Why Did Daisy Marry Tom – Was It for Money or Love?

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

The Great Gatsby is a fascinating novel that sometimes leaves us with more questions than answers.

Daisy Buchanan wearing headband

Many people wonder why Daisy didn’t wait for Gatsby. Did she really love Tom and forget about Gatsby?

Daisy waited several years for Jay Gatsby to come back. Meanwhile, she was being pressured by her family to marry, and when Gatsby didn’t return soon enough as promised, she found it easier to marry Tom Buchanan than to wait any longer.

If Daisy was so in love with Tom, why did she have an affair with Jay Gatsby? And where was Gatsby while Daisy was getting married?

There are many aspects to consider before these questions can be answered.

Our Great Gatsby study guide will help you find the answers you need.

Why Did Daisy Marry Tom Buchanan?

While Fitzgerald does not tell us very much about the courtship of Tom and Daisy, it is clear that she was concerned about becoming an old maid.

man and lady walking together in suit and wedding dress

Nick narrates how Gatsby talks about Daisy’s letters to him-

“… there was a quality of nervous despair in Daisy’s letters. She didn’t see why he couldn’t come. She was feeling the pressure of the world outside, and she wanted to see him and feel his presence beside her, and be reassured that she was doing the right thing after all.”

Daisy appears to be easily influenced by those around her. Since she was being pressured by her family to marry, she found it easier to marry Tom Buchanan than to wait for Gatsby.

Does Daisy Love Gatsby?

Yes, Daisy loved Jay Gatsby, that much is clear, since she waited several years for him to come back and marry her. She cried so hard when Gatsby left for the war, and it was not easy for her to marry Tom.

However, Daisy never loved Gatsby the way Gatsby loved her. In Chapter 7, she murmured to Gatsby playfully,

“You know I love you.” 

Also in the same chapter, she told Gatsby, who couldn’t believe what he was hearing,

“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.”

It seemed like Daisy loved Gatsby only when it was convenient or favorable for her. Gatsby’s love, on the other hand, was unconditional and all-consuming.   

Did Daisy Love Tom?

In the beginning, it appears that she did.

couple holding hands looking at the ocean

While Daisy and Jay Gatsby had a short-term love affair, she actually knew very little about him. He sent letters and kept promising to return after the war, but he didn’t return soon enough to pursue Daisy.

Enter Tom Buchanan. Jordan Baker tells narrator Nick Carraway in Chapter 4 how Daisy adored Tom –

“I saw them in Santa Barbara when they came back, and I thought I’d never seen a girl so mad about her husband. If he left the room for a minute, she’d look around uneasily and say, “Where’s Tom gone?” and wear the most abstract expression until she saw him coming in the door.

She used to sit on the sand with his head in her lap by the hour rubbing her fingers over his eyes and looking at him with unfathomable delight. It was touching to see them together—it made you laugh in a hushed, fascinated way.”

Unfortunately, soon afterward, Tom has a minor traffic accident where it is revealed that he was with one of the maids from the hotel.

From Jordan Baker’s description, it appears that she did love Tom before she had their daughter, but after discovering his many affairs, perhaps she no longer did.

Why Did Daisy Marry Tom When Gatsby Left?

Daisy did wait for Gatsby. They exchanged letters, and while Gatsby promised to return and marry her, he didn’t.

the great gatsby - Jay Gatsby and Daisy dancing together

More than likely, with Tom as a suitor, Daisy was being pressured by her family to marry him. Tom was ultra-rich and came from a well-respected family name.

In the 1920s, women were frequently concerned with catching a husband early in life. Since job opportunities were limited, women felt pressured to avoid becoming old maids and being a burden on their families in the future.

Women married so they would have husbands and children to take care of them should they become sick or injured and when they grow old.

Daisy had no guarantee that Gatsby really would return to marry her. She didn’t really know much about him other than what he told her.

All the uncertainty about Gatsby and the pressure she felt from her family causes Daisy ultimately marry Tom.

Does Tom Love Daisy? Why or Why Not?

It’s hard to say if Tom actually loves Daisy or he simply married her because he would be proud to show off a beautiful, innocent woman as his bride.

Tom does state emphatically that he loves Daisy, but he certainly doesn’t act like he does.

In Chapter 7, Tom says-

And what’s more, I love Daisy too. Once in a while I go off on a spree and make a fool of myself, but I always come back, and in my heart I love her all the time.”

Tom calls them “little sprees” as if they were fishing trips, not love affairs. He’s also had more than one since Daisy says that his affairs are why they had to leave Chicago.

“You’re revolting,” said Daisy. She turned to me, and her voice, dropping an octave lower, filled the room with thrilling scorn, “Do you know why we left Chicago? I’m surprised that they didn’t treat you to the story of that little spree.”

Tom’s sexism is on full display at this point, expecting Daisy to remain true to him while he enjoys multiple “little sprees”.

Does Daisy Know That Tom Is Cheating?

Fitzgerald makes it clear that Daisy knows very well about Tom’s cheating, and she wishes that she didn’t know.

Daisy married Tom probably believing that she would live a life of luxury, with no worries about the future. She never imagined that her husband would cheat on her so early in the marriage.

1920s couple leaning against a car at night

Jordan Baker reveals that Tom was cheating with the maid from the hotel while they were on their honeymoon. This story made all the papers and probably was embarrassing for Daisy to read.

Daisy also reveals to everyone while they are at the hotel in New York City that Tom’s affairs became so well-known in Chicago that she felt they needed to leave town.

Perhaps most revealing is that in Chapter 1, Daisy tells Nick that Tom was cheating without actually saying the word “affair” –

Listen, Nick, let me tell you what I said when she was born. Would you like to hear?” Very much.” 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.

You can see by Daisy’s words that she knows full well that Tom was having affairs with other women, even while she was giving birth to their daughter.

This is a very tragic and sad quote because it shows that Daisy hopes her daughter never grows up to discover her future husband’s affairs, that she remains a “beautiful little fool”, meaning someone who is unaware that she is being fooled.

Why Does Daisy Stay With Tom?

To understand why Daisy stays with Tom, you need to know what things were like for women in the 1920s.

Divorce was still considered a scandal and wasn’t easy to get. Women were allowed to divorce only in cases of adultery or bigamy.

Roaring 20s couple

While Daisy could easily choose to expose Tom, the scandal would be terrible. While women had more freedom and more rights than their mothers had, they were still forced to abide by men’s rules.

Women in the 1920s were not allowed to buy property in their own names, although they could inherit property. If their husbands died, their joint property became theirs, but they could not purchase it outright without a male co-signer.

This is just one example of the difficulties of divorce.

Daisy was also probably frightened of living in a world of “new money.” She had a high social status with this marriage, and she and Tom shared a similar background.

While she may not have loved Tom any longer, it appears that Daisy was thinking of her own interests and realized that she was better off in some ways sticking with Tom.

Final Thoughts

Did Daisy marry Tom for love or money?

Perhaps in the beginning, she did both. She states that she loved Gatsby, but that she had once loved Tom as well.

Money helps, of course, and while Gatsby had plenty of money, it was “new money” which had a stigma that came with it.

Daisy came from a wealthy family and married into another wealthy family, which means Daisy, despite not loving Tom after a few years, felt comfortable in this arrangement.

Gatsby’s love could not give Daisy the security and safety that she needed to leave her loveless marriage with Tom Buchanan.

Why Did Daisy Marry Tom - Was It for Money or Love?
Why Did Daisy Marry Tom - Was It for Money or Love?
Why did Daisy marry Tom Buchanan? Was it love? Was it money? Was she tired of waiting for Gatsby to return? Find the answers you need in this study guide.
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