Traits of Daisy in "The Great Gatsby"

Readers of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" rarely forget its central character Jay Gatsby, his lush mansion or his notoriously elaborate parties. All these things, however, point to the rich, beautiful Daisy Buchanan, the subject of Gatsby's obsession, as he pursues her with his lifestyle of excess. You can analyze Daisy's character based on traits such as her attitude toward wealth, her passive demeanor and her cynical world view.

A World Shaped by Money

The wife of wealthy polo player and college football star Tom Buchanan, Daisy centers her world on social status, materialism and possessions. Tom's money dictates her romantic choices, according to critic Leland S. Person, Jr. in "'Herstory' and Daisy Buchanan." She initially chooses Tom over Gatsby because of his wealth, and even when Gatsby acquires the fortune he lacked during their courtship, she is unable to leave Tom because the Buchanan name is too valuable. At the same time, Gatsby's own wealth dazzles her as seen when his vast collection of shirts provides the catalyst for her emotional response to their reunion.

An Attitude of Mistrust

Daisy may seem like the woman who has everything, but in reality, she's deeply scarred by her lifestyle. Early in the novel, Daisy reveals her cynical world view to her cousin, narrator Nick Carraway, after he learns that Tom is having an affair. Journalist Dana Goldstein asserts that the upscale life that shapes Daisy's identity actually imprisons her in a loveless marriage. When Daisy tells Nick she hopes her daughter will be "a beautiful little fool," she reveals her own bitterness toward her lifestyle, hoping her daughter will be fully indoctrinated into a culture that expects women to marry for money, not love.

A Lack of Self-Direction

Rather than take initiative, Daisy relies on others to make decisions for her. At the novel's climax, the love triangle between Daisy, Tom and Gatsby explodes when Gatsby demands that she renounce her love for Tom. Daisy becomes quickly overwhelmed and retreats inward, unable to speak for herself. Alcohol allows Daisy to take control before her wedding when she breaks the pearls Tom gives her and refuses to marry him, according to Linda C. Pelzer. Once the influence has passed, though, she gives in to her family's demands and is the ceremony's "radiant guest of honor."

A Reckless Existence

Ultimately, the novel's tragic conclusion reveals Daisy's selfish, careless nature. Although it is Daisy who hits and kills Myrtle Wilson in Gatsby's car, she leaves Gatsby to take the blame. This decision eventually leads Myrtle's husband, George, to murder Gatsby and kill himself. After Gatsby's death, Daisy and Tom leave town without a clue of where they've gone. Daisy is not only unable to make decisions for herself, but also unable to take responsibility for her actions. As Nick says, she and her husband hide in their money from the damage they've done, unwilling to confront its effects on the other characters.

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