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We Need to Talk About Daisy Buchanan and Why She’s the Worst

by dorothy callahan 4 years ago in literature
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'I hope she’ll be a fool... and a total piece of garbage to literally everyone around her.'

Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan c. 2013

Let me start this off with a quick disclaimer: I know I’m going to get hate for making such a bold statement. I know this because nearly everyone, nay—every female I’ve ever come across who has read or seen The Great Gatsby LOVES Daisy—whether it’s for her fashion, speech pattern, or simply because Carey Mulligan’s performance was so convincing. With that said, if you like Daisy, then you like Daisy. That’s awesome. Cool. Great. I used to like Daisy Buchanan, but the more I fell in love with her the more I began to realize that she’s a trash human.

Here’s why.

I initially read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in my English honors class during junior year. I fell completely in love with Daisy Buchanan for all of the obvious reasons:

I was a 16-year-old girl who had never had any real romances. Therefore, anything to do with a good/intense romance I was sold on. I also began watching The Vampire Diaries around this time, so you can imagine how desperate I was for a little adventure in my love-life.

Anyway, Daisy was the personification of an already glamourized time in history. The 1920s were years of open rebellion with Prohibition, women’s rights, and fancified post-war chaos. And not to mention the fact that the 1920s was an era of complete and rampant racism. Also, polio and tuberculosis were equally rampant, but somehow more socially accepted than people of color. FACTS.

Furthermore, the way Fitzgerald painted her had me hooked. Everything from the way she moved to how she spoke—I wanted to personally embody. Again, I was a 16-year-old girl with no experience and a penchant for secretly romanticizing any boy looked my way. My personal logic behind wanting to emulate Fitzgerald’s toxic heroine was, “If Daisy acts this way and men fawn over her, then I’ll act this way and men will fawn over me.” This was a very stupid logic to follow. I did act like Daisy for nearly a week around my crush and came to the harsh reality that it wasn’t getting his attention. He also had a girlfriend, but that’s another story.

Nevertheless, I loved Daisy Buchanan’s rosy-eyed look at everything. I absolutely ate up her ability to string men along without any repercussions for her actions. That was, until I got older (that’s the issue here, I loved her until I grew up), when I realized how toxic she was to everyone around her. Those metaphorical rose-colored glasses she always wore weren’t for making life better, they were for blocking out all the blood she had spilled.

Spoiler alert: Three people died because of her—Myrtle in the car crash, Gatsby in the pool, and George in the backyard. In that order.

Daisy Buchanan was Fitzgerald’s humanization of capitalism and all of its careless quirks. Her husband Tom, who is equally a trash human in a different way and her fellow trash-heap of a person and best friend, Jordan Baker, were also representations of capitalism’s many facets.

Obviously, Daisy symbolized the dreaminess of money and all the seemingly wonderful things money can get a person. F. Scott Fitzgerald even went as far as to describe the sound of her voice like it’s, “...full of money.” (Ch. 7, pg. 2) Thus, causing her to play into this “Poor Little Rich Girl” trope because her life is hard, but not really. She’s also nothing but her money. Her old, pre-Civil War, East Egg money. Which, by the way, is also one of her main descriptors in the book. So again, she’s nothing more than what her bank account holds.

Tom Buchanan, a bigoted adulterer and just an all-around crappy person, is the complete embodiment of greed. Like his wife, he too, is a born and bred East Egger, making him old money, unlike Gatsby and Nick Carraway’s West Egg new money.

Sidenote: I should mention that Nick Carraway is the narrator of The Great Gatsby and that means everything happens in first person from his point of view. He’s also Daisy’s cousin, so that’s his direct connection into all of these “rich people shenanigans.” Nick is also our eyes and ears as to what life is like on both sides of the harbour.

Back to Tom.

Tom represents greed because he constantly wants more than what he already has. Hence the constant cheating on Daisy at Gatsby’s parties, keeping Myrtle as a mistress and buying her a dog and an apartment, the anger he holds toward Gatsby’s flamboyant displays of wealth, and expecting more out of Daisy than what she can give. He was also the catalyst for the three aforementioned deaths, but I really blame Daisy for those.

Now onto the incredibly forgettable Jordan Baker: pro-golfer, major gossip, and spineless jellyfish of capitalism. Capitalism doesn’t care about much and neither did Jordan Baker. Jordan sucks because she didn’t necessarily care for Nick, she only dated him because Daisy said they’d be cute together. She also traipsed around New York City gossiping about who’s-who and what’s-what. I can’t forget to note that Jordan was a West Egger just like Gatsby and Nick, but she never openly identified as one. At least, Fitzgerald never mentioned it more than once in the whole book. Jordan was always hanging around East Egg with the Buchanans and then when it counted, like at Gatsby’s ragers, she was new money and all its traits.

Anyway, I digress. This isn’t about Tom or Jordan. This is about Daisy. I will say before moving on, you are who you surround yourself with. Daisy surrounded herself with crappy people and therefore was a crappy person. Even separately from the group, she was a crappy person.

Have I mentioned her mothering? Yeah, Daisy Buchanan’s a mother and she doesn’t bother with her child throughout the whole story. It’s kind of ridiculous. It just goes to show how careless of a person she truly is since she only mentioned her daughter all of three times. Capitalism also doesn’t care about children and that’s the cold hard truth. I’m pretty sure she only had a child with Tom because that’s what she was supposed to do—an unfortunate reality for women of that era and all eras preceding and succeeding. Again, another truth.

The real kicker for what made me hate her was her romance with Gatsby. Gasp! I know. It’s probably one of the most idolized romances in all of literature and I don’t like it. I don’t like it anymore, I should say, but I don’t like it all the same.

As a 16-year-old girl, I ate this romance UP! It was everything to me. A lost love now found with a mysterious man from my past who suddenly has a grotesque amount of money and would do anything to make me happy. There was also whimsy. Whimsy! What more could I ask for? That kind of romance was a dream to me. I could have whimsy! I could have whimsy with a very rich man! I’m not going to lie and tell you that I wanted whimsy with some fantastical dreamboat conjured up from my 16-year-old imagination. My whimsy would’ve occurred with Nick Jonas. This is still the case. Even as an almost-21-year-old, I want all the whimsy with Nick Jonas. The man’s a fantastical dreamboat in his own right.

I digress.

Daisy ruined Gatsby and ran away when she could’ve easily redeemed herself. She ran away not because she was scared of people finding out about her running over Myrtle or her affair with Gatsby; she ran because she didn’t care anymore. Nick, her own cousin, called to ask her about her attendance to Gatsby’s funeral and she didn’t care to even speak to him. One of her butlers picked up the phone in the middle of she and Tom running out the door. Granted, that could’ve been Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation of the scene, but it was still a bad move on her part. She also never openly admitted to ever truly loving Gatsby. This left open a wide array of arguments to be made about her intentions and her feelings on a whole. I’m of the mindset that she couldn’t really handle much emotionally. Even when she was with Gatsby, she treated him like trash. She openly confessed to him that his wealth wasn’t enough and that she wanted to run away with him. She said this after he told her that he did everything for her. He threw parties hoping she’d walk in, he got rich off of bootlegging liquor just so he could move across the harbour to be close to her, he lied about who he was to and for her for years, and it didn’t mean a thing to her. Again, this also was a point that could be argued for the opposite side of people who like/liked their romance. Jay Gatsby literally lived and died for Daisy Buchanan, but it wasn’t enough.

This brings me to the all important point: Gatsby was the literary symbol for the American Dream. With capitalism, the American Dream is never enough. Capitalism will always take and the American Dream will always give until it dies. Talk with your neighborhood English teacher about this concept—I’m not really the person to explain it.

In short, Daisy lived up to her name—Daisy. Daisies are simple flowers. They’re the floral equivalent of a bored sigh and maybe a shrug and maybe an eye-roll. Daisy Buchanan was a simple character. She couldn’t process much, nor give much in return. She also simply didn’t care. Vapid is a solid adjective to describe her. Vapid people are the worst. Daisy Buchanan is vapid. Daisy Buchanan is the worst.

literature

About the author

dorothy callahan

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