Daisy Buchanan is the source of Jay Gatsby's greatest fantasies, "the golden girl" described as having a voice "full of money." As F. Scott Fitzgerald's twisted 1920s version of a manic pixie dream girl, "The Great Gatsby" antiheroine has become one of the most discussed and polarizing female characters in American literature.
As we prepare to meet Daisy again, this time played by Carey Mulligan in the new Baz Luhrmann "Gatsby" remake being released on May 10th, here are nine strong opinions expressed about Daisy Buchanan, from 1963 to the present. What do you think of the East Egg girl who lit up Gatsby's dreams?
She's an empty vessel.
Daisy ... has no substance. She is a gesture that is committed to nothing more real than her own image on the silver screen. She has become a gesture divorced forever from the tiresomeness of human reality ... Fitzgerald’s illustration of the emptiness of Daisy’s character -- an emptiness that we see curdling into the viciousness of a monstrous moral indifference as the story unfolds -- is drawn with a fineness and depth of critical understanding, and communicated with a force of imagery so rare in modern American writing, that it is almost astonishing that he is often credited with giving in to those very qualities which The Great Gatsby so effectively excoriates.
--Marius Bewley, The Eccentric Design, 1963
She symbolizes the American Dream.
In The Great Gatsby the southern belle Daisy Fay, the first "nice girl" James Gatz had ever known, is the bright symbol of Gatsby's dreams. Beautiful and rich, she is the incarnation of all his elaborate fantasies, his vision of the American Dream.
--Richard W. Lid, Ford Madox Ford: The Essence of His Art, 1964
She's actually a victim.
Daisy, in fact, is more victim than victimizer: she is first victim of Tom Buchanan's "cruel" power, but then of Gatsby's increasingly depersonalized vision of her. She becomes the unwitting "grail" in Gatsby's adolescent quest to remain ever-faithful to his seventeen-year-old cenception of self, and even Nick admits that Daisy "tumbled short of his dreams -- not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion."
--Leland S. Person, Jr., "Herstory and Daisy Buchanan" in American Literature Vol. 50, 1978
She's completely frivolous.
Daisy Buchanan, a frivolous, seemingly naive personality who claims to be terribly sophisticated.
--Angela Soyza, New Straits Times, 2001
She's an old-school version of everyone's favorite reality star.
It’s that kind of feeling: I’m-so-little-and-there’s-nothing-to-me, watch-me-have-nothing-to-me. She feels like she’s living in a movie of her own life. She’s constantly on show, performing all the time. Nothing bad can happen in a dream. You can’t die in a dream. She’s in her own TV show. She’s like a Kardashian.
--Carey Mulligan, Vogue, April 2013
She wants to be braver and better than she is.
Daisy wants to be someone who is romantic, who cares about adventures more than propriety, who is brave enough to actually not go home to her husband, Tom, when she tells Gatsby she wants to stay. If Tom's tragedy is that he's too much of a boor to want these things -- content to remain among his familiar experiences and prejudices -- Daisy's is that she wants them but doesn't have the courage or the passion to pursue them.
--Alyssa Rosenberg, Slate, April 2013
She symbolizes corruption and dirty money.
And maybe that’s part of the problem with Daisy -- because she can never be our pure grail, our Jazz-Age Beatrice, if she’s associated with something so dirty as money. Especially the type of underground money that Gatsby makes through his criminal rackets. While the love between the young Gatsby and the teenaged Daisy seems innocent and true, by the end of the book, it’s tawdry and ruined. Stained by blood, stained by adultery, stained by her equivocations and his shady lies.
--Katie Baker, The Daily Beast, May 2013
She's a bad role model.
You shouldn’t want to be a man’s Daisy Buchanan because even if somebody loves you enough to take the fall for your wrongdoings, the fact that you let them says a lot more about you than it does about them.
Please don’t aspire to be Daisy. Daisy is a muse against her own will, and if you’re going to be immortalized by the love of another person, I would hope that you’d take responsibility for that legacy.
--Ella Ceron, Thought Catalog, May 2013
She's a little bit misunderstood.
We're not Daisy apologists, but we're also not sure she deserves every bit of her bad reputation ... It's a long fall from Gatsby's pedestal. What if Daisy really had left Tom for Gatsby? How long would it have taken for him to realize she's not everything he wants her to be? Anybody would crack under the pressure of being someone's green light at the end of a dock.
--SparkLife editors, SparkNotes, May 2013