The most despicable character in The Great Gatsby is Daisy Buchanan. Daisy started off as an innocent character who married a man she didn’t love, Tom Buchanan, and regretted it. She was still in love with Jay Gatsby and he loved her as well. As the story progressed, her love for Gatsby became more physical which led Gatsby to believe that they would end up together. She not only played with Gatsby’s heart, but she let him take the fall for hitting and killing Myrtle Wilson. This ultimately led to the death of Gatsby when Myrtle’s husband shot and killed him at his own home. “I called up Daisy half an hour after we found him, called her instinctively and without hesitation. But she and Tom had gone away early that afternoon, and taken baggage with them.” (Fitzgerald 164) Nick Carraway wanted Daisy to be the first to know that Gatsby had been killed, however, Daisy and Tom left town and did not leave anyway for anybody to contact them. Daisy left town unannounced leaving Gatsby and Nick behind. Daisy could be described as selfish, cynical, and shallow. She played with the heart of Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan and used her own cousin, Nick Carraway, to do it. She also did not show any remorse for her actions against Myrtle Wilson or any emotion at all toward the death of Gatsby.
She was self-centered and broke the heart of the one who loved her most. In Jordan’s account of Daisy’s youth, she shows us an extremely vulnerable young girl who is also a dreamer, a romantic – a girl who has learnt to expect the world to love and protect her and therefore has an acute and touching naivety. Gatsby and Daisy’s love story blossoms from this innocence. Jordan remembers seeing them as young lovers – “The officer looked at Daisy while she was speaking, in a way that every young girl wants to be looked at some time.” After he has gone Daisy tries to follow him against her family’s wishes, yet is eventually stopped: “Wild rumours were circulating about her – how her Mother had found her packing her bag one winter night to go to New York and say goodbye to a soldier who was going overseas. She was eventually prevented, but she wasn’t on speaking terms with her family for several weeks.” Surely the above quote demonstrates how conflicted Daisy was, how torn between the wishes of her family that she should marry a wealthy man, and her wish to marry Gatsby. Even at this point she makes a bold stand against her fate, agreeing to wait for Gatsby until he leaves the army – however he then, inexplicably, disappears to Oxford, leaving Daisy surrounded by other more mum-and-dad friendly suitors. To go against her family’s wishes would have been almost incomprehensible for a girl as sheltered as Daisy, though it’s clear even on the night before her wedding that she hasn’t forgotten Gatsby, when she lies on her bed drunk and saying “Tell ’em all Daisy’s change’ her mine. Say ‘Daisy’s change’ her mine!” It’s also worth bearing in mind that she does love Tom, at least at first before his infidelities become apparent.
Daisy killing Myrtle is the most problematic aspect of Daisy by far. It’s true that Myrtle does run out at the car to try to stop it, that Daisy is nervous and upset, that she’s an awful driver – but none of these are excuses. All we know is that the killing of Myrtle was not a deliberate act, but a sickening awful coincidence (perhaps one brought about by the all seeing eyes of Dr T J Eckleburg.) Daisy certainly had no idea that Myrtle was Tom’s mistress. Daisy’s reactions demonstrate her remorse: she falls weeping on Gatsby’s lap while he takes control of the car. She is profoundly shocked, scared, sorry. Gatsby offers to say he was driving and she allows him to. This is cowardly and almost unjustifiable, but could she have accepted out of fear? And does it make it any better if she did? Her grip on reality is slippery at best; as Mulligan said of Daisy in her American Vogue interview – “She’s constantly on show, performing all the time. Nothing bad can happen in a dream. You can’t die in a dream.”
Daisy is a terrible mother.One of the first things people know about Daisy is that she wants her daughter to be “a beautiful little fool.” Yet this quote is often taken out of context. When Daisy says this she is lying in hospital, feeling entirely abandoned, with no idea about the whereabouts of her own husband. The life of promise she lived before has eluded her, and she has been left all alone with a young baby that depends on her. Her desire for her child to be beautiful is natural; in Daisy’s world, beauty equals love. As a girl who was in many ways powerless to choose her own path, beauty was, tragically, Daisy’s only strength. This does not demonstrate that she is vacuous, frivolous and silly, but rather that she values the one aspect which she believes can give women power. Yes, it’s appalling that she felt that way – but that says more about her society than her character. Wanting her daughter to be a ‘fool’ is more problematic; however, Daisy came from a set where women were not valued for their intelligence, and she has seen firsthand how hurtful it can be to know too much of human nature. Ignorance and beauty may not be virtues, but they are the two things which Daisy believes will best equip her child to cope with the world. Although these waters are difficult to tread, it’s also perfectly possible that Daisy may be in the midst of unrecognised postnatal depression. This would certainly explain her seeming disinterest in the child when Nick first asks about her – “I suppose she talks and eats and everything.” Her strange detachment, as well as her bitterness towards the world in which the baby is born, may well indicate this. Gatsby asks Daisy to wipe out the last five years, but the little girl is a part of that. Daisy, while wishing to wipe out Tom and his infidelities, can never wish the child did not exit. As for Gatsby – “He kept looking at the child with surprise. I don’t think he had really believed in its existence before.”