The Great Gatsby

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Daisy Buchanan Character Analysis

The love of Jay Gatsby's life, the cousin of Nick Carraway, and the wife of Tom Buchanan. She grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, where she met and fell in love with Gatsby. She describes herself as "sophisticated" and says the best thing a girl can be is a "beautiful little fool," which makes it unsurprising that she lacks conviction and sincerity, and values material things over all else. Yet Daisy isn't just a shallow gold digger. She's more tragic: a loving woman who has been corrupted by greed. She chooses the comfort and security of money over real love, but she does so knowingly. Daisy's tragedy conveys the alarming extent to which the lust for money captivated Americans during the Roaring Twenties.

Daisy Buchanan Quotes in The Great Gatsby

The The Great Gatsby quotes below are all either spoken by Daisy Buchanan or refer to Daisy Buchanan. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Scribner edition of The Great Gatsby published in 2004.
Chapter 1 Quotes
"And I hope she'll be a fool — that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool."
Related Characters: Daisy Buchanan (speaker), Pammy Buchanan
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

Daisy reflects while Nick visits her on her relatively despondent state of mind. As an example, she tells the story of her daughter’s birth, during which she exclaimed this disconcerting wish for the child.

This passage gives excellent insight into Daisy’s character and relationship with Tom. Her desperation at the moment of her daughter's birth was partly caused by his absence—which is characteristic of his generally selfish and neglectful nature. Yet Daisy’s hope for her daughter is, intriguingly, not that she has a supportive husband or can take care of herself. Rather, she wishes her to be a “fool”: someone who is too simple or ignorant to correctly perceive what is happening around them. The implication, here, is that Daisy wishes she herself could be a fool, for it would allow her to enjoy the luxuries of Tom’s life without being aware of his unfaithful behavior or the hollowness behind the extravagance.

Fitzgerald thus presents Daisy as not only confined by Tom but also by her own conceptions of what it means to be a woman and a wife. She is, rather ironically, herself a fool for not having realized how narrowly she defines a good female identity. The passage shows how Fitzgerald perceived gender roles to have functioned in the American twenties: men, in his account, saw themselves as bread-winners expected to be chasing the American Dream, while women like Daisy and her daughter were told to be no more than “a beautiful little fool.”

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Chapter 5 Quotes
"It makes me sad because I've never seen such — such beautiful shirts before."
Related Characters: Daisy Buchanan (speaker), Jay Gatsby
Related Symbols: Gatsby's Mansion
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

On her tour of Gatsby’s home, Daisy becomes distraught. Though the nature of her response is not entirely clear, it is induced by observing the extent of his new wealth.

The comment speaks first and foremost to Daisy’s superficiality. Her emotional response is not triggered by anything personally significant but rather by “beautiful shirts.” Yet these shirts also represent her newfound ability to be with Gatsby, for his current wealth would have made him acceptable to her overbearing family. Thus Daisy must accept that her choice to be with Tom was not necessary as she had thought it to be—and that she could have had both Gatsby and economic security. The text poses the question, however, of how aware Daisy is of her own attraction to money. Perhaps the breakdown, in fact, represents a personal crisis, in which Daisy confronts her own superficiality: She would become, then, neither a staid example of old money, nor a new money aspirant—but rather someone who reckons with the emptiness of both pursuits.

Fitzgerald’s ambiguous presentation of her character speaks to the difficulty of understanding, at this time, how Americans were relating to their roaring twenties culture. Though readers may have a good sense of our protagonist Nick’s shifting perspectives, the other characters are often inscrutable both to readers and to each other. Fitzgerald, then, not only describes an ambivalence toward the culture that many may have felt but been unable to articulate, but also recreates the effect through his narrative construction.

Chapter 6 Quotes
"I wouldn't ask too much of her," I ventured. "You can't repeat the past."
"Can't repeat the past?" he cried incredulously. "Why of course you can!"
He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.
Related Characters: Jay Gatsby (speaker), Nick Carraway (speaker), Daisy Buchanan
Related Symbols: Gatsby's Mansion
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

Nick and Gatsby have this conversation after a failed party in which Gatsby tries to recreate his romance with Daisy. They disagree, pivotally, on whether it will be possible for Gatsby and Daisy to reignite their relationship.

On a literal level, Nick is simply saying that Gatsby cannot “repeat” his liaisons with Daisy, whereas Gatsby claims that he will in fact be able to do so. Yet their divergent viewpoints speak far more broadly to two ideological positions held by Americans at the time. Gatsby is fundamentally future-oriented as a “new money” person: he believes that anything can be accomplished through an act of will, as in the way he became rich. Whereas Nick, as a representative of “old money,” is more focused on the limits of the past and more sensitive to the flaws in Gatsby’s "nouveau riche" thinking.

We can see this more critical position in his description of Gatsby’s look: it is “wild” and falsely equates time with space—assuming that he can discover “the past” in the physical richness of “his house.” Gatsby thus represents a more narrow-minded viewpoint that energy and money will be able to turn back time and manifest any desire. While Nick has certainly lauded that personal drive, he disagrees here on the feasibility of the project.

Chapter 7 Quotes
"Her voice is full of money," he said suddenly.
That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money—that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it.
Related Characters: Jay Gatsby (speaker), Nick Carraway (speaker), Daisy Buchanan
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

As they prepare to leave for New York City, Nick and Gatsby talk briefly about Daisy’s behavior. Gatsby unexpectedly produces this perceptive comment, which calls into question his unconditional admiration for Daisy.

Both Nick and Gatsby point out that it is possible to discern Daisy’s social class simply from the quality of her voice. They tie this to its musical quality with the terms “jingle” and “cymbals’ song,” indicating that it is a learned affectation—something she has been brought up to perform in order to give off “inexhaustible charm.” Nick’s surprise at the realization indicates how difficult it can be to perceive such characteristics, for they take a studious examination—but also how apparent they are when finally spoken. Fitzgerald uses this line to show how Daisy’s old money has been assimilated even into her physical being.

The comment also reveals a surprising attention on Gatsby’s part to Daisy’s wealth. Indeed, the fact that her voice—something with which he would have always been accustomed—reveals her wealth calls into question even the validity of their older relationship. Recall, however, that Daisy earlier made a similar statement when Gatsby’s shirts moved her to tears. The text indicates that both characters, then, may be interested in each other partially for their money—either for the actual financial resources equated with Gatsby’s new money or for the prestige that would be associated with Daisy’s old money. And, with the image of the voice, it points out the difficulty of disentangling such superficial attractions from other relations of character and identity. 

Chapter 9 Quotes
They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:

After Daisy and Tom disappear, Nick gives this harsh assessment of their characters. He points out how their lifestyle and social position allowed them to wreak havoc without any significant personal consequences.

Nick’s condemnation focuses on the couple’s treatment of other people. That he uses the term “creatures” to refer to those people and parallels the smashing of those “creatures” with “things” stresses the way Daisy and Tom tend to objectify and belittle others. The term “people,” on the other hand, is used to refer to those who “clean up the mess,” once more displaying Nick’s humanizing sensitivity to the less wealthy classes who would be responsible for dealing with their carelessness.

Whereas before both Nick and the reader might have maintained a level of sympathy for the events that befell the couple, here he makes evident that such sympathy is unnecessary, for the two are able to easily escape from any mayhem they have caused. Intriguingly, he does not give “money” as the sole motivation of this behavior, instead offering “vast carelessness”—a tautological formation (one whose truth is based in itself) in which they carelessly retreat into carelessness—and the enigmatic “whatever it was” as potential sources of retreat. Nick thus reiterates the inability to make sense of characters’ actions that has pervaded the text thus far. We can presume it to be an economic factor or perhaps a personality deficit, but ultimately there is no way to be certain of what has motivated their selfish behavior.

That's my Middle West . . . the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark. . . . I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all—Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan, Jordan Baker
Related Symbols: East and West
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:

After Gatsby’s funeral, Nick adopts this broader perspective on the events that have transpired in the novel. He observes that all of the characters were coastal transplants who hoped and failed to pursue an American Dream on the East Coast.

Nick offers, here, an interesting case of re-narrativizing his life: with this added realization of the characters’ common heritage, he can reinterpret the tale as “a story of the West.” Thus their actions and flaws become less characteristic of individual choices and more of the social types they represent. That they “possessed some deficiency” renders the plot of the novel fatalistic and pre-determined based on social constraints, while the “common” oddly binds together these Westerners even as the novel’s plot has tended to highlight their differences.

The passage also speaks to a sociological shift taking place in the twenties: Whereas before the West was seen as a frontier of opportunity, at this time, a financial boom caused migration patterns to shift back eastward. Yet if the the western American Dream brought one into regions of relatively greater freedom and opportunity, those who moved east were confronting the rigid social systems epitomized by East Egg. Thus Fitzgerald has used these characters as a way to make sense of a broader pattern of movement, in which even those who were seen as wildly successful in the roaring twenties could not conform their identities fully to the nature of the older East Coast.

And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world.... And as I sat there, brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out Daisy's light at the end of his dock. He had come such a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it. But what he did not know was that it was already behind him, somewhere in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan
Related Symbols: The Green Light and the Color Green
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:

In the novel’s closing passage, Nick reflects on how Gatsby’s dogged pursuit of Daisy is similar to the dreams of early settlers landing on the American continent. He uses the comparison to both elevate and belittle Gatsby’s character.

To introduce this idea, Nick first describes dissociating from the immediate surroundings: “the inessential houses began to melt away,” distancing him from the environment of wealth and commodities. This is a startling narrative technique, considering how Nick had earlier denied to Gatsby the potential of returning to the past: here he seems to do just that, indicating that storytelling and reflection may achieve this end far more effectively than Gatsby’s purchase of a mansion on West Egg. Next, he uses this trick of time to equate the “green breast of the new world” seen by settlers in America to “Daisy’s light” seen by Gatsby. In different ways, they represent an almost-reached, yet still-differed goal.

This parallel elevates Gatsby’s dreams to an epic stature—for they are deemed equal in aspiration to those who have "discovered" this very land. Yet the passage also renders Gatsby less unique by pointing out how traditional and ancient his aspirations are. Nick stresses this second perspective when he observes that Gatsby’s dream was “already behind him,” indicating that the destination has already been reached. This “behind” could refer to Gatsby’s previous relationship with Daisy, or his hometown to the West—but also the symbolic “behind” of those Dutch sailors. Fitzgerald seems to imply that America as “the republic” already holds the aspiration that Gatsby so desperately seeks—and that his attempts to search for fulfillment in new domains is pointless.

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Daisy Buchanan Character Timeline in The Great Gatsby

The timeline below shows where the character Daisy Buchanan appears in The Great Gatsby. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
...has East Egg connections, drives over to East Egg to have dinner at the Buchanans. Daisy Buchanan is Nick's cousin, and Nick vaguely knew her husband Tom because Tom also attended... (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Just then, Tom learns he has a phone call and leaves the room. Daisy follows quickly behind, and Jordan tells Nick that the call is from Tom's mistress. The... (full context)
Chapter 2
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
...increasingly loud. After Tom gives her a puppy as a gift, she starts talking about Daisy. Tom warns her that she doesn't have the right to use Daisy's name. But she... (full context)
Chapter 4
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Past and Future Theme Icon
...Gatsby had told her earlier: as a young man, Gatsby had a passionate romance with Daisy Fay, who is now Daisy Buchanan. During the war, when Daisy was not yet twenty,... (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Past and Future Theme Icon
...the story later in Central Park. She says Gatsby never fell out of love with Daisy and bought his giant mansion in West Egg to be across the bay from her.... (full context)
Chapter 5
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
...Nick realizes that Gatsby's is trying to convince him to set up the meeting with Daisy. Nick tells Gatsby he'll do it. Gatsby then offers Nick the chance to join a... (full context)
Past and Future Theme Icon
...grass, and also makes sure Nick's house is full of flowers. Gatsby disappears just as Daisy arrives. When Gatsby arrives at Nick's front door, he looks pale and deathlike, and knocks... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Gatsby and Daisy treat each other formally at first, and Gatsby's nerves threaten to overwhelm him. Nick leaves... (full context)
Past and Future Theme Icon
Nick, meanwhile, privately wonders how Daisy can possibly fulfill Gatsby's idealized vision of her. Nick reflects that over the years Gatsby... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
...his hangers-on, Ewing Klipspringer, to play the piano for the three of them. Gatsby holds Daisy's hand and she whispers something to him that seems to stir his emotions. Nick, sensing... (full context)
Chapter 6
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Past and Future Theme Icon
The next Saturday night, Tom and Daisy come to a party at Gatsby's. The party strikes Nick as particularly unpleasant. Tom is... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Past and Future Theme Icon
After the party, Gatsby is depressed. He suspects that Daisy neither enjoyed the party nor understands the depth of his feelings for her. Nick reminds... (full context)
Past and Future Theme Icon
...recalls a memory that Gatsby once shared with him about the first time Gatsby kissed Daisy. Nick calls Gatsby's sentimentality about history "appalling" and reflects that in that kiss Gatsby's dreams... (full context)
Chapter 7
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Past and Future Theme Icon
On the hottest day of the summer, Daisy invites Nick and Gatsby to lunch with her, Tom, and Jordan. At one point, while... (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
...lunch is awkward, at least in part because of the intense heat. At one point Daisy asks what they should do with the rest of the day and the next thirty... (full context)
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Tom insists on driving Gatsby's big yellow car. Gatsby and Daisy travel alone in Tom's coupe, while Tom drives Nick and Jordan. It's clear Tom now... (full context)
Past and Future Theme Icon
...the windows above the garage at Jordan Baker, whom she seems to have mistaken for Daisy, her rival in love. (full context)
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
...asks what kind of a split Gatsby's trying to cause between Tom and his wife. Daisy tries and fails to quiet Tom. (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Gatsby says Daisy never loved Tom and has only ever loved him. Tom protests, but Daisy says it's... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Past and Future Theme Icon
Yet when Tom asks her to think about their history together, Daisy admits that she did love Tom in the past, she just loved Gatsby too. Gatsby... (full context)
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
...reveals that Gatsby really is involved with organized crime, such as bootlegging. All this terrifies Daisy, who begs that they leave and go home. Tom, realizing he's won, tells her to... (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Past and Future Theme Icon
...new decade stretched before him. In Tom's car heading back toward Long Island (Gatsby and Daisy took Gatsby's car), Nick observes that unlike Daisy, people like Jordan Baker know better than... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
...waits for it outside, he sees Gatsby hiding in the bushes. Gatsby tells him that Daisy was driving the car and that he tried to stop the accident, but was too... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Past and Future Theme Icon
Nick goes and checks on Daisy through the window, and sees Tom and Daisy sitting on either side of some fried... (full context)
Chapter 8
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Past and Future Theme Icon
Nick visits Gatsby for breakfast the next morning. Gatsby tells Nick that Daisy never came outside the previous night, but rejects Nick's advice to forget Daisy and leave... (full context)
Chapter 9
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
...the primary contact for all matters relating to Gatsby because nobody else wanted to be. Daisy and Tom disappear with no forwarding address, and Meyer Wolfsheim says he has pressing business... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
...The Great Gatsby as a story of the West since many of the key characters (Daisy, Tom, Nick, Jordan, Gatsby) involved were not from the East. He says that after Gatsby's... (full context)
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
...the apartment in which he conducted his affair with Myrtle. Nick doesn't tell Tom that Daisy was at the wheel. He describes Tom and Daisy as careless people who destroy things... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
...similar wonder when he realized that tiny blinking green light across the bay belonged to Daisy Buchanan. (full context)