Daisy Buchanan: Love, Folly and Money in The Great Gatsby

Without any doubt, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is an American classic; it is a book that is studied by high school students, and it is a novel that many colleges use in their courses. It is a novel about the “American Dream,” a poor young man in love with a wealthy young woman who is able to “make it big” and he is able to afford it all.

However, in the case of Jay Gatsby, he could not afford it all: he was missing love. The love he was searching for is personified as Daisy Buchanan. He searched for a meaningful connection with a wealthy woman when he was a younger. However, this relationship taught him a lesson about love. He learned that love is something that has a measurement. This means that in order to have a meaningful relationship one must be a person of wealth and means. This suggests that for Jay Gatsby’s idea for love is materialistic. Therefore, Jay Gatsby’s understanding about love is that the more wealth he can accumulate, the better changes he has for a meaningful romantic relationship.

Daisy Buchanan
Daisy Buchanan artwork by Angeo.

That is to say, that Daisy Buchanan is an idealistic form of love. She is beautiful, young and she is something that many men desire an as a result, an ideal form of love. Therefore, men will act in a foolish way to win over her love and affection. That is the case with Jay Gatsby, who is willing to go to extravagant means to get her attention. This is a foolish endeavor by Jay Gatsby because he is willing to allow his reputation to be embellished in order to impress Daisy Buchanan. During one of his parties, he is described as a spy and a man who ‘“he killed a man once”’ (48).

While his reputation is amplified by stories, myths, and fantasies made by other people, it is foolish and irrational to throw large parties, become extremely wealthy and make up lies to win the heart of one woman. However, he did all of this to chase Daisy Buchanan and by doing this he puts a price tag on his affection for Daisy. Hence, the green light at the end of her dock; it represents Daisy Buchanan and how he keeps chasing after her, and the green light is the representation of money. Moreover, Daisy Buchanan also represents the money that he wants. She is a wealthy woman and in order to be her equal he must be a wealthy person in order to reached her and finally be treated like a wealthy person, like her.

Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan
Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan.

Money and relationships are investigated in the article, “Men Want Beauty, Women Want Money: What We Want from the Opposite Sex,” by Inga Ting from The Sydney Morning Herald in which the author states that men want beautiful women and women want men with money. While the author of the article recognizes that these are stereotype, these characteristics from both sexes are true. Ting’s article is based on a study done by behavioral scientists from universities like UCLA, Chapman University, Indiana University and Rutgers University. Ting solidifies further a stereotype into fact. Men seek beauty while women seek money and the novel The Great Gatsby explores this idea. This is the thesis behind the character of Daisy Buchanan. She is a beautiful woman because as a younger woman many men sought her attention and affection. This means that the study done by behavioral scientists in recent time matches the actions of the fictional characters in the novel. Daisy Buchanan, men in the novel, the actions of Tom Buchanan, and the actions of Jay Gatsby are stereotypical and yet true because the men mentioned in the novel are seeking this idealistic form of love personified by Daisy Buchanan.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author of The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author of The Great Gatsby.

She is treated as a trophy and a prize that men must compete in order to win. In addition, this furthers the idea that men are seeking beauty and women are seeking money. Jay Gatsby is able to show this idea in the novel. When Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan are left alone to wonder around Jay Gatsby’s house, they finally arrived to his closet. Once there, Jay Gatsby throws shirts at Daisy Buchanan, and she begins to cry. The closet scene in the book is the moral climax of the novel. She begins to cry because she has never seen so many beautiful shirts in her life. This scene is very important because several ideas are being displayed in this scene. One, when Jay Gatsby surrounds Daisy Buchanan with extravagant shirts, it means that she is interested in material things and not the love that she has for Jay Gatsby. It is important to mention that she did love Jay Gatsby when they first meet, and she does love him when they meet again. But Daisy Buchanan is more attracted to money than the love she has for Jay Gatsby, or even her husband. And that is the point of this scene in the novel. Jay Gatsby is chasing after Daisy Buchanan because she is beautiful, and he does love her. However, Jay Gatsby thinks that in order to show any affection towards the woman he loves; he must show a way to measure from which people can rank love: that way to quantify love is money and wealth.

Daisy Buchanan represents other ideas in the novel; she is also the foolishness of love. This idea is not so new, or old either. There are examples of couples who do not seem a good match, e.g. an older man marrying a younger woman. The most obvious modern example is Anna Nicole Smith, who married an 89-year-old billionaire when she was a young woman of twenty-six. This is a real-life-story of an older man who wanted a beautiful woman in his life and the means to persuade her to marry him was his money. In addition, from an objective point of view, this is a foolish move by an octogenarian billionaire. Most young women do not seek older men unless there is something else to be gain, like money. In the case of Anna Nicole Smith, it seems obvious that her marriage with an older billionaire is a relationship of convenience. However, some younger women do want to marry older men, it does exist, but the problem with this notion, it does not appeared to be logical. The most logical aspect about a younger woman and an older billionaire getting married is money and that appears to be a foolish undertaking. In the case of Daisy Buchanan, it is foolish that Jay Gatsby will put on elaborate parties to draw-her in.

The Great Gatsby

Nevertheless, what it shows is that love can be something foolish. And Daisy Buchanan represents this foolishness. Jay Gatsby loves Daisy so much that he is willing to have taken the blame for something Daisy Buchanan did. When Tom, Daisy Buchanan, and Jay Gatsby drive back from the hotel, Daisy hits a woman with Jay Gatsby yellow car. Jay Gatsby quickly takes on the blame because he loves her. It would logical to agree that Jay Gatsby loves Daisy Buchanan so much that he is willing to do anything for her. In addition to the extravagant parties in the hopes that an ex-girlfriend, who is married with children will one day come to his party lacks logic–that notion seems foolish and it lacks common sense. Still, Jay Gatsby does a lot of favors for her in the hopes that her love for him is unbreakable, honest, and only for him.

The folly between Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan is the notion that love can be measured, and the way to get that done is with money–and that idea is also foolish. The lesson that the reader can draw from their relationship is that Daisy Buchanan is a woman who is interested in money, and materials things. And Jay Gatsby is a foolish man who has achieved the “American Dream” and he is wasting it all away in order to woo an ex-girlfriend–that seems foolish. However, F. Scott Fitzgerald is able to show that lengths some people will go to have a person to fall in love with them. And as it happens, it is something that does occurred in real-life. People will do idiotic things in the name of love. Jay Gatsby achieved much, but he never finds love. And he is the example of folly in love and how money is a tool that measures how much you can love somebody. However, that seems foolish and yet human.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. I find it very intriguing that Gastby fall in love with the one woman he could never have. The prestige of daisy and her wealth would make a man of Gastby current status at the time lose all hope but not him. It is almost as if she was more of a goal or an obsession to conquer for him (similar to how he had to over come poverty). Was it really love or yet another escape for Gastby to feel like he had truly “made it”. This of course correlates to the main point stated in the video… Gastby wanted to have everything he never had.

  2. Immanuel

    I’ve recently rediscovered my love for this book and reading this analysis takes me right back to Grade 11 AP English prep. We talked A LOT about Gatsby’s romantic lens and the significance of eyes and “being seen”. 6 years later, I still have so much pity for Gatsby and can relate in that it’s very difficult to let go of the past – and nothing, not even money or hope can get it back. It truly breaks my heart that he’s not able to let go, and it breaks my heart further that Daisy was too selfish to not put an end to his desire to be with her.

  3. I remember reading Gatsby in high school, and it didn’t really connect with me. I wasn’t mature enough—not enough life experience. I went on to become an English professor and lost my own “Daisy” and now it hits home like no other piece of art. What we don’t learn in Gatsby is what would happen to him if he was forced to keep on living after he lost Daisy. That’s the story I need in my life. Was it a blessing that he wasn’t forced to redefine his purpose in life? What does he do with all that energy and drive once Daisy is no longer an option?

  4. Gatsby loved what he believed Daisy was and how she would perfect him, reflect his upper class.

  5. Even though her decisions are not the best, I truly believe that she left Gatsby for the sake of her mental health.

  6. People need to understand that Gatsby’s “love” for Daisy was based on fantasy, not reality. Hence why their relationship was always doomed. She could never have lived up to his fantasy of her.

  7. I loathe Daisy.

    • Why? I can’t help but like her but no one likes her.

      • In the book, Gatsby ceaselessly chasing after Daisy is symbolic of him and many other Americans chasing after the ‘American dream’. However, in chapter two, we see that the middle to lower class citizens who chase after the dream, get corrupted as there is no tangible way to achieve the American dream; they can’t measure ‘success’ so they replace it with getting the most amount of money that they possibly can. Daisy, who is shown as ‘materialistic’ is not after the actual wealth that she receives from her partners, it’s that she’s after a comfortable and secure life for her and her daughter. She knows that her life as a woman in the 1920’s would be hard and she is just trying to make the best out of a bad situation, even if that means loosing the love of her life, Gatsby. Just as people think Gatsby is foolish for his relentless chasing of the American dream, it would be foolish to see Daisy as simply shallow and materialistic.

      • Super late reply but I also STRONGLY dislike Daisy. Besides the whole situation with Gatsby, she chooses her reputation and status over her own happiness and the love of a man who treats her well. She chooses Tom, an aggressive controlling man (who also cheats on her) instead of the guy (who arguably loves her more) who treats her well. She neglects her daughter and even blatantly states she hopes she grows up to be a fool rather than hoping for her to be wise and escape the society they live in/try to change it.

  8. Ainsley

    In the book, the character of Daisy is almost more important than any other. The story line is very deliberate. Daisy is lovely, sweet, innocent, and somewhat innocuous. She is loved by men and women alike. Because of this people, especially men like taking care of her. Daisy indirectly destroyed the lives of three people, ultimately killing them and then letting the men in her life cover for her so she is never accountable. In the book, she and her husband collude to let the clearly murderous and revenge driven husband kill Gatsby and then kill himself. This was a man Daisy was supposed to be in love with. Fitzgerald is telling us that Daisy is not innocent at all, but very powerful and dangerous. I wouldn’t go so far to say evil because she was a product of her class and culture.

    • Ok I am so frickin proud, im a student who’s doing a literary analysis on this book and my overall theme is going to be about how not only daisy, but a lot of the women in the book are not nearly as innocent as they are perceived and they are actually incredibly sly at times.

  9. Excellent commentary going on here. Bottom line: Daisy killed her husband’s lover, directed that woman’s husband to go kill her own lover and then himself.

  10. Gatsby didn’t love Daisy for herself, but what she represented. It was always doomed because it was based on fantasy rather than reality.

  11. Acevedo

    Daisy is vapid, manipulative, and an opportunist. In conclusion she just likes shiny things. There’s nothing really under the surface. Zero accountability.

  12. Daisy is extremely vapid, broken, and a shadow of who she use to be. Her over-simplification of who her daughter CAN become is disturbing, she’s in hopes that her daughter is simply aesthetically pleasing and unwise— which is a low bar of expectation a mother could yearn for her own kin to become. Daisy is simple inside, and a little mysoginistic unknowingly due to her environment that she grew up in.

  13. She’s awful. We can be so blinded by obsession and appearances. “Her voice is full of money.”

  14. Gatsby simply portrayed its writer, Fitzgerald about his obsession over his wife Zelda, and Zelda’s obsession over self validation by being a socialite and throwing one party to another extravagant one. He became a rich and success writer only to impressed her. And in the end, deep down inside he knew the only thing he got was himself. It’s too tragic that a brilliant man like Fitzgerald have to ended up like that, in fact he had a trouble with debt till death. Fitzgerald is my top list writer, Great Gatsby, Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Beautiful and Damned, etc.

  15. Brandon

    You know what I think the very most interesting thing about Jay Gatsby is?

    A lot of people make a whole lot of assumptions about who Jay Gatsby is, what he’s about, what his motivations are. Characters IN the book made their assumptions about him. Readers of the book and critics made their assumptions about him.

    Yet, on the very first page of the book, Nick Carraway speaks about judgement–about how he has always been inclined to reserve it, as his father brought him up like that. That’s what I see as the foundation for this story.

    I have my own interpretations, my own way of reading the book, about what was meant about Gatsby, what kind of a person he was, and what his motivations were.

    But at the least I’m willing to admit my interpretations might be wrong. I don’t really know what Fitzgerald intended. But if I had to guess, I suspect that was the number one thing on Fitzgerald’s mind. He DIDN’T want people making all these assumptions about Gatsby. Unless you REALLY got to know him, you couldn’t understand him. And in the end, I don’t think Nick or anyone did, which I think was just what Fitzgerald wanted. Even Fitzgerald couldn’t quite understand him, I think. Fitzgerald once said that he never did have an entirely clear picture of just who Gatsby was.

    He also said something to the effect that not one of critics that wrote reviews about The Great Gatsby really ever understood what the book was about. That, to me, is the most telling thing of all.

    But of course, that’s just my interpretation.

  16. One important thing to me is to realize that Gatsby may possibly not love Daisy, he loves a kind of “idealization” of her or maybe what she represents through her lineage/money. There is a lot of elements in the novel pointing to the contrast between old money represented through Tom Buchanan and new money with Gatsby and also the place where they live: the contrast between East Egg/West Egg. Gatsby love for Daisy is a way to access this old aristocracy which he would normally not be able to reach because of his poor upbringings.
    Secondly, there is a kind of criticism of materialistic America made by Fitzgerald: In the book, rich people (whether they are old/new money) seem to be so full of everything (in terms of possessions) but in the end they are poor inside: Gatsby dies lonely, Tom and Daisy don’t love each other that is a just an intern-class marriage. People drink and party and entertain as a way to forget the emptiness and aimlessness of their lives.

    Well, I may not be completely right or wrong but there certainly are a lot of different (and possibly not contradictories) interpretations to the story. Also the symbolism is very important in the novel: Gatsby fate seem to reproduce the fate of the American nation which is to say to push back the “frontier” (the undiscovered western land). Gatsby wants to go further, to earn more money, etc. Gatsby really embodies the idea of the American self-made man beginning from nothing and building his own success through hard work which is the essence of the American Dream. Yet, Fitzgerald challenges this American Dream: Gatsby’s wealth was not made through honesty (he probably is a bootlegger) and in the end he dies alone.

    The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite book and probably the best American novel to this day. I have re-read it like a thousand times and I can still discover new interpretations. Very powerful novel.

    • There is a paragraph in the book that says, “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.” Fitzgerald alludes to this very thing. There is no way Daisy would ever live up to this dream Gatsby had of her. Yes, he loves Daisy, but the one he has in his mind, the flesh and blood Daisy comes with baggage and complications. Remember the scene where he meets her daughter? He is horrified and Daisy responds by saying that Pammy looks like her, not her father. I think this is what finally dawns on Daisy in the end. She doesn’t want to leave the safety and security of a life she knows, no matter how good or bad it is and she knows she’ll never be the Daisy he needs. It’s such a tragic, wonderful book.

    • Interesting. So basically he’s in love with the idea of being in love?

    • I think the point was precisely that Gatsby did not love Daisy, and that he rather loved the dream of her.

      But yet also that at least he loved SOMETHING. And in the narrator’s eyes (including himself) Gatsby was the only person in the novel that loved anything at all. The closest thing to love experienced in all the parties and all the hedonism and banality was a man in love with a delusion. And even that small, pitiful thing was so much more admirable than everything else.

  17. Gatsby is very shady. He changed his name and built his empire off of crime. But, it was all for Daisy. Yet, in the end, that is what caused his downfall. The saddest thing is that no one showed up to his funeral, not even Daisy. At least, no one who he genuinely cared for or who cared for him. Nick showed up. Though, it wasn’t enough.

  18. I did a big essay for my college exam on this.

  19. It was kinda scary that this story, The Great Gatsby mirrors what happened in my life. The yellow dress. The feelings of shame, the marriage, the wealth, the past love, cannot move on, the guilt, the complicated grief reaction, North Dakota. The death. Daisy living… Trying to stop time.

  20. I’ve read this novel many times and couldn’t agree with you more! Daisy’s role is more important than just a symbol for obsession and money. Great piece!

  21. In simple. Never give a person a slightest Hope. It is bad… For you and the other person.

  22. Genesis

    In one way Daisy is tragic, she isn’t happy in her marriage, she seems not too be too close with her little girl BUT she hasn’t the guts to leave a bad marriage ratter J.G. is pat of the package or not. I don’t think Daisy knows how to be happy but she knows how to do what she is told or except to do. Sure she was ALLOWED to date J.G. for a short time but ratter she LOVED him or not was not important enough to DISOBAY what was excepted of her – marry Money.

  23. Rihanna

    “The Great Gatsby” is honestly such a good book and the movie was, uh, weird to say the least.

  24. Marquis

    I actually enjoyed this analysis and finally realized why I’ve always related to that book so much.

  25. Gatsby loved daisy beyond life itself.

  26. Gatsby was a cool cat! He should’ve made peace and embraced his past catapulting him into a class of his own – purity of heart, humility, and graciousness!

  27. Sean Gadus

    I really enjoyed this article. This is one of my favorite books. Some of the language in the book is so incredibly beautiful. Nice work on the article!!!

  28. Something changes everytime I watch or read this novel again. It really touches my heart in a way that I cannot describe.

  29. Adrianna

    Its one of the greatest novels ive read. Its so interesting to see Gatsbys inner conflict between the presence and the past.

  30. One factor that has not been considered is the fact that being part of a landed sort of “aristocracy” (concepts of old v new money) carries a sort of prestige that Daisy seems to value.

  31. It is a common theme in a lot of Film, TV and Books for a fantasy relationship to be perceived from the male lead eg. 500 Days of Summer, You, Drive. The thing that sets The Great Gatsby apart is the time it was written in, the lense of Nick Caraway seeing this relationship unfold from an admittedly biased, but, truer lense than any other character in the book and, the inevitable realisation from the reader that this relationship was severely flawed before it started for reasons described in your article.

    Entertainment with the same theme typically only has one of these: the inevitable realisation from the reader that the relationship is flawed. The destructive thing about this theme in media is usually the lense it is shown through. The lense choice, usually the clouded lense of the male protagonist who wants the relationship, allows audiences to argue against the writers intentions, such as Drive and 500 days of Summer. It is clear through subtext in Drive and explicit in the ending of 500 days of Summer that these male characters view of relationships and intimacy is deeply flawed, when the audience realises this though, some may be inclined to leave that evidence at the back of their mind and use the entertainment to rationalize actions in real life. ‘You’ is a great modern example of the effect of a story like this. It has great writing with a lense which is highlighted to be extremely flawed and the relationships are known to be flawed before they start. This is a great set up for an interesting love story which cannot become confused by the audience right? Well, it doesn’t stop the niche groups online who support Joe and his actions, especially women who have become infatuated after watching him for so long.

    Overall I believe more care needs to be taken when showing a flawed relationship through a crooked lense, it’s effects on the audience, particularly young male, can be greater than intended. I understand that this responsibly of interpretation falls on the audience, but writers can more effectively avoid these traps as well.

  32. Stephanie M.

    Nice article on a character who, in the shadows of Nick, Gatsby, and other men, gets overlooked. I actually don’t like TGG that much, but I always appreciate a new take on it.

  33. darbyallen

    You clearly and thoughtfully demonstrated that Daisy was the perfect ideal for love. She wasn’t perfect, but Gatsby thought so. The attention to detail within this article is outstanding, and it is an impactful piece that will leave an impression on many. Great job!

  34. Samantha Leersen

    I appreciate literary criticism that is unafraid to point out how unlikeable and not at all admirable literally every character in this book is. The fact that Fitzgerald was able to impress that Gatsby idealises Daisy whilst simultaneously making sure readers do not idealise her is talent I don’t think I could fathom having. Interesting article!

    • Such a great point! Because she solely exists as an object and fantasy to the men in her life, it can be tempting to reduce Daisy to the ‘tragic female victim’ — one that is at best idolized, at worst pitied, by the reader.

      Daisy clearly proves herself, however, to be far more complicit –and exploitative of — her situation than she lets on. But she isn’t fully boxed into a ‘cunning woman’ stereotype either. She isn’t someone who enjoys and maliciously takes advantage of her objectification (i.e. East of Eden’s Catherine).

      Rather, Daisy exists in between these two realities. She does genuinely mourn her status as a woman alongside the reader (i.e. her “beautiful little fool” speech). In the next breathe, however, she cowardly capitalizes on this status when it suits her, allowing Gatsby to take the blame for the accident.

      Such a complicated and well written character.

  35. I never considered that Daisy’s love was based in materialism. When I read the book initially, I read it based on the idea that Daisy did not like Gatsby’s extravagance, and that his over the top lifestyle turned her away. Thinking about the novel from the concept of materialism completely changes the takeaways that I had before. It made sense to me to explain their relationship as young love that never went away, Gatsby’s need for wealth and renown always seemed to me like a man who tried to woo his love in the same ways that worked when he was still a boy.

  36. The pursuit of the material seems to have increased alongside the upswing in techy conversation in society. There are those who try sea changes and tree changes in order to escape this materialistic insta driven drive, but then some how nullify the effort with the posting of glamorous pictures of selves in gorgeous settings. Note the irony.
    I live near Byron Bay in Australia where there are many ‘Daisys’ who take pics of themselves in floaty outfits wearing Montana style hats on the picturesque beach. It seems vacuous to me. It is certainly Gatsby territory.
    I examine my cynicism. And think it is fueled not by envy but despair and the earned knowing of the older woman.
    Its easy to look down on Daisy, but does she reside in everyone at some stage in their insecure, fumbling youth?

  37. Anna Samson

    Beautifully written! It’s so refreshing to read a new perspective on a classic work

  38. The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books, and it’s wonderful to hear your perspective on it.

  39. Gatsby’s idea of love and especially love with Daisy is his own fantasy or obsession that he has daydreamed about since the war .

  40. I love this book and this article, but I still don’t care much for Daisy Buchanan. This is probably because of how well she was written.

  41. You did a great job with this article, and the position you took was very interesting to read about. I really enjoyed how you highlighted the tragic similarties that bonded Gatsby and Daisy, along with the grave differences that kept them apart. It was especially striking how you identified Daisy as the unatainable love Gatsby could never reach–even after he tried to bring himself closer to her by becoming just as elusive, shrouded in stories that made him seem larger than life. I just read this book last year and it was really interesting to here someones else’s anaylsis of this classic work. Awesome job!

  42. Daisy as a character personifies the American Dream – by nature, she is unattainable, yet enduringly desirable. Gatsby pursues her not for her character as a woman; her beauty is not her femininity, but her symbol of success. The illusion of the American Dream is what brings Gatsby to his demise, for he was constantly chasing something that never existed: Daisy’s love. Even when she had the opportunity to leave Tom and be with Gatsby, she didn’t. Daisy ultimately will never be attained by Gatsby, not as a lover or as an asset. She is as elusive – and hopeful – as the green light.

  43. shoafhannah

    I enjoyed reading this article! The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite classics. I agree that although it is a stereotype, it is still part of our modern-day culture that men want beauty and women want wealth. I think there is more to matchmaking than that, but beauty and money are still strong influences in the marriage market today (for both men and women). Also, I think that Gatsby loved money more than Daisy. Gatsby didn’t just want Daisy, he wanted everything she represented: wealth, class, and social prestige. However, he did love Daisy too, but it was a foolish and shallow love, as you point out.

  44. I think that Gatsby and Daisy really represent the ideal that is directed to the opposite sex. Their misfortune of not being in a relationship together shows that it is so rare, and practically impossible, that a relationship between two, “ideals,” is actually meant to be a healthy, functioning relationship and not in fact ideal at all. That being said, it is so interesting to see how the ideals have hardly changed at all — money and beauty are still so highly regarded today as a necessity in a partner that flaws are quickly and blindly overlooked.
    Separate, Daisy and Gatsby are definitely ideals but together, they really are not — Gatsby has genuine love to give whilst Daisy always seems to value what she can get out of a relationship on a materialistic level.

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