Daisy in Rhinoceros might not rank at the top of the list when it comes to literary Daisies. Not next to Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby or Daisy Duke from The Dukes of Hazard, for example. After all, she hasn’t come to signify an entire era and she doesn’t have a pair of shorts that were named after her.
But she does get to, you know, turn into a rhinoceros, so let’s give her a fair chance.
Daisy serves the role of love interest for Berenger, but there’s more to her than that. Through Daisy we see that some people—specifically Botard—are unwilling to trust anyone or anything unless they have witnessed it for themselves:
BOTARD: It’s all a lot of made-up nonsense.
DAISY: But I saw it, I saw the rhinoceros! (2.1.62-64)
Daisy’s eyewitness account proves to be too little for Botard to come around on the whole rhinoceroses-are-taking-to-the-streets thing. He doesn’t accept it until he sees rhino-Boeuf (we told you that’s what we’re calling him) with his own eyes.
But Daisy isn’t here just to allow Ionesco to comment on how some people trust nothing (though to be real, who would believe you if you said you just bumped into a rhino on the street?). Yup, Daisy proves to be a much more powerful character than that. She serves as the final betrayal for Berenger—proof that everybody abandons you in the end.
She also, with Berenger, demonstrates that to Ionesco (at least in this play) the idea that “love conquers all” is as ridiculous as the idea that people would start turning into rhinoceroses. (Don’t let it get you down, though. Plenty of other authors out there give love the power to do just about anything.)
If you are willing to step back and play the cynic for a bit, Daisy also provides a great deal of comedy toward the end of the show. Her relationship with Berenger hits just about every high and low in a manner of minutes, and for those who have lived through the highs and lows of a long-term relationship, this can be really funny. (And if you haven’t lived through it, maybe it’s time to join the rhinos.) Berenger sums it up when he says:
BERENGER: Oh dear! In the space of a few minutes we’ve gone through twenty-five years of married life. (3.1.1164)
The importance of Daisy doesn’t solely rest on comedy, though. She provides a viewpoint that, when you look at in terms of the rise of Fascism (or any other tyrannical power), is quite terrifying.
As Daisy starts to shift her allegiance from Berenger to the rhinoceroses, she utters one line that, if this play were about soldiers instead of rhinoceroses taking over the streets, could send chills down your spine:
DAISY: They’re like gods. (3.1.1194)
Daisy holds out longer than anyone other than Berenger, but in a way, her conversion is more powerful than any of the others. Jean wants to be “natural” again and is disgusted by the weakness of humanity, and Dudard reasons his way into joining up with the rhinoceroses. But Daisy turns to worshiping them, and believes that by joining them she can become one with the gods.