Some might conclude that if Jay Gatsby is the Grail Knight within The Great Gatsby, then Daisy must be the Grail. Consider the high value and precious nature of the Grail. It is the zenith of spiritual perfection and only the most pure may obtain it. When one regards the exalted nature of the Grail, the poor moral quality of Daisy makes her an ill fit Grail candidate.
A Proper Role For Daisy
To make Daisy the Grail would be to degrade the Grail, so another pursuit of Gatsby’s needs to be put forth. Still, Daisy has a role in the Grail Quest even though she is not the Grail itself. We get a strong clue is the remark made by Nick that for Gatsby the rock of his world was founded on a fairy’s wing (105). The weight of this statement is clear when we recall the ancient word for fairy is fay. Because of the mischievousness of fairies in most ancient lore, fay, or fey, is also a world that means false. In the Arthurian world of Grail legends, Daisy’s maiden name reminds the reader of another character, the wicked sorceress Morgan Le Fay.
Daisy’s Charming Voice
In another article posted here a few months ago, the case was made that Daisy’s voice is her most attractive and compelling feature (click here to read more). Daisy’s voice moved other people to act much like a magician can force things based upon spells that are spoken. Nick says, “Daisy began to sing with the music in a husky, rhythmic whisper, bringing out a meaning in each word that it had never had before and would never have again. When the melody rose her voice broke up sweetly, following it, in a way contralto voices have, and each change tipped out a little of her warm human magic in the air” (114-115 – emp. mine, na). Considering Gatsby’s insight, Nick further notes that Daisy’s voice was full of money, and that is what gave it its charm (127 – emp. mine, na). A charming voice can be spellbinding, to say the least.
So when reading The Great Gatsby on the level of a Grail Quest, not only is Daisy Faye Buchannan the sorceress, it seems she has enchanted Gatsby with a love spell. It may help explain why he does so many ridiculous things in his pursuit of Daisy. One example may be Gatsby’s wardrobe. Any reader of The Great Gatsby knows that Gatsby accumulates his wealth to win Daisy back again. Also, that one of the most visible and tangible manifestations of his wealth is his shirts of many colors. In fact, these shirts illicit the strongest emotion from Daisy (97).
Near the end of the book there is another reference to Daisy’s charming voice. Although near the end of the book, the incident deals with Daisy and Gatsby’s first month together. After noting that Daisy caught a cold and it made her voice more charming that ever, Fitzgerald goes on to say that by this voice Gatsby becomes aware of the freshness of many clothes, amongst other things (157).
Gatsby associates Daisy’s appeal, in other words her charm, with her voice. And to Gatsby, Daisy’s voice brings an awareness of the freshness of many clothes. So while under Daisy’s spell, Gatsby buy many clothes, shirts in particular. These are a part of his wealth, all accumulated as a means of winning back Daisy.
Examples Of Magic
There are episodes and demonstrations throughout the book of Daisy’s sorcery. When the Buchannans, Nick, and Jordan have dinner near the beginning of the novel, Daisy says that it will soon be the longest day of the year and that she wants to plan to do something on that day. She even goes to say she has this thought every year. Every reader of Shakespeare will readily know that the longest day of the year, i.e. Midsummer, is a day associated with magic, lover’s dreams, and madness.
The clearest example is when Gatsby and Daisy are reunited at Nick’s tea party.
- Gatsby re-evaluates all of his possessions based on Daisy’s opinion of them (97)
- He did so again after Myrtle Wilson dies as if the spell is wearing off (169)
- Gatsby stares at his possessions in a dazed way (97)
- He was consumed with wonder at her presence (97)
- While with Daisy, Nick notices an expression of bewilderment on Gatsby’s face (101)
- Nick notes that on that day there must have been times where Daisy fell short of the colossal vitality of Gatsby’s own illusion (101)
This general bewilderment is no different than when they first met. Just as Gatsby was so under Daisy’s spell and she succumbing to his smile back in Louisville so that neither noticed Jordan when she approached (79), so to does the couple fail to pay attention to Nick at their reunion (94,101). And lest any reader forget all about this magical courtship, we are reminded in the closing that Gatsby’s sense of hope and wonder regarding Daisy is comparable to the state of enchantment once felt by Dutch sailors as they first found New York (189). This enchantment felt at first by the old world mariners and subsequently the platonically bourne bootlegger reminds us of Gatsby’s search for a Grail, as well as Daisy’s mystical role in both creating and defeating the Quest.
Here are other articles regarding The Great Gatsby:
- “The Reliability Of Nick Carraway: Part One – The Naysaying Narrator” (10.9.12)
- “The Reliability Of Nick Carraway: Part Two – The Drive To Lunch” (10.11.12)
- “Why The Great Gatsby Is The Best American Novel” (6.21.12)
- “What Made Daisy Faye Buchanan & Jay Gatsby So Attractive And Attracted To Each Other?” (8.28.12)
- “Who Shot Jay Gatsby?” (3.4.13)