Character Illusions in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Daisy Miller by Henry James
By Rebecca Long-Kluckner
In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Daisy Miller by Henry James, most of the characters are under illusions during the majority of the plot. The plots are carried out with the characters living under these illusions, which are mainly overcome by the ends of the stories. The disillusionment of most of the characters completely diminishes the foundation in which the plots were built upon, leading to the downfall of some of the main characters and the altering of the other characters.
In The Great Gatsby, Gatsby functions under the illusion that Daisy is perfect and is living in such distress because she was forced to marry Tom due to Gatsby being away at war and being poor. This illusion leads Gatsby to spend his entire adult life pining after Daisy and cheating his way up the social and economic ladder in order to win her over. Gatsby believes that Daisy will someday come back to him because she loves him so much and they will live happily ever after together.
Daisy is living under the illusion that Gatsby has become rich and successful by working so hard and getting lucky with some investments. I think that when she first met him she probably did love him. He conveyed something to her that was the complete opposite of what she was: a poor soldier that did not have the social class that she possessed. But now her attitudes have changed and she is attracted to him because of his money and his apparent success.
Tom functions under the illusion that Daisy not only loves him now, but has always loved him and been completely devoted to him. Daisy does admit that she once loved him, but he was not her first choice; Gatsby was. Tom is also under the illusion that Daisy will never leave him. He has an ongoing, almost public affair with Myrtle but still wants to be devoted to Daisy and demands her devotion to him. Tom feels as if he will never lose anything: his money, Daisy, or his social status.
Although their money and social status gives them everything they need and want, they are still restless in life and in marriage. No matter what and who they have, they are never satisfied. Tom had Daisy, but wants Myrtle, too. Daisy has Tom, but wants Gatsby, too. Gatsby could have any woman he wanted, but wants to win back his old love and prove Tom a fool. Everyone in these people’s lives is pawns to be played in their games and exist only to please them. Nick is Gatsby and Daisy’s pawn to be used to meet and continue seeing each other at parties and at Gatsby’s house. Tom and Daisy’s child is their pawn to show off at gatherings and use to prove their alleged commitment to one another.
Nick does not realize that Gatsby wasn’t rich until the end of the story, though.
This is about the only extreme illusion that nick is under. He knows that Gatsby and Daisy are just using him for their own purposes and he knows Tom is a unfaithful, stubborn, selfish man.
By the end of The Great Gatsby many of the characters have been disillusioned, but at a great cost. Gatsby is somewhat disillusioned when Daisy does not completely take his side at the hotel in front of Tom. She says that she loved Tom and does not demonstrate a complete return of Gatsby’s love even when they leave together. Still, Gatsby continues to say that they will be together, even though Daisy does not respond. Gatsby even gives himself up and ends up being killed for Daisy, but Daisy continued with her life as if nothing had happened and does not even attend Gatsby’s funeral.
Daisy realized that she could not give up everything she already had to be with Gatsby. Gatsby was dead so she continued with what she already had. Daisy uses Gatsby until he is no longer usable and them acts as if nothing ever happened. Tom goes about his life in the same way, acting as if Myrtle never existed and continuing with what he already had, Daisy.
© Rebecca Long-Kluckner