Why Daisy Buchanan Sucks And We Should Start Imagining People Complexly

The summer of “Gatsby” is finally over.

At least, the sheer amount of “OMG reading Gatsby and I LOVE IT!!!!!1!!” social media posts have waned, following the May release of Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of Fitzgerald’s famed novel.

Pushing my bah-humbug feelings about people who only read books after they’ve seen the movie versions aside, I was deeply troubled by the number of females I saw on various social media sites discussing Daisy Buchanan. They weren’t discussing her in the way she should be discussed: as a one-dimensional, selfish, tragic character. Instead, they idolized her in ways I couldn’t understand.

Well, actually, I guess I can understand. I first read “The Great Gatsby” when I was 16 years old, and I found myself among these girls fawning over Fitzgerald’s flowery language and grand romantic gestures. I fell in love. With Jay Gatsby, the man with the impossible smile, who loved a woman so much he made his millions just for her. And with Daisy Buchanan, the beautiful, floaty, carefree woman—mysterious and funny, bubbly and sensual, attainable but somehow still out of reach.

After reading and highlighting and re-reading and re-highlighting I finally figured out that the novel wasn’t as romantic as I originally thought. I got caught up in the poetry of it all and I didn’t see the story for what it was: a tragedy.

It’s easy to get caught up in Fitzgerald’s language, in the lavishness of Gatsby’s parties, and the allure of the Roaring ’20s. But beyond the beauty of the whole ordeal—the parties and the rich, beautiful people—lies the saddest truth of the novel: that these characters are all unbelievably static.

I’ll just barely touch on Gatsby, because he’s a problem all on his own, but these women who idolize Daisy, as I did, are falling in love with a person who might quite literally be the worst role model in American literature.

Gatsby the man is shallow, and the woman he loves is shallow, but the problem here is that he imagines her to be so much more—he’s not in love with Daisy, the woman, he’s in love with her illusion. Fitzgerald even says it himself:

“There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams—not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.”

This isn’t entirely Daisy’s fault, but it is something that must be remembered when reading the novel. Gatsby is, of course, the focus of the novel, and his opinions of Daisy rub off on very impressionable readers due to the way his character is written.

That aside, Daisy’s a big problem. As I’ve said, she’s as shallow as a puddle. She’s quirky, girlish and expects all men to fall in love with her—even her cousin, Nick Carraway. She finds her identity in men, from Jay Gatsby to her husband, Tom Buchanan (don’t get me started on this guy, either). Daisy is thrilling, intoxicating, the enchanting siren with whom every man falls in love, yet she’s pathologically selfish. But this is what the men love: Her true affections can never be pinned down. She’s flighty to a fault. She plays with their hearts and leads each man into thinking he’s the one— yet she has no intention of following through with any of these illusions she’s created. This is exactly what she does to Gatsby. She tells him she’ll run away with him, then shatters his heart (and leaves him looking down the barrel of a gun).

Let me pull another feather from my literature hat: author John Green wrote in his novel “Paper Towns,” “What a treacherous thing to believe, that a person is more than a person.”

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