I am, perhaps, a bit late with this specific literary critique- perhaps I should take more responsibility for the delayed nature of this post, but I prefer to blame the Turkish train system and mosquitoes- I would elaborate, but I’m already very, very off topic. Anyways. I opened The Great Gatsby in early July, having just boarded a train in Istanbul. I was, honestly, expecting to be bored and a little flustered by it, for no reason other than it had been mentioned to me by a particularly brilliant friend, who I suspected might breeze through something I would find difficult. But I was pleasantly surprised- The Great Gatsby, while not totally action packed, is a very entertaining story. Admittedly, it requires a lot more focus than, say, a book by Roald Dahl- but I wouldn’t say that it is any less delightful.
I think that, perhaps, you could call The Great Gatsby an epic love story. A tragedy, sure. But isn’t all love a little tragic? And especially the kind of love that goes ignored for so long, only to end with a bang and a crash (either too ceremoniously or not ceremoniously enough). Such was the love of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan. I mean, sure, the love was there. Forbidden even (if only by social and legal conventions).
I had heard, as I’m sure everyone has, that Daisy isn’t a well rounded character. That she’s a little too malicious for her own good, and even, possibly, for the good of the book. In fact, many people dislike Daisy most out of all the characters in the book, which, having read it, surprises me. According to the Huffington post, there are nine opinions on Daisy Buchanan- I’m not going to go through them all, but I will link the article here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/10/daisy-great-gatsby-buchanan_n_3253742.html). But even before I read that article, it had occurred to me that Daisy Buchanan is possibly the very first model of an ever re-occurring character in literature- the manic pixie dream girl. A manic pixie dream girl is, in essence, the ultimate, unattainable girl next door. A girl who is either completely interested in themself (and thusly mysterious) or, possibly, a girl who is so utterly focused on another person that they never grow up. Daisy Buchanan is the perfect MPDG because, in a way, she encompasses both. She is a person who is utterly in love with herself. She knows she’s lovely, and charming, but she’s self centered, self concerned. And I will be the first person to tell you that I don’t always think that’s a bad thing. I know some remarkably self absorbed people who also happen to be the happiest people I know. But Daisy is almost neglectful of those she loves- she has a child- though she is rarely seen with that child. I wasn’t able to decide whether that’s indicative of the time period (early 1900s), or whether it is more proof of Daisy’s self absorption. She has a husband, and while she is very close to him, speaking, of course, only of proximity, and not of actual closeness, she seems to be remarkable unaware of what he is thinking and feeling.
Some might say that, writing as much as I have about Daisy Buchanan, I have strayed from my original point. However, I would argue that understanding Daisy is critical to understanding the book. The Great Gatsby revolves almost entirely around her. She is linked to every event, purely because of how deeply and wholly she is loved, not by her husband or her daughter, but by Jay Gatsby. Now, as much as I can critique Daisy, I think that she is misunderstood.
“Anybody would crack under the pressure of being someone’s green light at the end of a dock.” -Sparknotes (found in google, quotes about Daisy Buchanan)
As far as Jay Gatsby is concerned, his character, to me, is almost a critique of the nouveau riche combined with a futile quest for a muse that is stuck in her past. He uses his money to get close to a woman who has quite literally not changed since they met. (It’s delightful!” some might say. “How refreshing, to see a character who truly knows who they are.” But, on the contrary- Daisy Buchanan is not a happy person. She is stuck in an almost childlike state of delight at all times, which is, of course, the fundamental element that attracts Gatsby to Daisy. But, to me at least, to be so solidly stuck in one place, is really a terrible tragedy. Her character is so bubbly, so fervently cheerful, that she seems to be on a high all the time).
Jay Gatsby’s character confuses me, because so many people regard him as mysterious. He seems to be, as far as I’m concerned, just about as obvious as a character can be. He is constantly in pursuit of what he doesn’t have. Once he has it, not only is he unhappy, but somehow his life gets worse. Poor as a child, he spent his young life pursuing wealth. Once he had attained it, he used it to follow a married woman around the world. To me, Jay Gatsby is not the person around whom the story revolves, but rather Daisy Buchanan is.
The Great Gatsby is in essence, a critique of the nouveau riche, but a critique which is, interestingly enough, not at all tied to the main character. I think that it’s a delightful story. Because really, that’s what the Great Gatsby is. True, much of it is down to earth- but much of it, also, floats just beyond the pale of reality. The world that these people live in is fantastical, but was, at some point, totally real. And that is what makes a great story- total dedication to the past, but a take on that which is totally biased.