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Whom does Daisy love? Is she capable of loving anyone? Why?When Tom and Gatsby engage...

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kenyana | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 9, 2010 at 9:51 AM via web

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Whom does Daisy love? Is she capable of loving anyone? Why?

When Tom and Gatsby engage in an argument and confront each other, they make Daisy choose between them in The Great Gatsby

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dstuva | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted April 9, 2010 at 10:22 AM (Answer #1)

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I see the issues involved in answering your questions a little differently.  I don't think how Gatsby made his money has anything to do with Daisy's ultimate rejection of him.  It may be a bit of a stumbling block, but it's not that much of a problem.  I don't think Daisy cares how Gatsby made his money.  It's too far removed from her.  She cares about maintaining the status quo, and about respectability, to a certain extent.  But the issue isn't major. 

I give Daisy more credit that some commentators do.  I believe the reason she rejects Gatsby is because she does have a sense of ethics.  Not in terms of how Gatsby makes his money--again, that's too far removed.  She accepts that just as most readers do--look how famous Al Capone is.  On the surface, bootlegging is often thought of as a victimless crime.  The government was the foolish force behind prohibition, and therefore bootlegging.  The government was in error.  Haven't we allowed alcohol production and sales ever since?

Daisy's sense of ethics comes into play because, as she herself says, Gatsby asks too much.  Gatsby insists that Daisy pronounce that she never ever loved Tom; that she always loved Gatsby.  That's how Gatsby loved her.  And he insists that Daisy recipricate, that she say that she loved Gatsby the way Gatsby loved her.  And Daisy refuses to do that. 

She does it at first.  Her initial reaction is to agree with Gatsby.  She is upset with Tom and knows he's been having an affair.  (And please note that this is after Tom accuses Gatsby of bootlegging.)  But the second Tom shows a little tenderness, and reminds her of some of the tender moments they've had together, she recants and tells Gatsby that he asks too much, and sides with Tom.  She refuses to perjure herself.  She did love Tom once, and she refuses to say otherwise. 

She refuses to take part in Gatsby's illusion.  He idealizes their past relationship and his illusion is dependent upon Daisy loving him as much as he loved her.  And that just isn't true. 

Think of it this way:  Gatsby has as much money, or even more money, than Tom does.  Who has the nicer shirts?  If money were the issue, Daisy would side with Gatsby.  But money isn't the issue.  Daisy sides with Tom because Gatsby asks too much.

Finally, does Daisy love her daughter?  We don't really know.  All we know is that Daisy feels sorry for her daughter, because her daughter is a female born into a male-dominated world.  She will face the same crummy situation that Daisy faced:  her only chance for social and economic improvement is to be a pretty, little fool, and marry a wealthy man.  

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 9, 2010 at 10:02 AM (Answer #2)

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The second part of your question pretty much answers the top part of the question, at least in my eyes.  I do not think that Daisy loves anyone (at least not any adult).  I think she just loves money and status.

Look at how things go with her and Gatsby.  I think she might have loved him before the war.  But then she wouldn't marry him because he had no money.  Now he comes back and as soon as she finds out he has money, she might "love" him again.

But then she finds out he made his money illegally and all of a sudden she doesn't love him anymore.  That seems totally shallow to me.

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teacher2011 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted April 9, 2010 at 10:06 AM (Answer #3)

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In a heated argument between Tom and Gatsby, Gatsby insists that Daisy tell Tom she has never loved him. She initially seems as if she will concede to Gatsby’s request but ultimately sides with Tom, refusing to say she never loved Tom. Tom is satisfied that he has put the threat of Gatsby to rest and allows Gatsby to drive Daisy out of the city. Tom bluntly states that Gatsby will not bother Daisy anymore. During the argument he also badmouths Gatsby, citing rumors about Gatsby’s past and calling him a swindler and a bootlegger.

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ms-charleston-yawp | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted April 16, 2010 at 11:33 AM (Answer #4)

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Your question brought me way back to my college days when I remember attending a very informative "Love vs. Infatuation" conference.  I'll never forget that conference speaker saying, "If you cannot choose between them, you love neither of them."

Daisy loves neither Tom nor Gatsby.

Daisy has chosen Tom, though.  She chose Tom then, . . . and she has indirectly chosen Tom now.  Chosen him for security.  Chosen him because of pressure.  Chosen him because of fear.  Chosen him because of guilt.  Chosen him for further reasons which are never fully revealed to us by our unreliable narrator.  But, what she hasn't done, is chosen him because of love.

Let's look at the text to make sure it's clear (and, wow, does Mia Farrow do this scene justice in the movie version!).  First, I feel the need to show you how very little Daisy's actual words mean in this scene.  Why?  Because she is pressured in to too much lying, in this case, pressured by Gatsby into lying about never loving Tom:

"'I never loved him,' she said, with perceptible reluctance" (133).  She denies Tom two more times with another "no" and a "please don't!" as well.  Then she turns to the madly obsessive Gatsby and negates it all:

"Oh, you want too much!" she cried to Gatsby.  "I love you now--isn't that enough?  I can't help what's past."  She began to sob helplessly.  "I did love him once--but I loved you too." . . . "Even alone I can't say I never loved Tom," she admitted in a pitiful voice.  "It wouldn't be true."

So, as a member of the "old rich," Daisy makes the final decision to choose the brutal security of Tom, never giving a second glance at Gatsby, even after his death.  Is that something that someone in love would do?  And yet, does Daisy's every conversation with Tom drip with love either?  No.  Is she capable of loving anyone?  No.  The "old rich" of The Great Gatsby is full of too much corruption, . . . so much in fact, that Nick flees back to the Midwest in terror.

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