In The Great Gatsby, how does the character Daisy act differently when she is with Gatsby as opposed to how she acts around with Tom?
Throughout the narrative of The Great Gatsby in which both Daisy and Tom Buchanan are present, there is a distance and lack of intimacy between these two married characters until they sit closely across the table with heads together as they plot their alibis regarding the death of Myrtle Wilson. In Chapter One, for instance, she lies listlessly upon a white couch with Jordan Baker as Tom Buchanan "hovered restlessly" about the room. She has a voice like one of the Sirens; there is something unearthly about her appearance and her "thrilling voice." When she does speak to her husband, it is to complain that he has hurt her little finger, "That's what I get for marrying a brute of a man, a great big bulking physical specimen of a ----" here Tom cuts her off harshly.
As the narrative progresses, it becomes clear that there is tension between Daisy and Tom. For example, near the end of Chapter One, the phone rings and shortly afterwards, Tom and Daisy emerge from the other room and return to the table. Daisy glances "searchingly at Nick and Miss Baker than in a singing voice calls attention to a bird who sings outside, but Tom speaks "miserably" to Nick, inviting him to the stables after dinner. Nick notices that Daisy holds her head as "turbulent emotions possessed her."
But, after Gatsby invites her to his mansion, it is a very self-possessed Daisy Buchanan who arrives at Nick's bungalow for a rendez-vous with Gatsby. As Jordan Baker says, "....there's something in that voice of hers...."In one instance, when he speaks to Gatsby, "Her throat, full of aching, grieving beauty, told only of her unexpected joy." Yet, hers is a maudlin joy as she looks at all of Gatsby's shirts:
"They're such beautiful shirts," she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. "It makes me sad because I've never seen such--such beautiful shirts before."
Nick, too, observes that Gatsby is held by Daisy's voice, its
fluctuating, feverish warmth because it couldn't be overdreamed--that voice was a deathless song.
With Gatsby, Daisy is a dream renewed, her voice full of "feverish warmth" that disguises its owner, who is merely enjoying the moment. She revels in the charm of money, but has no genuine feelings for Gatsby. With Tom, there is a certain dependency, but it is less about love than about wealth and social position. With Tom, then, her marriage is one of materialism--she was bought with a $30,000.00 string of pearls. Thus, she conspires with him, for, like him, she is a "careless" person.
The one time when we truly see Daisy for what she is, is at her reunion with Gatsby, when she breaks down in tears and starts throwing around his silk shirts hysterically. This financial prosperity was the only thing that her teenage lover lacked and why their reladionshio did not last for long. We can also see glimpses of that Daisy through Nick's retelling of Gatsby's and Daisy's days before the war. With Tom, Daisy has become this superficial, hollow person, insensitive and phony. The Valley of Ashes actually stands for the emptiness of this new social class that emerged from the war, wealthy but immoral and jaded. When Daisy is introduced to the readers for the first time, she is beautiful, dressed in white and mesmerizing, a flair of wealth follows her, but at the same time she is sprawled out on a bed, bored and devoid of any real human contact (her friend is sitting on the opposite side of the sofa, equally bored and disinterested). How insensitive Daisy has become is best seen in her relationship with her daughter whose existence is barely mentioned and with whom Daisy has minimal interaction.