In this passage, F. Scott Fitzgerald calls attention to Jay Gatsby’s personality as a romantic, comparing him to a Medieval knight in search of the Holy Grail. With this analogy, Fitzgerald emphasizes the futility of Gatsby’s quest. Rather than truly expecting to find the object of his desire, the knight-like Gatsby had become obsessed with the quest itself. From their initial interactions, Gatsby had formed the impression of Daisy as a “‘nice’ girl,” which was not inaccurate. Nick interprets Gatsby’s attitude as intending to “take what he could get—ravenously and unscrupulously….” Instead, he fell deeply under her spell.
Nick is being truthful in reporting his interpretation of Gatsby’s belief: Daisy is extraordinary. But the irony in Nick’s statement, which is part of the narrative he wrote after Myrtle’s and Gatsby’s deaths, lies in his implication that Gatsby had never imagined the possibility that such a nice girl could do truly terrible things. The golden radiance that Gatsby sees as surrounding Daisy has blinded him to her very real flaws. The first time they separated, Daisy literally vanishes into her house and life. At the end of their relationship, she also figuratively vanishes: Gatsby could no longer maintain the image of Daisy that sustained him through the years of war and postwar empire-building. What bothers Gatsby most is not that he was wrong about Daisy, but that he was wrong about himself.