Shallow idol

Daisy Buchanan, aged 23 during the main events of the novel (she is 18 years old in 1917), comes from a wealthy family in Louisville, and has been married to Tom since 1919. She is introduced as a charming but insincere character, entertaining and well-seeming, but ultimately frivolous and dishonest. She is disillusioned with her marriage. She knows that Tom has a mistress and we learn that he has had several affairs during their marriage. Daisy has a young daughter, Pammy, whom she seems to love, but doesn’t interact with a great deal in the novel. 

Idealised love

Daisy’s initial relationship with Gatsby occurs in 1917, from around October until ‘one winter night’. Jordan describes this as an ideal romance, cut short only by her family stopping her from going to New York to see him leave for active service. The nature of her early relationship with Gatsby is obscured by the use of Gatsby’s narration, with some contribution by Jordan, all mediated by Nick. 

The second relationship with Gatsby occurs in 1922 and is equally brief, this time cut short by Tom’s intervention. However, she twice chooses Tom over Gatsby because he is more financially and socially secure, despite being temporarily seduced by Gatsby’s display of wealth. 

Unsullied and unattainable

Daisy’s symbolic colour is white. She is repeatedly associated with white clothing, a white car, a white face, a ‘white girlhood’, and exists in Gatsby’s memory as a shining icon of purity, ‘gleaming like silver, safe and proud’. She does have sex with Gatsby in 1917 (and, it is implied, during her affair with him in 1922), but the social norms are reversed in that it is Gatsby who ‘felt married to her’ and was the one ‘betrayed’ whilst Daisy:

vanished into her rich house, into her rich, full life, leaving Gatsby – nothing.

This is repeated exactly in 1922, when Daisy vanishes with Tom, leaving Gatsby to answer for Myrtle’s death and to face his end alone.

Daisy’s voice

Daisy’s ‘low, thrilling voice’ is presented in Chapter 1 as having a special quality which captivates men and promises ‘gay, exciting things’. It may also be something she exploits:

I’ve heard it said that Daisy’s murmur was only to make people lean towards her; an irrelevant criticism that made it no less charming.

Later in the novel, her voice is a source of power and fascination for Gatsby. It ‘couldn’t be over-dreamed’ and cannot disappoint, no matter how extravagant the illusion. Nick describes it as a ‘deathless song’, emphasising in one sense an almost transcendent spiritual quality, but the choice of ‘deathless’ also carries negative and even Gothic connotations.

When Daisy sings, her voice is equally powerful – in Chapter 6, she sings along to the music at the party, and Nick comments that:

each change [in the melody] tipped out a little of her warm human magic upon the air.

The power of Daisy’s voice is deconstructed in Chapter 7 when Gatsby identifies that ‘Her voice is full of money’. Nick confirms this, elaborating: 

That was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it…

Thus Daisy’s seductive power is revealed to be her wealth, and it is her voice which is the last vestige of her presence, referred to as ‘the voice’ and ‘that lost voice across the room’, begging to be able to retreat when faced with the need to make an active choice of mate. After this point, Daisy is only glimpsed at a distance, through a ‘rift’ at a windowsill and then gone. The iridescent bubble of her allure has been shown to be insubstantial.

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