When the first settlers came to America many years ago, they found freedom and opportunity. With hard work and determination an average man or woman could be prosperous. This concept was not only revolutionary in theory, but has proven to be true for many successful individuals. This idea has come to be known as the ‘American Dream. ‘ Its foundation was based on good ethics; however, with the passing of time it has become distorted. The American Dream no longer stands for equal opportunity and hard work, it involves wealth, false happiness, materialistic possessions and high social status.
Individuals who have achieved the materialistic ‘American Dream’ give the appearance of perfection. However, for many, their lives are not as ideal as what they seem. Issues such as sexual abuse, mental illness, alcoholism, adultery, greed and restlessness, affect the lives of even those who appear to live the ‘American Dream. ‘ In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night, the characters Daisy Buchanan and Nicole Diver give the appearance of a charmed existence, but it is in fact flawed. Daisy Buchanan was raised in a wealthy American family, and had the appearance of a perfect upbringing.
In reality, Daisy did live a ‘ white’; (p. 20) childhood, pure and innocent. In fact, her childhood was so ideal that even her friend Jordan Baker commented, ‘The largest of the banners and the largest of the lawns belonged to Daisy Fay’s house. She was just eighteen, two years older than me [Jordan], and by far the most popular of all the young girls in Louisville. She dressed in white, and had a little white roadster, and all day long the telephone rang in her house and excited young officers from Camp Taylor demanded the privilege of monopolizing her that night’; (p. 75).
Daisy’s childhood not only gave the outward appearance of being ideal, but in reality it was flawless as well. On the exterior Nicole Diver’s childhood fits all the requirements of a perfect upbringing as well, however, like the ‘American Dream,’ it too was imperfect. Nicole was born into an affluent family and she was ‘a perfectly normal, bright, happy child’; (p. 126). However, after the death of Nicole’s mother, her father began to have an incestuous relationship with her. Nicole maintained the appearance of being ‘normal’, but she eventually began to suffer from mental illness because of her past abuse.
She had a fit or something-the things she said got crazier and crazier…’;(p. 127). ‘Almost always about men going to attack her, men she knew or men on the street – anybody –’; (p. 127). Nicole was diagnosed as having a ‘Divided Personality’;(p. 128) and she underwent many years of therapy to rehabilitate her from her past sexual abuse. Both Nicole and Daisy’s childhood have the outward appearance of being perfect, however only Daisy’s childhood truly was. After Daisy married Tom Buchanan, their marriage appeared to be a happy union.
They traveled to many places and people commented, ‘it was touching to see them together…’;(p. 78). Although Daisy’s marriage seemed idyllic, it regrettably was not. At a young age Daisy was forced to marry Tom, a wealthy businessman from Chicago. ‘She [Daisy] wanted her life shaped now, immediately – and the decision must be made by some force – of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality – that was close at hand’;(p. 151). Daisy entered this marriage only for the social status and financial security that she would gain. She knew that the marriage was a mistake and that her heart truly belonged to Jay Gatsby.
However, she continued with the planned marriage. The ‘next day at five o’clock she married Tom Buchanan without so much as a shiver, and started off on a three months’ trip to the South Seas’; (p. 77-78). The marriage began with a bad foundation, and as a result Daisy subsequently had an affair with Gatsby. Gatsby’s superficial possessions and newfound wealth impressed Daisy so greatly that she cheated on her husband. On the exterior Gatsby had everything to offer Daisy, but in reality, he was a lonely, dishonest man who was obsessed with money. Nicole, like Daisy, entered marriage for the wrong reasons.
Nicole had been mentally unstable for years until Dick Diver entered her life. He not only offered her support as a doctor, but as a husband as well. He was ‘some one she [Nicole] could rely on – indefinitely’; (p. 215). Dick was impressed with Nicole’s high social status and when Nicole’s sister, Baby Warren, proposed the idea of them marrying, he could not pass up the offer. However, Dick was reluctant to marry, and he often believed that he had made a mistake. ‘But she did not know that twice Dick had come close to flinging the marriage in her face’;(p. 159). ‘It’s possible that I [Dick] was the wrong person for Nicole . ‘;(p. 215).
Nicole’s marriage, much like Daisy’s, was based on a weak foundation. Although the Divers gave the exterior impression of a blissful marriage, it, like the Buchanan’s union, was troubled. Throughout the marriage Dick engaged in affairs, while Nicole remained faithful. When Dick’s career began to fall apart and he became an alcoholic, Nicole sought elsewhere for emotional support. Nicole, like Daisy, pursued an affair outside of her marriage. Nicole ‘…wanted an ‘affair’; she wanted a change’;(p. 291). Similarly, Daisy and Nicole both pursued relationships outside of their marriages.
Both women gave the outward impression that their marriages were indissoluble, however, in reality, their marriages were troubled. Daisy’s marriage to Tom, although troubled within, gave the outward appearance of happiness and fulfillment. The couple was very wealthy, and had acquired most of their wealth from their inheritances. Tom did not require Daisy’s wealth to achieve his goals in life. Their relationship was troubled in other aspects, and the desire for wealth never entered their marriage, unlike the Diver’s marriage. Outwardly the Diver’s marriage was also flawless.
They lived a perfect life, or so it seemed. Their marriage, like the Buchanan’s, suffered in many areas, but the main reason for their problems was Dick’s desire for Nicole’s wealth. Dick was extremely ambitious and saw Nicole’s wealth as a business opportunity. ‘…Dick married Nicole for her money, …. ‘That was his weakness– you [Nicole] hinted as much yourself one night’;(p. 240). ‘And I [Dick] haven’t got that much money – I haven’t got a tenth of it… Nicole and Baby are rich as Croesus but I haven’t managed to get my hands on any of it yet’; (p. 6).
Dick felt that he should be the ‘supporter’ of the family, and he always resented the fact that she had greater power over him because of her wealth. ‘ You’ve got too much money [Nicole]…’; ‘That’s the crux of the matter. Dick can’t beat that’; (p. 293). The Divers have an impeccable marriage on the exterior; though realistically Dick’s main reason for marrying Nicole was to fulfill his desire for wealth. The Buchanans on the other hand, did not have any problems related to money. Daisy Buchanan gives the appearance of leading an interesting, thrilling life in East Egg.
She has traveled around the world, and lived the life of luxury. However, even with all her wealth and status, she still leads a dull, unfulfilling life. She is constantly complaining of boredom and is seen as being restless throughout the novel. ‘They [Tom and Daisy] had spent a year in France for no particular reason, and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were rich together’;(p. 6). Daisy’s world and the people she associates with, all have achieved the ‘American Dream,’ but they have no aspirations or goals and thus they all live meaningless lives.
This sense of boredom and unproductiveness is seen at various points throughout the novel when Daisy complains of being bored and continues to say, ‘What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon? ‘;(p. 118) On the exterior Daisy lives a fast-tracked, thrilling life, but in reality, her life is uninteresting and lacking sustenance. Daisy’s past relationships were much more fulfilling. Her love affair with Gatsby in the past brought her more happiness than with her current husband. ‘They [Daisy and Gatsby] had never been closer in their month of love, nor communicated more profoundly with one another…’;(p. 0) ‘Of course she [Daisy] might have loved him just for a minute, when they were first married – and loved me [Gatsby] more even then, do you see? ‘;(p. 152) Overall, Daisy’s leads an unfulfilling life, despite her vast wealth. Her past was much more rewarding then her current life. Nicole, like Daisy, gives the appearance of living a thrilling life, but in reality, she feels her life in unfulfilling as well. Despite Nicole’s wealth, her life is far from exhilarating. ‘I think we should do something spectacular.
I feel that all our lives have been too restrained’;(p. 274). She never had real goals in life; she drifted aimlessly throughout the world. She gained all her wealth from her inheritance. Daisy has achieved the ‘American Dream’ in a sense, but the true ambition and spirit behind it has been lost. Nicole’s past relationships have also been far happier and fulfilling. Although she did not have a past affair with another man, her relationship with Dick was much more rewarding in the past. Nicole often reminisces of the past when her life was happier.
For a moment Nicole was sorry it was so; remembering the glass he had raked out of the old trash heap, remembering the sailor trunks and sweaters they had bought in a Nice back street . . . ‘;(p. 281). Both Daisy and Nicole’s past was more exciting and gratifying. Their current relationships are flawed and although on the exterior they live a charmed life, their lives are in reality are unrewarding. Conclusion In Fitzgerald’s novels The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night, the characters Daisy Buchanan and Nicole Diver give the appearance of a charmed existence, but it is in fact flawed.
Similarly, both couples have achieved the materialistic ‘American Dream,’ but surprisingly are not content with their lives. Eventually both marriages are unhappy, and suffer conflicts. The American Dream with all its promises does not guarantee happiness. Even with great wealth and possessions people are not happy. True happiness comes from within, and not from the shallow possessions that are ‘supposed’ to make people happy. Overall, the concept of the American Dream is truly flawed; people externally have everything, but in reality they are missing the key to life, happiness.