Is Gatsby fair to Daisy throughout the novel? Analyze their relationship in terms of the expectations that each places on the other.

Expert Answers
gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do not feel that Gatsby is fair to Daisy throughout the novel. Gatsby naively believes that Daisy should leave her husband who she has a child with in order to be with him. He gives her an ultimatum and believes that she should choose him. They have not seen each other in five years, and Gatsby feels that Daisy should ruin her marriage to start a relationship with him. Gatsby had spent years amassing a fortune through illegal means to live up to Daisy's high standards. However, Gatsby allows money to corrupt him through his efforts to become rich. When Gatsby finally does become wealthy, he believes that he now has everything that Daisy could possibly want. Despite the fact that Gatsby is wealthy and physically attractive, Daisy does not feel comfortable living an insecure life. Being in a relationship with Gatsby is too risky for Daisy, and she cannot leave her secure life behind. Daisy expects Gatsby to be financially secure at all times, while Gatsby believes that Daisy's decision is simple. The truth is that Daisy's wishes are unrealistic and her decision is very difficult.

avcollins | Student

This is an interesting question, and perhaps one that requires clarifying the word “fair.” If “fair” means reasonableness, i.e., expectations that recognize, acknowledge, and value the wants, needs, and desires of the another, then neither Gatsby nor Daisy is particularly fair to the other. Fitzgerald largely explores the American Dream—mainly its impossibility—in the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy. But before you can assess Gatsby’s expectations of Daisy, you have to understand what Daisy is to Gatsby. Essentially, she is symbolic for him—as symbolic as the green light on her dock or his shelves of unread books or the color of his car (gold-yellow, of course). Objectifying her in chapter VII, Gatsby tells Nick that Daisy’s “voice is full of money.” For Gatsby, Daisy is a yardstick of success, personified. She exists in a world he can only pretend to inhabit, however passionately he flings himself into it. In his social-class-algebraic equation, if he can have Daisy, he has arrived. Given that, his expectations of her are not based on her being a human being, a fact that logically precludes fair treatment.

After five years of amassing a fortune meant to lure her back to him, Gatsby expects Daisy—quite unreasonably, entirely unfairly—to abandon everything she knows: her husband, her daughter (though she doesn’t seem to care all too much for little Pammy), and, perhaps most importantly, her social position in the upper crust of society. In sociological terms, membership in this .0001% of society constitutes an ascribed status, not an achieved one, and no matter how vast a fortune Gatsby can amass through his bootlegging and criminal ventures, he can never freely breathe the refined air of East Egg. But—and this is one of the tragedies of the novel—Gatsby does not realize this. So, no matter how much he fawns over her, no matter how many custom-made shirts he flings in the air for her, his expectations of Daisy are based on a fantasy that, to a degree, negates her existence as a unique human being. And this has always been the case. Even when they first meet, back in Alabama, back before the war, he treats her ‘unscrupulously,” meaning “unfairly.” In a conversation with Nick, he essentially admits to “taking her” under false pretenses (a slightly archaic euphemism for "sleeps with," which, of course, is yet another euphemism), his modest background concealed by a smart uniform. But, unfairly, Gatsby lets her “believe that he was a person from much the same strata as herself”:

But he knew that he was in Daisy’s house by a colossal accident. However glorious might be his future as Jay Gatsby, he was at present a penniless young man without a past, and at any moment the invisible cloak of his uniform might slip from his shoulders. So he made the most of his time. He took what he could get, ravenously and unscrupulously—eventually he took Daisy one still October night, took her because he had no real right to touch her hand.

               

For her part, Daisy’s expectations of Gatsby are, despite her ultimate disregard for him, purer in a way. She thought him charming and handsome when they first met before the war, and, apparently, has actually harbored true feelings for him (to the extent that she has true feelings of affection for anyone). She seemed to enjoy the novelty of Gatsby, thinking he “knew a lot because [he] knew different things from her…”. In Chapter IV Fitzgerald gives us an insight into the apparent intensity of her feelings for Gatsby in the scene before her wedding to Tom, when she gets “drunk as a monkey” and throws a $350,000 pearl necklace in the trash, saying she refuses to marry Tom, claiming that (slurring) “Daisy’s change’ her mine!” But, of course, she does marry Tom, because, just as in the end of the novel when she and Tom conspire to aim the unhinged, forlorn weapon of George Wilson in Gatsby’s direction, essentially murdering him, she knows that she and Gatsby exist in different social realities.

So it is difficult to claim that Gatsby treats Daisy fairly. He wants to possess her, yes, but that’s hardly a reasonable expectation of another human being.

 

Read the study guide:
The Great Gatsby

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question