’s shallowness and selfishness throughout, in spite of still being fascinated by her, but little by little, her true nature is revealed until we are shocked into the realization of what she is really like by the ugly events in the last part of the novel.
The scenes after the one in which Gatsby and Daisy find each other again at the tea party Nick arranges suggest that Daisy has found true love again, but on examination it becomes apparent that that’s not really so. She is in her element with the attention she is getting from her ardent lover but her affair with Gatsby isn’t something that’s happening in isolation from the other issues in her life. There are Tom’s many affairs, and this may serve as a way of getting back at him. When Gatsby shows her his shirts she becomes emotional, even shedding tears. We are left with the question, what kind of response is that to a pile of shirts? Is it about her love for Gatsby or more about her satisfaction with the details of a millionaire’s ability to buy shirts from a company in London – so many that he couldn’t ever wear a fraction of them. When she is unable to tell Tom that she never loved him and tells Gatsby that she loved him too, instead of exclusively, it marks the moment where she has chosen to retreat behind the security of the “old rich” and the social class it expresses.
Life is really too much for Daisy. She follows her own pleasure and when there’s anything more substantial than that to consider she cannot function. She is like a child when it comes to making decisions and basically, the bullying ‘hulking’ Tom makes them for her. Within that framework, following particular rules, she receives particular rewards. She is locked into that mode and when Gatsby challenges it, encouraging her to break away from it, she collapses. It would be impossible for her to go with any man merely for love and that is why she chooses to stay with her bullying, philandering husband. Gatsby could offer her a life of material luxury but she already has that. He could not offer her the social class she also values – above love.
That’s our Daisy Buchanan character analysis. Make sense? Any questions? Let us know in the comments section below!