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Daisy Buchanan: The Complex and Compelling Female Character in The Great Gatsby

Daisy Buchanan, the fictional character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, is one of the most iconic figures in American literature. Her character’s complexity lies in her contradictions – she is charming yet also calculating, caring yet also selfish. Her beauty and elegance mask a deeper sense of emptiness and disillusionment that reflects the larger themes of the novel. With her influential and symbolic character, Daisy’s significance extends beyond the book, still capturing the public’s imagination today. Through an evaluation of her character, we will explore how Daisy motivates and is motivated throughout the novel, and her relevance to the literary world today.

Interpretation of Daisy Buchanan

Daisy is generally interpreted in one of two ways. Some view her as a vacuous and shallow socialite, who is morally corrupt and embodies the decay of the upper class. Others see her as a victim of a society that subjugates women, and ultimately dies without ever having the chance to truly express herself.

Regardless of the interpretation, what is clear is that Daisy is not a one-dimensional character. Even at the beginning of the novel, where she appears to be nothing more than an upper-class socialite, her actions and motivations hint at a more complex character. Daisy’s longing for freedom, attention, and admiration manifests itself in her relationship with Gatsby, which is defined by her mixed emotions.

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Daisy’s Relationships

Daisy’s complexities are reflected in her relationships with other characters. She is Gatsby’s love interest, but her love for him is challenged by other relationships such as her marriage to Tom. Although she is openly in love with Gatsby, her deep attraction to the exciting and glamorous world of wealthy society challenges her loyalty to her love interest. Her superficiality and ambition make her an almost tragic character, as we see her struggle with inner turmoil and compromise her morals for the attention and admiration of others.

Daisy’s relationship with Tom, her husband, is tumultuous, fraught with infidelity, and demonstrates a power imbalance. Tom is condescending and abusive towards Daisy, with complete disregard for her feelings. Despite this harsh reality, Daisy still longs to preserve decorum and class status: by staying with Tom, Daisy maintains the image of the perfect upper-class couple.

Symbolism in Daisy’s Character

Symbolism is a central device in The Great Gatsby, and Daisy is no exception. Her name is a symbol of pure and natural beauty—much like the flower—and the ideal of the Southern Belle. However, this symbol of natural beauty is contrasted with the character’s inner ugliness, revealing the falsehood of her public persona. This symbolism allows the reader to recognize Daisy’s inner turmoil and struggle to reconcile herself to the expectations of her society while also grappling with her true emotions.

Daisy’s Lasting Impact

Daisy’s lasting impact on American literature and popular culture is evident in the many adaptations and reimaginings of the story, from theatre to film. Arguably, the character of Daisy has been depicted in a more positive light in modern culture than she was initially portrayed in the book. With the passing of time and changing attitudes towards women, Daisy has been interpreted through a feminist lens as a victim of societal constraints on women.

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Key Takeaways

  • Daisy is a complex character that is full of contradictions and inner turmoil that reflect the larger themes of the novel.
  • Daisy’s relationships with other characters are central to her character development and her motivations throughout the story.
  • Daisy is a symbol for pure and natural beauty, but her character also reveals the falsehood of her public persona and the ugliness she conceals within.
  • Despite being a divisive character, Daisy remains an enduring figure in American literature and popular culture, evolving through changing societal attitudes towards women over time.


Why is Daisy such an important character in The Great Gatsby?

Daisy is one of the most important characters in The Great Gatsby because she represents the struggle to reconcile oneself with societal expectations and personal aspirations. Daisy’s character is both a victim of societal constraints and a manipulator of those around her, adding complexity to her role within the novel’s plot.

Why have interpretations of Daisy’s character evolved over time?

As societal attitudes towards women change, so too does the interpretation of Daisy’s character. Initially seen as an example of corrupt and vacuous morality, Daisy now is more often viewed through a feminist lens as a victim of societal norms and restrictions. This interpretative evolution reflects society’s shifting views on women’s roles and agency.

Does Daisy’s character have any other symbolic significance in the novel?

Daisy’s character is also associated with water, particularly rain and tears, which, symbolically, can represent life, growth, cleansing or a sign of emotional release. Fitzgerald employs water imagery to emphasize the confusion, despair and emotional distress that surround Daisy throughout the novel.

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