In Chapter One, why does Nick feel that Daisy is trying to show off her cynicism?
Daisy says, “You see I think everything’s terrible . . . I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything….Sophisticated—God, I’m sophisticted” (22). The comments spring from the fact that Tom, her husband, is having an affair with a woman “in the city,” who has called while they are eating dinner. Daisy has told Nick, “I’m pretty cynical,” and Nick thinks “Evidently she had reason to be." Indeed, Daisy next tells Nick Tom was “God knows where” when their baby was born, meaning he was probably with his mistress. Yet, through all of this, Nick doubts her sincerity—she doesn’t ring true to him. Immediately after this conversation she looks at him “with an absolute smirk on her lovely face,” signifying to him her pretentiousness and sense of privilege (22). Looking or saying she is cynical, Nick thinks, is a way of demonstrating that privilege; it is as though it is a luxury that only the wealthy can experience.
Daisy lives in a world filled with immediate gratification. If she wanted a single plum floating in perfume served in a man’s hat for lunch, it would be made for her. She lives the life of the Epicurean, the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain.
She talks about her little finger being hurt and shows her cynicism in order to get one extra thing from Nick. I believe she wants his pity as well. She has all this in front of her and she wants Nick to say, “Poor, poor Daisy. She is numb to pleasure. We should get her a bigger hat with more expensive perfume next time.” She is the picture of self-absorption. This characteristic should provoke disdain and disgust from Nick and the reader, but somehow it works.
The thing to watch for is the portrayal of Daisy as a mother raising a daughter.