What is the emotional state of Daisy in chapter one ofThe Great Gatsby?

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mattbuckley's profile pic

mattbuckley | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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Daisy shows herself in many different ways from the beginning of this story. She is playful, charming, and giddy as she flirts with Nick. She is childish in her teasing of Tom and his recent habits of reading and thought. After Tom receives the phone call she walks with Nick and confesses that she "is pretty cynical about everything." She tells Nick about what she said to her daughter after she was born. However, after all of this seeming sincerity, Nick comments that he "felt the basic insincerity of what she had said. It made me uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick of some sort to exact a contributary emotion from me." It is difficult to say exactly what Daisy's emotional state is because it is difficult to decipher what is real and what is just show.

rareynolds's profile pic

rareynolds | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Daisy pretends to be happy, but in fact she is fighting a drawn out battle with Tom. Nick’s invitation from “two old friends” he “barely knew” draws him into the middle of an elaborate, if understated, quarrel. Daisy’s first words to Nick, “I’m p-paralyzed with happiness,” underline the situation Nick finds himself in: Daisy isn’t so much happy to see her second cousin once removed as she is to find a person she can use to form a wedge against Tom. The chapter is full of small indicators of the discord between Daisy and Tom: Daisy and Jordan languidly lounge in the breezy room until “there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room.” Later, Daisy accuses Tom of hurting her hand; when Daisy describes him as “hulking” and he objects to the word, she makes a point of saying it again (Myrtle does the same thing in chapter two, insisting on pronouncing Daisy’s name over Tom’s objections; Tom breaks her nose).

The reason for this quarrel becomes clear at dinner, when the meal is repeatedly interrupted by phone calls for Tom from Myrtle. Daisy tells Nick, during a time when Tom is away on the phone, about the birth of her daughter, to whom she feels no connection and who she hopes will become a “beautiful fool,” although it is unclear if she thinks of herself also as a beautiful fool or wishes that she could become one. The conversation closes with this: “she looked at me with an absolute smirk on her lovely face, as if she had asserted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged.” The description here matches that of Tom from the beginning of the chapter: “Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward.…'Now, don’t think my opinion on these matters is final,' he seemed to say, 'just because I’m stronger and more of a man than you are.’” Both Daisy and Tom are “sophisticated” in the sense that Daisy uses the word – in other words, they both are bound to each other by the joint realization that “everything’s terrible anyhow.” No wonder Nick’s instinct, far from finding Daisy and Tom “intriguing,” was to want “to telephone immediately for the police.”

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