Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Daisy Buchanan and the Jazz Age dream

I first read The Great Gatsby when I was ten. My mom had all of F. Scott Fitzgerald's books, and I thought that Gatsby was the greatest book ever. Now, however many years later, I have to say that I was pretty accurate for a ten-year-old. I have this yearly ritual which involves reading Gatsby every summer. I once took a summer seminar on Fitzgerald. I wrote three papers on Gatsby in college. Yet, when I read it, the book still holds magic for me.
Daisy Buchanan falls into a category in the academic literary world that is known as "an impossible she." You can chase and chase, base your entire life around her, live and fight and die for her, but she can never be possessed. The way Fitzgerald describes her is so hazy and vague. He never gives her a full physical description, so the reader never know what she really looks like. It's an integral part of her magic. She's like a gold dust mirage, a diamond ghost.
The line that always pops into my head when I think of Daisy Buchanan is this one: "Her voice was like money." Yes. That's really all you need to know right there. She is wealth, richness, not even human. Even though she ends up being the true villain in the book, Fitzgerald draws her in a way so that, like Gatsby, you can't help but utterly love her. She is what she is, a terrible driver, a woman who is reckless and careless with the emotions and lives of others, and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. She's a complicated contradiction, like so many of us women inherently are.
Fitzgerald based Daisy on a girl he lost after a youthful romance, but, when I read the book, I always think of his wife Zelda--artist, writer, and, like Fitzgerald himself, doomed. One of the original flappers, with the pearls dissolving in champagne, the drop-waisted dress, and the bob, she burned to death in a mental institution. Too tragic to think about for too long.
The necklace at the top of the post is titled Zelda. With its pearliness, its sparkle and its twenties sensibilities, I know Zelda in her Jazz Age heyday would have loved it. Daisy might have, but only if someone else bought it for her.
Link to Wikipedia's entry on The Great Gatsby:

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