Q: What are the similarities and differences between Myrtle and Daisy? Tom Buchanan is what links Daisy and Myrtle. Myrtle desires Tom because of his bulky masculinity and his social style, and in a way her sexuality is a counterpart of Gatsby’s romantic passion for Daisy. The difference between Daisy’s and Myrtle’s desires regarding Tom is that Daisy’s is obtainable and it holds a substantial reality whereas Myrtle can only dream of what she truly wants. She shouts ‘Daisy! Daisy! Daisy!’ and this not only illustrates her immature behaviour but her feelings of frustrations and envy towards Daisy. She wants what she has, yet the irony here is that Daisy wants what Tom gives Myrtle – attention. Before Gatsby made his appearance, we see that Daisy feels slightly neglected by him and desires more of his attention, whereas Myrtle desires his enormous wealth and his social power. Daisy exploits her feminity as well as her sexuality as she looks up at Nick and takes his hand in greeting. Nick’s comment, ‘That was a way she had’, suggests that it is a feature of her practiced sexual charm by which she seems to promise so much. In chapter one Nick concentrates on the compulsive power of her voice, it is ‘thrilling’ (pg 14), it has a ‘singing compulsion’, ‘her voice compelled me’ (pg 19), ‘her voice glowing and singing’ (pg 20) – such language give a powerful enchantment to her voice. Nick’s extended evocation of the qualities of Daisy’s voice on page 14 to 15, pays tribute to her sexual allure. It does not matter that what she says is frivolous or banal but it is the musicality of her voice that fascinates people by seeming to hold out promises. While on one hand, such tribute makes Daisy’s sexual charm memorable and focuses her central position in the imagery relating to Gatsby’s dream; on the other it rigidly imprisons her in the conventional image of woman as a seductress or object of desire. Myrtle, like Daisy is aware of her sexual allure; however she flaunts it unlike Daisy who uses it discreetly. Myrtle represents explicit, unconcealed sexuality. When Nick meets her for the fist time her vitality is in contrast with her environment, and yet she belongs to that world of indifference and death. She is unable to realise the inability to achieve her impossible dream, and in that sense she is similar to Daisy. Daisy cannot have both Gatsby and Tom. She is torn between the responses to Gatsby’s romantic vision of herself and Tom’s materialistic evaluation of her, expressed by the ‘string of pearls valued at three hundred and fifty thousand dollars’ (pg 74), which was his wedding gift. Daisy could not wait for Gatsby to return from the war, romantic possibility was not enough for her. Unlike Daisy, Myrtle knows what she wants – Tom, and is not in the slightest remorseful at the idea of betraying or leaving George. She does not have an inner conflict, as Daisy seems to have. Her vitality is evident, which tends to project a dominating presence. When she comes close to Nick to talk about Tom Buchanan, ‘her warm breath poured over’ him (pg 38) suggests that her body language is naturally sexual, and her sexual language is provocative and direct. Her ‘stout’ body contrasts against her ‘soft’ and ‘course’ voice, and the way her husband fades against her makes her appearance more dominant. In comparison, Daisy’s body is leaner and almost fragile. She would be considered the perfect model of beauty of women during the early 1920s, whereas Myrtle is curvaceous and voluptuous which would be more appealing in modern times rather than in the twenties. As a couple, Daisy and Tom fits society’s expectations. Both come from a wealthy background and complement each other well. But looking at Tom and Myrtle, we can see that by grammar and speech, as well as taste, Myrtle is
distinguished from Tom Buchanan’s exclusive world. She buys cheap scandal magazines and lets four cabs go by before selecting an impressive looking lavender one. As they approach the block of flats on 158th Street she casts ‘a regal homecoming glance about her’ (pg 31), and as hostess she patronises the subservient McKees and her sister. She speaks in a ‘high mincing shout’ (pg 33), and later ‘she looked at me and laughed pointlessly. Then she flounced over to the dog, kisses it with ecstasy, and swept into the kitchen, implying that a dozen chefs awaited her orders there’ (pg 34) suggests her manner is again defined as sharp, yet her actions are comical, especially to Nick because he judges them from a position of social superiority, yet her overt sexuality does impress him. Myrtle’s pretentious display is a symbolism of what she truly wants to be, whereas when Daisy puts on an ostentatious appearance only because she has to.