The Beautiful Little Fool: Pammy Buchanan and “The Great Gatsby”
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a 1920s novel about the romantic and tragic society of Long Island’s elite, set in an era when the morals are loosening as fast as the womens’ skirts are tightening. Tom and Daisy Buchanan are a couple plagued by desire for people they can’t have, causing both of them to stray outside of their marriage. Their daughter, Pammy Buchanan, is the victim of her parents’ reckless affairs and self-involved tendencies. In a society where wealth and status trump their immoral actions, Pammy is most detrimentally affected by her parents’ careless infidelity. Throughout the novel, both of the Buchanans turn a blind eye to each other’s affairs, not willing to jeopardize their pristine reputation or the social status the marriage gives them. However, no matter how deceitful their facade may appear to the outside world, Pammy is perpetually involved in this dysfunctional family.
Daisy projects her insecurities and values onto the young Pammy. Daisy is a careless individual, and many of her decisions are based on materialistic values rather than integrity. Daisy’s carelessness causes the death of Myrtle Wilson, and indirectly contributes to Gatsby’s murder. In addition to this, Daisy’s life is built on what she views as ideal accomplishments: money, status and popularity. Daisy marries Tom, for these reasons only, not because of love or trust. Throughout their entire relationship, she is still in love with Gatsby. Although she is unhappy, Daisy believes that Pammy should share her outlook on life; as she expresses to Nick, “that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool” (Fitzgerald 17). Daisy explains that she believes it will be in Pammy’s best interest for her to be blissfully ignorant rather than an intelligent person aware of what true happiness entails. Daisy does not value Pammy’s intellect but rather hopes that she will be content with good looks and high social standing. Daisy boasts both of these attributes, but she is not a fool. She is incredibly unhappy with her life at this point in the novel. Despite this, she hopes that Pammy grows up to have the same privileges as her and is foolish enough to be content with these shallow accomplishments. This demonstrates the carelessness with which Daisy parents Pammy. Daisy knows that a rich husband and a sprawling mansion are not enough to be truly happy, and although she is too smart to be distracted by strings of pearls and blue coupés, she hopes her daughter can be satisfied with such deceitful displays of love. Because Pammy is raised with these temporal values, she will end up as unhappy as Daisy, locked into an unfaithful marriage, wishing she could turn back time. The careless outlook with which Daisy views Pammy’s upbringing greatly victimizes Pammy, condemning her to make the same mistakes her mother did. While Daisy is desperately unhappy, Pammy will become the true victim as a consequence of her mother’s carelessness.
Although Pammy’s future looks as if it will be detrimentally affected by her parent’s carelessness, Pammy herself also suffers during the course of the novel. Pammy, although the daughter of two of the most prominent characters, appears only once in the entire novel. Her short cameo is nothing more than an opportunity for Daisy to parade her around to her guests, Daisy even says that Pammy is in the living room “because your mother wanted to show you off” (Fitzgerald 117). This statement shows the way in which Daisy objectifies Pammy. She disregards Pammy’s very existence prior to this moment, and when she does materialize from behind her nurse, her sole purpose is to be a pretty china doll for five minutes. She is then swiftly whisked away again to be shielded from a room which holds her cheating father and mother, and her mother’s secret lover. Throughout the entire novel, Pammy and Tom never cross paths. At this point in the novel, and on this afternoon particularly, tensions are running extremely high. Oblivious, Pammy has interrupted an extremely climactic afternoon, passing in and out without any effect. This shows where her parents’ priorities lie: in problems of their own making. They both are so focused on their dysfunctional marriage and secret affairs, that the presence of their only child has no effect on them at all. What will become of a child raised in such an environment? Who will teach her how to lead a life of integrity and honesty? The values that are being instilled in Pammy from this young age condemn her to follow in her parents’ footsteps, leading a shallow and dishonest life with materialistic values.
As a young child, Pammy has no control over the situation of the household she lives in. The infidelity and carelessness of her parents cause them to overlook their daughter, and she is consequently raised by a nurse. Daisy hopes that Pammy will grow up to be as materialistic and shallow as her, marrying rich and being ignorantly content. While her parents can fake a smile and create impenetrable facade between them and the outside world in order to look like the ideal couple, Pammy is the one left vulnerable to the consequences of her parents’ actions. She is trapped in a family with warped conceptions of success and happiness, a family where the word “hulking” is unacceptable but adultery is, a family of cowards who flee without a trace as soon as the stakes become too high. Pammy does not have this freedom. She cannot escape from this family, from these parents. She is trapped in a circus tent of a house, with rooms of mirrors that warp the truth and lavish performances that distract from the harsh reality. This kind of upbringing creates a future that is predestined for Pammy: to be as careless, dishonest and unhappy as her parents.
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