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Daisy Fay Buchanan in ‘The Great Gatsby’ and Stella Kowalski in ‘A Street Car Named Desire’ bring out various aspects of feminine character. They manage to show the true value attached to a woman’s beauty, wit, and intelligence in their respective settings. This seen in the way she is described, “She has the grace, charm, wealth and sophistication that makes her so attractive to Gatsby.” (Fitzgerald 13). Stella is a devoted wife struggling to make her marriage work, even though her husband Stanley, subjects her to a lot of pain and suffering. She reveals her strong attachment to Stanley by saying, “I can hardly stand it when he is away for a night…” (Williams 127). This paper will compare and contrast Daisy and Stella and describe how they show love to their spouses.
Daisy is contented to stay in her marriage to Tom because of the wealth and upper-class privileges she enjoys. She feels she has a duty to stay in her marriage even though she is motivated to do so for selfish reasons. Even though Tom treats her badly, Daisy chooses to stay in her marriage for her own convenience. She rejects Gatsby and this hurts him a lot as shown through, “the words seemed to bite physically into Gatsby” (Fitzgerald 132). Even though Daisy lacks good morals, she is still aware of her traditional sense of duty to her husband brought about by rigid materialistic expectations. She claims, “I wasn’t actually in love, but I felt a sort of tender curiosity” (Fitzgerald 42). She lives in a society dominated by patriarchal ideals where married women have to keep up appearances to make their families cohesive.
Stella stays committed to Stanley even though he constantly batters and mistreats her. She seems content to stay married to Stanley due to the love and devotion she has for him. Her sense of duty to Stanley is similar to the way Daisy has high regard for her marriage to Tom. Stanley‘s rape of her sister Blanche shows how brutal he is, “We’ve had this date with each other from the beginning” (Williams 189). Stella has to do more to keep her husband happy yet he does not regard her highly. In both situations, it is clear that women are expected to overlook their husbands’ shortcomings to ensure their families remain stable and united. This shown when Stella asks Blanche to tolerate Stanley’s weaknesses, “You’ll get along fine together if you’ll just try not to – well – compare him with men that we went out with at home ” (Williams 124).
The issue of perseverance and sacrifice comes out strongly as shown by both Daisy and Stella. Daisy endures endless cycles of mistreatment from her husband even though she is in love with Gatsby. Gatsby treats Daisy better than Tom, “Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch, she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete” (Fitzgerald 55). The prospect of getting together with Gatsby who is prosperous and treats her well does not motivate her to leave Tom. Daisy is attracted to her husband, not because of his charm but because he acts like a man who is in control. This is described by the way they look at each other, “There was an unmistakable air of natural intimacy about the picture” (Fitzgerald 145). Tom shows he knows how to meet all social expectations associated with his status.
Stella constantly avoids dealing with the reality that her husband is cruel and inconsiderate. She tolerates her husband’s brutality even though it drives a wedge between her and her sister, Blanche. Even though she is loyal to her sister, it seems her love for her husband takes precedence over what she feels for her sister. Stanley is rude to Stella and this is shown through the way he talks to her, “Don’t holler at me like that” (Williams 116). Stella’s gullibility makes it easy for Stanley to manipulate her into staying in a marriage that degrades her dignity. She consoles herself by saying, “There are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark that sort of make everything else seem unimportant” (Williams 81). Stella is attracted to him because he shows that he is ready to be in control of his own home. She gets carried away by the strong masculine qualities Stanley exhibits.
Both Daisy and Stella have divided loyalties brought about by different issues in their past lives. Daisy denies being in love with Gatsby when she is confronted by Tom. The way she is described in the text shows her as an inconsiderate person “Her voice is full of money… That was it. I’d never understood before. It was full of money” (Fitzgerald 120). Stella also betrays her sister when she gets raped by her husband, Stanley. She is willing to forego the strong bond she has had with Blanche since their childhood just to please Stanley. Stella’s attraction to Stanley’s masculine bravado makes her blind to the fact that she is from a well to do background where all her material needs can be met. Stella betrays her sister after her mental illness and claims, “I couldn’t believe her story and go on living with Stanley” (Williams 165). Therefore, the two women shift loyalties from people who were important to them in the past to their husbands.
Even though both Daisy and Stella tolerate their husbands’ brutality and selfishness, they still have some differences. Daisy is only married to Tom because she wants to enjoy wealth and other social privileges that come with Tom’s upper-class status. She is portrayed as a person unable to care for anybody else. She is not a model parent and this is shown through what she wishes for her infant daughter as she chats with Myrtle, “I hope she’ll be a fool. That’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool” (Fitzgerald 33). This contrasts sharply with Stella’s personal virtues and character. Even though she is indifferent to Stanley’s transgressions, Stella is attracted to him because of his bravery and diligence as the head of the family. It seems odd that Stella is from an upper-class background yet she readily accepts the prospect of living with a brutal, unpolished man from a lower class. She describes her strong emotional connection to Stanley by saying, “when he’s away for a week I nearly go wild” (Williams 129).
Daisy does all she can to preserve her status as the wife of one of the wealthiest and noblemen in Long Island. Even when Gatsby works hard and acquires his own riches, he is still not accepted into the upper class. Therefore, Daisy is enthralled by the prospect of meeting other people from privileged family backgrounds who Tom constantly consorts with. She gives Gatsby false hopes that they will stay together when she tells him, “You know I love you” (Fitzgerald 116). However, Stella does not get opportunities to mingle with people from higher social classes similar to her own. Her husband‘s crude manners are shown when he tells her “Since when do you give me orders” (Williams 77).
Daisy is a fickle and selfish character who is mostly interested in maintaining her status in her upper-class social lifestyle. This displays her as someone who lacks a sense of responsibility and good judgment. Daisy portrays the brutality upper-class people use to pursue their interests when she knocks down Myrtle and lets Gatsby take the blame for her death. Her justification for her actions is, “it takes two to make an accident” (Fitzgerald 112). This contrasts sharply with Stella who invites her sister Blanche to live with her even though she knows her husband is not a very friendly person. She takes care of her husband’s needs and she is also considerate to her sister’s needs. She tolerates her sister’s bad behavior and constant reminders that she needs to divorce her husband. Blanche makes her feel bad by claiming “I can’t stand a naked light bulb, any more than I can a rude remark or a vulgar action” (Williams 60). However, Stella shows her willingness to defend Blanche when she declines to send her away from her house despite her constant squabbles with Stanley. This shows that she is more responsible compared to Daisy who leads a fickle lifestyle.
The character contrasts between Daisy and Stella are more glaring in the way they live their lives. Daisy, just like her husband Tom is not willing to take any responsibility for her actions, no matter how grave the consequences. Tom and Daisy “smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness…” (Broccoli 70). Gatsby hails from a poor family background but works hard to acquire his own wealth yet he is still not considered good enough by Daisy. However, even though Stella comes from an upper-class background, she is more patient with her husband who works hard to provide her daily needs. Stanley’s bad temper confines him to a lower class, yet he is a hardworking man who fails to get an opportunity to advance his economic status.S Stella’s gullibility is shown through her words, “ I am not in anything I want to get out of” (Wertheim 64).
Money and social status are used to evaluate individual success and happiness. Gatsby decides to work hard to ensure he earns more money to fulfill Daisy’s material needs. Nick describes Gatsby as, “He was a son of God—a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that” (Fitzgerald 139). However, Daisy fails to take note of his sacrifices and does not reciprocate his love. On the contrary, Stella seems happy with the little money her husband makes. In the end, she fails to see her husband’s shortcomings but instead turns against her sister by sending her to a mental institution after giving birth. She has a strong sense of guilt when she laments, “Oh, God, what have I done to my sister?” (Williams 224).
Broccoli, Matthew J. New Essays on the Great Gatsby. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Print.
Fitzgerald, Scott. The Great Gatsby. London: Urban Romantics, 2012. Print.
Wertheim, Albert. Staging the War American Drama and World War II. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004. Print.
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Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. London: A&C Black Publishers, 2009. Print.