In the recent Gatsby fever, I know of some people who have expressed their love for the Gatsby/Daisy relationship. What I don’t understand is… why?
Daisy Buchanan represents the American dream (Need I even say more?). Gatsby has yearned his entire life for Daisy; his trajectory to success is rooted in his desire to be with her, but just like how the American Dream that used to champion excellence and hard work has become morally corrupted, the careless and selfish Daisy is no longer worth Gatsby’s creative passion. The character basically exists to illustrate the self-destructiveness of one’s blind pursuit of materialism and this twisted version of the American dream.
Perhaps the magnitude of Gatsby’s love for Daisy is romantic somewhat, after all, Gatsby is a romantic character. He’s very hard to forget, and it’s only natural to admire his gift for hope, his romantic readiness, his extraordinary capacity for wonder. I wish all of us had that imagination, had that ability to open ourselves up, to always reach further and further. Perhaps this is what everyone admires. Perhaps this is why The Great Gatsby persists as one of the most popular classics today. There is something in the way Gatsby loves Daisy – we wish someone would love us like he did, we wish someone would build an entire mansion just so he could one day show it to us and to be absolutely ready to tear it down at our slightest fancy, we wish someone would whisk us away with their beautiful shirts and yellow Rolls-Royce, we wish someone would yearn for us so terribly he would do anything for us.
But I’d like to think of Gatsby as a cautionary tale. It is wonderful to have an extraordinary capacity for wonder, I think dreams are meant to be dreamt big. Yet, such hope should be tempered with wisdom and thought, or it will only lead to the tragic consequences the novel presents. Gatsby couldn’t see Daisy for who she really was – a small woman who treated everything with ennui and who never had to take responsibility for anything in her life. And Daisy could never live up to everything Gatsby asked of her, including going back into the past and repeating what they had (which is essentially a super dumb dream of Gatsby’s if you think about it.)
“There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams — not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Daisy was a vision, but she wasn’t real. Gatsby had built his whole life around something that wasn’t real, wasn’t even grounded in a person – just a vision of a vision of a person, a copy of a copy of a copy, a reflection in the glass.
To me, Gatsby and Daisy’s relationship is not romantic at all. I completely do not understand why anyone would wish to root for them. Nothing good came out of their union, and Daisy only retreated into her carelessness and the protection of her rich husband when shit got real. There was nothing substantial about the Gatsby/Daisy relationship. They did not support or love each other or made each other better. Even when tragedy struck, it was not as if they persisted in their love, Daisy left Gatsby to take responsibility for the damage she created, basically killing the man. So, why do people love them??
The same goes for Romeo and Juliet really (Oops, Leo you are here again.) Let’s forget that Juliet is like 13 when their story happens (but let’s be honest, how can we forget?) Their entire relationship took place over like one day before they decide to get married, I mean c’mon. And ultimately they both sacrifice themselves in the name of this short-lived romance (though their feuding families were reconciled by their deaths.) Yet, Romeo and Juliet is held up as the story of great love, for some reason, something we should emulate. Why is it that we seem so drawn to star-crossed lovers, to tragedy, to carelessness?
Are we such masochistic creatures?