Who Is Daisy From The Great Gatsby & Why Does She Matter So Much?

Last Updated: October 25th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

One of the main characters in The Great Gatsby is Daisy Buchanan.

Many people believe that this character was inspired by Ginevra King, a socialite with whom F. Scott Fitzgerald once had an intimate relationship until King’s father intervened.

Daisy Buchanan wearing a fancy headband

Many questions remain about Daisy Buchanan. Was she nothing more than a gold digger? Was she a flapper? What kind of person is Daisy Buchanan?

We will look into some of these questions and more regarding the fascinating life of this half-real, half-fictional character.

What Kind of Person Is Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby?

Daisy Buchanan started her life as Daisy Fay, a girl from a wealthy family living in Louisville, Kentucky.

During World War I, many officers, including Jay Gatsby, courted Daisy. Gatsby and Daisy fall in love, and Gatsby promises to return to her after the war.

However, the war ends, and Gatsby does not return. Daisy waits 5 years before becoming concerned that she would be an old maid.

An illustrated image of Gatsby and Daisy in The Great Gatsby novel

Tom Buchanan, also from a very wealthy family, courts Daisy, and under pressure from her family, she agrees to marry him. The following year, Daisy gives birth to their daughter, Pammy.

Daisy seems to know what she wants but doesn’t ever seem strong enough to go against her family or societal norms.

Gatsby sends Daisy a letter that she reads on the night before her wedding to Tom, explaining that he hadn’t been rich when they met but that he was now.

Daisy could have waited for Gatsby to return. She could have canceled the wedding. Yes, it would have upset her family and friends, but instead, Daisy goes with the flow and marries Tom even though she probably doesn’t love him at that time.

When Daisy and Gatsby meet once more, Daisy could have taken Pammy and left Tom. However, a divorced woman in the 1920s was a scandal. Women rarely made out well after a divorce. Again, Daisy takes the easy road and seems content to have an affair with Gatsby.

Finally, when Daisy discovers that Gatsby’s money comes from illegal sources, she could have said that she didn’t care, but to Daisy, living with the “new money” crowd must have seemed more shameful to her than living with a husband who cheated on her frequently.

Daisy comes across as a “nice girl” but also a shallow person who cares more for her money and what society thinks of her than her own feelings.

Is Daisy a Gold Digger?

No, at least this is one area where Daisy Buchanan’s character analysis is quite clear.

a woman in retro flapper style in a reclined pose and holding a cigarette holder

Daisy comes from a wealthy family, so she is quite accustomed to having a great deal of money. However, most families cut off their married daughters from the family fund, expecting their husbands to support them.

Women were not allowed to own property (unless widowed), and they could not even be in charge of their own cash or earnings once married.

Daisy would never have married Gatsby when he was poor but not because she didn’t love him or because she was looking for money. Daisy would have been cut off from the family cash and forced to live as a poor woman, something she was not accustomed to.

Was Daisy in Love with Gatsby?

The book gives us every indication that yes, Daisy was in love with Gatsby.

As the old saying goes, sometimes love is not enough.

Daisy had other needs that had to be met, and Gatsby could not give her those.

The Great Gatsby film - a scene showing Gatsby and Daisy dancing

Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy is clear. However, even he knows that Daisy would need a wealthy husband.

Gatsby’s mansion, all his beautiful shirts, and his glorious love, were not enough. Daisy needed security, and she had a deep need to be accepted by old money society.

Gatsby was part of the new money crowd. If Daisy had divorced Tom and married Gatsby, she would not only be the subject of a huge scandal, but she would also be rejected by the society that she grew up in.

It was enough for Daisy to have an affair but not enough to convince her that she would be happy with Gatsby. Love just wasn’t enough for Daisy.

Famous Quotes from Daisy Buchanan that Reveal Her Character

Some of the most famous quotes from the book come from Daisy Buchanan.

At the age of 24, Daisy is already cynical, believing she’s seen and done everything.

“I think everything’s terrible anyhow… I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.”

When she learns about Tom’s infidelity, Daisy sounds as if she regrets knowing it and feels helpless about it. Talking about her daughter, she says-

Beautiful little fool quote from Daisy Buchanan

“I hope she’ll be a fool, that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”

Somehow, this connects with her helplessness and silent wish that if ever the same thing happens to her daughter, she’ll also be a “little fool”.

Her materialistic views are eloquently expressed in this statement.

“They’re such beautiful shirts. It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such, such beautiful shirts before.”

Seeing Gatsby’s stacks of shirts that he wears once and then throws away makes Daisy happy. This means Gatsby is quite wealthy, which is something Gatsby must be for Daisy to love him.

For some reason, it’s important to Gatsby that Daisy says she loves (and loved) only him, something Daisy can’t honestly say.

“Oh, you want too much! I love you now, isn’t that enough? I can’t help what’s past. I did love him once, but I loved you too.”

Daisy says this right in front of what must have been an astonished Tom.

Here’s quite a sorrowful quote as Daisy seems to feel that the best or at least the most interesting things in life are passing her by-

“In two weeks, it’ll be the longest day in the year. Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it.”

Is Daisy a Flapper?

For the most part, yes, Daisy is a flapper, but not completely.

Daisy does dress the part, although she does so tastefully as was required of a married mother. She has a modern bob haircut, and she wears stylish clothing. She even enjoys parties, but unlike many flappers, Daisy doesn’t drink very often.

While Jordan Baker is the perfect flapper, Daisy has an absolutely perfect reputation, something that even Nick mentions.

Back of a woman in a typical Great Gatsby Dress

Tom mentions that Daisy and Jordan “run around too much”, but what he means by this isn’t exactly clear.

Back in the 1920s, a woman was expected to be home, making a nice life for her husband and children, but Daisy has servants to do all those things.

Daisy may have been keen on the idea of being a flapper, but in her artificial world, such a stark reality wasn’t really possible.

Final Thoughts on Daisy Buchanan

After Myrtle’s death, Daisy and Tom leave town, possibly for good. Whether Daisy is aware of Gatsby’s death isn’t clear, but even if she did know, she seems to be so self-centered that, again, she is more concerned about avoiding the scandal than being a moral person.

Daisy may have been pressured to marry Tom Buchanan, and due to laws at that time, she may have felt compelled to stay with Tom. However, the final decision was hers to make, and she chose the easy path.

Who Is Daisy From The Great Gatsby and Why Does She Matter So Much?
Who Is Daisy From The Great Gatsby and Why Does She Matter So Much?
What kind of person is Daisy, and why is Jay Gatsby so smitten by her? What makes her so special? Here's a fascinating look in the life of Daisy Buchanan.