Who Is Pammy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby?

Last Updated: October 24th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

Tom and Daisy Buchanan have one child in The Great Gatsby, Pammy Buchanan.

1920 Portrait of Young Girl - Who is Pammy Buchanan

She isn’t talked about a great deal but she does play an important role in this novel. Her presence in Scott Fitzgerald’s novel reveals what her mother Daisy believes should be her outlook in life.

Are Daisy and Tom good parents? Does their mutual infidelity cause problems for Pammy?

Is Pammy Buchanan old enough to understand her cheating father and distant mother?

Let’s look into who Pammy Buchanan is in this novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Who Is Pammy Buchanan?

Pamela “Pammy” Buchanan was born a year after Daisy marries Tom Buchanan. They married in June 1919, and Daisy gave birth to Pammy in April 1920. She is the only child of Daisy and Tom Buchanan.

photo of a girl in the 1920s wearing a dress

It’s interesting to note that while Tom and Daisy have been married for three years, they have only one child.

Keep in mind that this is well before birth control methods were used. Whether Daisy has used some other methods to prevent pregnancy, or she refuses to sleep with Tom after discovering his affairs is unknown.

Pammy is 2, or perhaps close to 3 years old in the book, which means that Daisy got pregnant soon after she married, which was quite common in those times.

How Does Daisy Treat Her Daughter Pammy?

It does not appear that Daisy and Pammy have a very close relationship or even a typical mother-daughter relationship.

Of course, Daisy is quite wealthy. As is common today, most wealthy people allow servants to raise their children, and this does appear to be the case with Daisy.

Many scenes show how Daisy objectifies Pammy. She seems to use her daughter as a fashion accessory or prized possession and show her off as you would the family dog.

In Chapter 7 (see Gatsby Chapter 7 Quotes ), Daisy and Pammy have an interaction:

the great gatsby Chapter 7 Daisy and Pammy Interaction

“I got dressed before luncheon,” said the child, turning eagerly to Daisy.

“That’s because your mother wanted to show you off.” Her face bent into the single wrinkle of the small white neck. “You dream, you. You absolute little dream.”

“Yes,” admitted the child calmly. “Aunt Jordan’s got on a white dress too.”

“How do you like mother’s friends?” Daisy turned her around so that she faced Gatsby. “Do you think they’re pretty?”

“Where’s Daddy?”

“She doesn’t look like her father,” explained Daisy. “She looks like me. She’s got my hair and shape of the face.”

Daisy sat back upon the couch. The nurse took a step forward and held out her hand.

“Come, Pammy.”

“Goodbye, sweetheart!”

While Daisy has sweet words for her child, she doesn’t ask how she is, what she is doing, or any of the usual things a mother would ask.

Note that Daisy desperately needs to believe that Pammy looks like her and not Tom.

What Effect Does Pammy Have on Gatsby?

It doesn’t appear that Gatsby had even realized Daisy and Tom had a child together. He merely stares at the child when introduced.

Gatsby may have heard about the child, but he didn’t seem to realize that Pammy was real. In trying to win back Daisy’s love, he is suddenly faced with the fact that he is breaking up a family and that Daisy isn’t just a lover or even a potential wife, but a mother!

In Chapter 7-

“I don’t care!” cried Daisy and began to clog on the brick fireplace. Then she remembered the heat and sat down guiltily on the couch just as a freshly laundered nurse leading a little girl came into the room.

“Bles-sed pre-cious,” she crooned, holding out her arms. “Come to your own mother that loves you.” The child, relinquished by the nurse, rushed across the room and rooted shyly into her mother’s dress. “The Bles-sed pre-cious! Did mother get powder on your old yellowy hair? Stand up now, and say How-de-do.”

Gatsby and I in turn leaned down and took the small reluctant hand. Afterward he (Gatsby) kept looking at the child with surprise. I don’t think he had ever really believed in its existence before.

Gatsby had not planned on a child as part of his dream of a life with Daisy. It makes one wonder if Gatsby had intended that Daisy bring the child with her if they had gotten married.

The fact is that Gatsby had not considered children as a part of his dream. He’s shocked and surprised because he realizes that if he wants Daisy, he will have to accept the child she had with another man.

It’s difficult to insist that the woman Gatsby wants to marry never loved another man when she has children by another man.

What Does Pammy Buchanan Represent?

While there is very little written about Pammy, she seems to represent the children of Jazz Age parents.

She’s also a younger version of Daisy herself. Chances are that Daisy Fay was raised in the same manner as Pammy, and Pammy will most likely end up very much like Daisy.

Daisy hopes that her daughter will be a “beautiful little fool”, meaning that the best Daisy can wish for her daughter is to grow up beautiful and be completely unaware of her husband’s infidelities.

What Does the Scene with Pammy Reveal About Daisy?

As she verbalizes her dreams for Pammy to be a beautiful little fool, Daisy projects her insecurities and misplaced “values” onto her child.

She might wish that she also didn’t know about Tom’s cheating, but she does, and she regrets it.

1920 photo of mother and daughter

Pammy appears to be nothing more than Daisy’s trophy. She doesn’t seem to have much interest in Pammy other than as a fashion statement.

As parents, both Tom and Daisy are disinterested in her. Tom only enters the room after the nurse has taken Pammy back upstairs.

Daisy doesn’t even tell Pammy Gatsby’s name, she only introduces him as one of her “friends”. Perhaps this shows that even at this point, despite loving Gatsby, she realizes that she will never leave Tom.

Daisy parents Pammy as more of a pretty china doll than a toddler. Daisy boasts of her love for Pammy but doesn’t seem to realize (or perhaps she doesn’t care) that young Pammy is going to be negatively affected by her parents’ careless infidelity.

Daisy objectifies Pammy with her shallow and dishonest life, but to be honest, what other choice does Daisy have?

She can’t leave Tom without a scandal; she can’t work or even get out of her unfaithful marriage. This is why Daisy explains that it will be in Pammy’s best interest to be a beautiful little fool.

What Did Daisy Say When Told She Gave Birth to a Daughter?

In Chapter 1 ( read The Great Gatsby Chapter 1 Quotes ), Daisy and Nick are talking about what has been happening in their lives since they last saw one another.

Daisy tells Nick that she gave birth to a girl.

Daisy tells Nick that she gave birth to a girl

It’ll show you how I’ve gotten to feel about—things. Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling, and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. ‘all right,’ I said, ‘I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.’ 

Even while pregnant, Daisy knew that she and Tom had an unfaithful marriage. She hoped not only that her daughter would be ignorant of her parents’ reckless affairs, but also that Pammy grows up to be ignorant of her husband’s infidelity.

Nick had hoped to change the subject of Daisy’s melancholy by talking about Pammy, but discovered that Daisy was only too aware of her dysfunctional marriage.

Daisy doesn’t say that she would have been happier if she had bore a male child. At least, she would have had the reassurance that her boy would be a powerful man in this world, instead of the hopelessness that she had for her daughter’s future.

Why Does Daisy Speak about Her Daughter in Such Exaggerated Phrases?

By using words like “dream” and “beautiful little fool” when speaking about Pammy, Daisy literally diminishes everything about her daughter.

When Daisy describes something as wonderful or important, she is literally saying that nothing is wonderful or important.

Daisy’s carelessness about her words shows how she views her life in general. She’s already bored, disinterested, and desperately unhappy.

In Daisy’s romantic and tragic society, using exaggerated words or phrases is common. You hear Daisy talk about her daughter as a real person, like when she says, “She eats, talks, everything.” However, you get the impression that Daisy is as involved with Pammy as she is with other things in her life- on a very shallow and disinterested level.

While Daisy is smarter than she makes herself out to be, she doesn’t seem to think much of Pammy’s intellect. She disregards Pammy’s future by hoping that her young child will be gullible and not very aware of the cheating that she is certain her future husband will bring to the marriage.

Did Daisy Stay Married to Tom Because of Pammy?

It’s hard to say whether she would have or not.

Let’s assume that Gatsby came from old money or, at least, legitimate money. A divorce in the 1920s was not easily obtained.

man and woman with their backs turned from each other

While women could get a divorce for infidelity, they would need to tell whom their husband had an affair with, where they met, and so forth.

This would have been a public scandal that would not have endeared Daisy to anyone. While Daisy would no longer need Tom’s money, she would still have a child with him, which forever binds her, in one way or another, to Tom.

Would Gatsby have wanted to raise Tom’s child? This is another question that goes unanswered. Nowhere in Gatsby’s declaration of love for Daisy does he mention that he would be more than happy to raise Tom’s child.

In fact, Gatsby makes it clear that he wants Daisy to say that she never loved Tom. This is a bit hard to do when there is a child involved.

Then we need to consider young Pammy. While she is still too young to understand her dysfunctional family, she isn’t so young to not realize that she was being taken away from her father.

All of the above are questions that will never be answered since later in the book, Gatsby’s murder occurs and puts an end to Daisy’s little secret.

Final Analysis of Pammy in The Great Gatsby

Pammy Buchanan may have a cheating father and an adulterous mother, but there is no doubt that her future will include a rich husband and an easy life.

While marrying rich isn’t a guarantee of happiness, as Daisy’s life so clearly shows, Pammy will learn from a young age that her parent’s priorities lie in wealth and not so much in one another.

Who Is Pammy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby?
Who Is Pammy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby?
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