Why Doesn’t Daisy Get a Say? On Power in “The Great Gatsby”

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  • Hi Greg. Thoughtful piece. I agree that Baz Luhrmann’s screen adaptation really plays up the various men’s idealizing and objectification of Daisy, leaving her powerless in between. However, I don’t think this really rings quite so true in Fitzgerald’s original piece. The book is essentially a critique on the rich and how they stomp all over everyone. Tom and Daisy are equally guilty of this, however, it manifests differently because of the social place of each respective to gender. Daisy is constantly making choices, both in the present tense of the novel and in the past. She plays the innocent and flighty character, but it’s really more of a coquettish affectation that she builds up around her beauty and status. She creates drama and then refuses to take responsibility for it. She starts breaking down in the scene with Tom and Gatsby because she’s forced to come clean and admit she was just playing up a fantasy with Gatsby. She wants to live in a dream land, but when it comes down to it, she’s part of the rich world and will always retreat back into it. This climaxes with the hit and run. She made the choice to keep driving and then to not fess up to the crime, to let Gatsby take the hit. Helplessness and denial are a tactic she plays up, but really she’s just a coward, and she’s allowed to be as a rich woman. The scene where Gatsby reflects on her performed innocence is supposed to be heartbreaking because of how she sells him down the river. Gender is still very much at play in Fitzgerald’s novel, but I think it manifests in the ways in which he makes each character terrible.

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