How Does F. Scott Fitzgerald Portray Daisy and Tom in the First Chapter
The Buchanans have been stereotypically introduced by Fitzgerald as the typical representation of the “Lost Generation” (Gertrude Stein). Tom and Daisy Buchanan inhabit qualities of America during the era after WW1 – people were intolerant, materialistic and lacked spiritualism. They live in the East Egg and are the representations of the love for a Romantic lifestyle and the desperation to seek new ideas (generally from Europe) and accept them.
The Buchanans have spent a year in France in pursuit of pleasure, not (like Nick) on war service and Fitzgerald describes them as wealthy drifters who “drifted here and there unrestfully”.They are part of a community who were “rich together” and this implies a questionable significance of their lives, whether existing was the only objective.
Further on in the novel, it can be seen that Tom and Daisy’s aimless way of life establishes a contrast with the disciplined schedule drawn up by young James Gatz, which is displayed, following Gatsby’s death, proudly by his father. The Buchanans live in a “Georgian Colonial mansion” which instantly places them amongst the elite and patrician.The irony of the description, “cheerful” is that despite the attempt of trying to create a perfect life and trying to ensure everyone is notified of how rich they were, Fitzgerald shows throughout the novel that the reality of the Buchanans’ were nowhere near as “cheerful” as it initially seems. The colours used to describe Buchanan’s place are rich, “gold” having the double implication of wealth and sunshine. The decor of the house harks to the European influences showing the eagerness to flaunt their “french windows”, again in attempt to emphasise how the American upper class had their privileges based on their wealth.However, Tom seems to be uncomfortable in his own surroundings, at one point his eyes begin “flashing about restlessly” – he is desperate to be perfect, desperate to be stronger and more of a man” than Nick is. Tom Buchanan is displayed as a domineering, self centred character, with traditionalist views.
He had reached “an acute limited excellence” despite being in the same generation as Nick. This supports the idea of the purposeless life led by Tom, as afterwards would only be the “savours of anti-climax”. Fitzgerald describes Tom with “shining arrogant eyes” who had “established dominance”.He is a well built, sturdy man living in a life of luxuries such as football and riding. The description of Tom “standing with his legs apart on the front porch” portrays a forceful dictatorial presence. He had a “cruel body”, one which was “capable of enormous leverage” – perhaps Nick’s view that Tom being the social superior would instantly mean he would inhabit this staggering ability to accomplish anything. Tom is commanding and Fitzgerald shows this by describing the way Nick is “compelled” from room to room as Tom wishes, using brute force to wedge his arm “imperatively” under Nick’s.
Further into chapter one, Daisy refers to the “great, big, hulking physical specimen” which is Tom – he is brutalised by his selfishness and arrogance and does not consider the consequences of his actions. Despite being a man of power (bother physical and socially) and wealth there were men who “hated his guts”, Nick says he has a trace of “paternal contempt” which may have inspired this hatred from his peers; this also implies discreet disapproval between citizens of the East Egg, and on a wider scale, the superiors of the social hierarchy.Fitzgerald shows, through racist comments of Tom Buchanan, an American reality of social division by race and gender. He accuses “other races” of threatening the “Nordic race” making references to a book, “The Rise of the Coloured Empires by his man Goddard”. He attempts to put across intelligent views and opinions but it becomes apparent that this is definitely not the case. His view of white people being the “dominant race” demonstrates his simplistic, ignorant and racist values especially considering his northern European ancestry a one way ticket to social superiority.However, America has a motto of “e pluribus unum” which means “one from many”, this phrase signifying that America has grown through the mix of different cultures, particularly through immigration.
He tries to enforce his views by claiming it is scientifically proved. The nativist group, the Klu Klux Klan at the time of the novel, tried to use “scientific proof”, however it was later revealed they used eugenics to prove the “inferiority” of Asians and immigrants from Europeans – this indicating how Tom’s claims are very much in the wrong.Tom sees Daisy as the inferior in their relationship and does make an effort to hide this from Nick. He openly ignores Daisy when listing the “Nordics”, hesitating before including Daisy with a “slight nod”. He criticizes how Jordan Baker should not be allowed to “run around the country” showing his traditional, old fashioned views of a woman’s role and showing disapproval of the amount of freedom and success Jordan has been given. Daisy Buchanan is introduced as an absolute contrast to her husband. Some traits revealed throughout the process of chapter one is that she is frail and diminutive, touching on the edge of being shallow.
The overly exaggerated opening to Daisy, as described by Fitzgerald through Nick, shows her being “p-paralysed with happiness”. This stutter and the use of the verb “paralysed” implies a fake impression that Daisy puts on to fool others, as the reader finds out later in the chapter. The constant reference to Daisy’s “thrilling” laughter and voice is used to represent Daisy herself; the “charming little laugh” is the synecdoche for Daisy’s character, this compulsive power of her voice of Daisy used by Fitzgerald in Chapter 2, where Tom’s mistress tries to imitate the life of Daisy’s.Nick describes Daisy’s “singing compulsion”; her voice also ceases to “compel” his attention. Such use of language attributes to her the powerful enchantment of the siren on the rocks, who drew passing sailors to their doom; this pays tribute to the sexual allure. The scene where Daisy’s little finger is injured, Daisy seems to lose maturity altogether and revert to being a spoilt young girl, dramatically accusing Tom. She, like Tom, is also corrupted by her immense wealth.
She and Jordan are dressed in white when Nick arrives, and she mentions that they spent a “white girl-hood” together; the ostensible purity of Daisy and Jordan stands in ironic contrast to their actual decadence and this can be ambiguous in meaning in that Daisy had meant it in a racist manner. Daisy is blinded by the self interest and wealth, becoming ecstatic at the idea of being missed, to the extent that the baby she has becomes irrelevant. “The baby” seems to be a prop in the life of Daisy, a symbol of being Tom’s wife, something which makes this marriage agreement official.The top and foremost layer, of which everyone is familiar with in the character of Daisy, hides a more “sophisticated” Daisy. Hints throughout the chapter indicate problems within the Buchanan relationship. Daisy’s face was “sad” and when she had injured herself, she attempted to call out for help and attention seeking, in that she was hurting and suffering in this relationship. Daisy confides in Nick about the truths of the life of being Mrs Buchanan.
After giving birth, she felt “utterly abandoned”, implying the fragility of Tom and Daisy’s relationship, despite later on in the novel, the Buchanans realise how much they value each other. Unlike the typical Daisy, Fitzgerald allows Daisy to make a crucial criticism while confiding in Nick; when being notified of having a daughter she states that the best thing a girl can be in the world is a “beautiful little fool”. This criticizes the social position of women and the limits that are imposed on them.Thus, this shows a more intelligent side of Daisy, she feels like she has to put on a ditzy act in order to do the best she can in society – a complete contrast to the role of Jordan Baker. However, Daisy does not hesitate to accept the pride of being “sophisticated” and “rather like Tom” has been blinded by the likes of self interest. Furthermore the lives of the Buchanans have been deadened; “impersonal eyes” show the lack of spirituality and a meaningless life. Nick here suggests that life in the West is more alive than the bore of the daily routine in the riches of the East.