In Defense of Daisy Buchanan
To put it mildly, people don't like Daisy Buchanan (even, perhaps, when she's played by Carey Mulligan). Fitzgerald's infamous antiheroine is vapid, she chooses money over love, and she lets Gatsby take the fall (fatally) for her crappy driving. We're not Daisy apologists, but we're also not sure she deserves every bit of her bad reputation. Though she's far from perfect, here's why we think you should give her a break:
In the 1920s, a woman's choice of husband could define her life. You think choosing a major at age 18 is hard? Imagine having to choose your husband at about the same age. And you're not just picking your life partner, but the person you're counting on to take care of you for the rest of your days. Daisy was raised to be a pretty ornament for a rich dude's arm. Girls like her didn't work, and they didn't defy their parents to marry impoverished romantics.
Maybe Fitzgerald was stacking the deck against her a little bit? Clearly he had a bone to pick with New York's upper crust, and the best way to do it was by giving the Buchanans no inner lives. The fact that he based Daisy loosely on his doomed flapper wife, Zelda—who once broke off their engagement because Fitzgerald didn't have the Benjamins—didn't help Daisy's case.
Gatsby built their relationship on a lie. Way back when they first met, Gatsby led Daisy to believe that he was rich. She fell in love with him under the false assumption that he could provide her with the lavish lifestyle she was used to—and even if you rank love over money, you still want to trust the person you're in love with.
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. Daisy's written as a near-total flibbertigibbit, but we're sure she had reservations about the man who moved heaven and earth (and committed various crimes) to win her.
How could she have known he'd come back? What if Daisy waited for Jay, but he never came? What if she found herself still unmarried at the decrepit age of (*shudder*) thirty? The average marital age for a woman in 1920 was 21. In Gatsby, Daisy's a 23-year-old with a husband and a small child. She's not a monster—she's just a conformist.
How do you feel about Daisy?