Daisy Buchanan and the American Dream: no longer young nor beautiful

Daisy Buchanan has become an immortal character in Anglo-American literature as the personification of the American Dream, as well as the embodiment of all its shortcomings. Through his dazzling depiction of her, Fitzgerald makes her tantalizing, alluring, and extremely flawed, employing her character as a metaphor to illustrate the frailty of the society he lived in, a comparison whose echoes ring true to this day.

The onomatology of the name “Daisy” implies innocence and purity, and the imagery of the Daisy flower complements that used by Fitzgerald to describe Daisy throughout the novel; she is the “golden girl”, “dressed in white,” who “blossomed” for Gatsby “like a flower.” Her character is vivacious and sensuous, traits Fitzgerald conveys through descriptions of Daisy’s voice, which is “full of money…that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it.”

To Gatsby, Daisy has become idealized; his attainment of her and everything she represents, wealth and sophistication (“Sophisticated- God, I’m sophisticated!”) would be tantamount to the fulfillment of all his dreams, his own individual self-actualization, which is the ultimate goal of the American Dream.

But the weakness Fitzgerald reveals in Daisy’s character exposes that Daisy, like the American Dream, is a false promise. The American Dream glorifies the self-made man. Any person, no matter their background or their upbringing, could supposedly become successful if they come to America, which to many immigrants of today and yesteryear represent the glittering hope of a better future. Fitzgerald, through the decadence of the characters in Gatsby, especially Daisy, conveys that American Dream is just that, a dream, and that the continent was idealized by its inhabitants and immigrants just as Daisy was idealized by Gatsby.

Daisy is, at her core, a snob, just as American society is characterized by the same social prejudices as the old world. Fitzgerald makes this clear this description of her perception of Gatsby’s party:

She was appalled by West Egg, this unprecedented ‘place’ that Broadway had begotten upon a Long Island Fishing village -appalled by its raw vigor that chafed under the old euphemisms and by the too obtrusive fate that herded its inhabitants along a short cut from nothing to nothing. She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand.”

Daisy looks upon Gatsby and his house with condescending eyes, despite the fact that all he has done was for her sake:

So the whole caravansary had fallen in like a card house at the disapproval in her eyes.”

In the end, Daisy disappoints the reader, and with Tom, “retreated back into their money and their vast carelessness.” This parallels how she left things with Gatsby when he left for war: “”She vanished into her rich house, into her rich, full life, leaving Gatsby -nothing” She remains “gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor.”

The imagery of Daisy in her gleaming white takes on new meaning. She and Jordan are”as cool as their white dresses and their impersonal eyes in the absence of all desire;” cold, distant and far removed from the problems of the “real world.”

Turn on MTV and you’ll see that not much has changed. Much of western society is too preoccupied with hedonistic goals to worry about the suffering of the rest of the world, thus perpetuating a stereotype of the “ignorant American” (sorry, Ana, if you’re reading this, I hope you know I don’t mean you).

This leaves many people, upon closer inspection of the American Dream, disappointed; while others, like Gatsby, cling on to an undying hope.

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