Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Problem with 'The Great Gatsby's' Daisy Buchanan

Why have critics and readers throughout the ages hated Gatsby’s girl so much?

From a post on Women in the World...

Is there any female character in American literature more coquettish and coveted than Daisy Fay Buchanan? She’s the most desirable debutante, the ever-evading maid. She’s warm, feverish, thrilling, intoxicating—a siren, an enchantress, a blossoming flower. She’s Galahad’s chalice; she’s Guinevere and the Grail. She’s the quintessential Southern belle, cool in her white dress with her white mansion and her little white mobile. She’s the enchanted object, the great American dream, all bright eyes and a voice full of money—and of course she’s the light, that green light, drawing men, mothlike, to her flame. She’s the golden girl and the incorruptible angel and all the Platonic ideals that artists and poets throughout the great ages have required their muses to be.

She’s also—at least for many of The Great Gatsby’s readers—a rather unpleasant inamorata, at best infantile and impressionable, and at worst, possibly selfish to the point of pathology. In his afterward to the 1992 edition, publisher Charles Scribner III writes that Fitzgerald blamed Gatsby’s initial commercial failure on the fact that “the book contains no important woman character and women control the fiction market at present.” Seeing as how Daisy is at the heart of the novel and of Jay Gatsby’s very existence, we can only infer that F. Scott meant his book contained no sympathetic woman character. Edwin Clark, writing the first New York Times review of Gatsby in April 1925, seemed to agree: the East Eggers, he said, had a “meanness of spirit, a carelessness and absence of loyalties…dumb in their insensate selfishness, and only to be pitied.”

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