Jay Gatsby vs. Tom Buchanan in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby


The plot of the book “The Great Gatsby” is grounded upon three protagonists in a love affair. Daisy is engaged to Tom Buchanan, and Gatsby is her ex-boyfriend from college who happens to have feelings for her despite her current relationship (Scott 3). The book shows how, at times, the potency of aspirations may become catastrophic upon their realization. Tom Buchanan is portrayed as physically fit and has a wealthy family. However, he strikes as a condescending character, who takes pleasure in intimidating people. According to an article by Wulick titled, Love and Relationship in Great Gatsby,” despite being married to Daisy, he has an infatuation with Myrtle. However, when he learns that his wife Daisy is having an affair, he becomes enraged (2020).

Contrarily, the novel’s main premise is considerably more general than romantic. Particularly, it depicts the collapse of the American dream in an epoch of revolutionary prosperity and materialism. The author argues that the American dream can be inevitably difficult to be realized without a change in one’s character. A breakdown of how the two men define and express their wealth, strive to pursue Daisy, and the value they attribute to certain statuses that they must hold in society form the basis of this paper.


The first similarity that cuts across both Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby is that they both reside in New York and are exceedingly affluent. The East and West Egg residence is characterized by a rich populace and that explains why the two men have homes there. Secondly, both men enjoy their financial freedom attributed to their massive wealth. Jay portrays this by organizing lavish parties at his home while Tom prefers to use enjoy his wealth by buying expensive cars and flaunting them to his friends.

However, the two acquired their wealth and affluence rather differently. Tom and Daisy Buchanan live in a rich residence in East Egg. In contrast, Gatsby resided in West Egg, “the less glamorous of the two,” directly across from Tom’s house (Scott 05). At his estate, Gatsby occasionally invited different people and threw lavish parties. He was born in North Dakota into a poor household. He, however, had a strong drive toward life accomplishment and desired to be rich. This desire was achieved by his decision to manufacture, distribute, and sell alcohol. Due to its prohibition, he was able to yield high returns from his business.

Unlike Gatsby, Tom Buchanan was born and raised in a wealthy family and enjoyed flaunting his wealth rather than working hard to earn it. As a result, he had a strong disposition and displays arrogance. He lived in East Egg, a neighbourhood that was characterized by wealthy locals. Tom did not have to labour when he was younger or after graduating from Yale since his family was financially stable. This made him become a great spendthrift, making expensive purchases and flaunting such possessions to his acquaintances. His massive wealth makes him a ruthless man who has no regard for other people.

Gatsby, on the contrary, is different from Tom because of his generosity, passion, and endearing demeanour. Every Saturday, he organizes magnificent parties and does not mind if guests from other places attended. Gatsby’s mansion is in West Egg, an area characterized by rich people who spend new money while Tom’s house is in East Egg where people are deemed to have old money. Gatsby was barely able to attend college attributed of the destitute state of his North Dakotan family. This explains why he truly and deeply cares for Daisy and would sacrifice anything for her. He not only has a decent disposition and is dependable as well. Gatsby’s desire to impress Daisy is the major motivation behind his extraordinary efforts to obtain his fortune as highlighted in the section below.

Love for Daisy

Daisy and Gatsby had been dating before Jay got enlisted in the military, but their relationship ended when he left for the war. Later, Daisy wed Tom Buchanan, while Gatsby amassed wealth and relocated to West Egg. He moved close to Daisy and hosted different events hoping that she would attend so that they reconnect. In an attempt to woo Daisy’, Gatsby engages in criminal activities to amass a fortune.

After Daisy uses Gatsby’s vehicle to kill Tom’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson, he is willing to go to trial on Daisy’s behalf. By accumulating all of his wealth for Daisy and accepting responsibility for the car accident, Gatsby demonstrates his love for her. “You are the finest, loveliest, tenderest, and most beautiful person I have ever known – and even that is an understatement” (Scott 25). Gatsby expresses his true affection for Daisy in this phrase. Tom, on the other hand, bought her extravagant gifts during their marriage as a sign of his love for her but was unfaithful to her as he was in another relationship with the lady she killed. He is more in tune with the perks of their marriage than he is with Daisy.

However, the similarity between the two men is evidenced by the fact that both of them are trying to win Daisy over. Firstly, although they use different approaches, they are deeply convinced that Daisy is the right woman with whom they can share their true affection with. Tom accomplishes this idea by buying gifts for her while Jay verbally admits the profound affection. Secondly, the sexism stereotype of the 1920s is evident in both men’s inclination to control women. Jay and Tom believe that they can have the woman of their dreams (Daisy) either by proving their intentions to her or buying her material things to win her heart.

Daisy is so beloved by Gatsby that he compares her to the Grail. He is adamant that he would one day win Daisy’s affection, but in reality, his chances of doing so are slim because Daisy essentially only thinks about money and chooses Tom over Gatsby because of his affluence. Daisy is attracted to Tom in part because she fulfils her rich profile and lifestyle. On the same note, Tom compromises his marriage by cheating since it is obvious that he has never held anything against himself, even though he occasionally appreciates Daisy as a good woman.

Tom is aware that Daisy is powerless to leave him, yet he, at the same time, cares for her enough to overlook her relationship with Gatsby. On the other hand, since he undoubtedly reveres Daisy and associates her with all of his other goals and dreams, Gatsby’s love is in some ways purer (Scott 37). He perceives Daisy as an idealistic object thus unable to comprehend how she managed to live without him for half a decade. The section below discusses the value that the two men attach to different social statuses held by society.

Value They Attribute to Certain Status that they Must Hold in Society

Appearance and power are the two main societal statuses that Tom and Gatsby considered very critical. In terms of appearance, Gatsby is motivated by his avarice to invest a significant amount of money into having elegant clothing, a magnificent mansion, and visually stunning parties. For him, fashion is what defines and shapes an Oxford man. Because of Gatsby’s excessively flamboyant clothing and how badly he interprets the bogus invitation from the Sloanes, he quickly recognizes how fake Gatsby’s character is (Scott 41). Gatsby never manages to make Tom believe that he is anything other than an interloper, who is most probably a criminal. Tom, on the other hand, is very perceptive of other people’s conduct since he does not need to dress as a member of the wealthy elite to be one.

Regarding power, Tom enjoys having it and uses it openly. He is physically violent and uses his fitness to threaten and intimidate people. Nick, in particular, is quite intimidated by Tom’s size. He is indeed prone to violence, whether it is accepted by society (like in his football prowess) or not (when he thoughtlessly smashes Myrtle’s nose). However, this is different when analyzing Gatsby’s use of power. He is considerably influential as well but his strategies are far more implicit as he enjoys having the upper hand under specific circumstances. Although Tom perceives Gatsby to be from a class wholly apart from his own, what they share (selfishness, a love affair, and a fixation with appearances) strengthens the case for the general moral emptiness of the wealthy people, regardless of their high social class.

Tom is a representation of one set of Jay Gatsby’s two personalities, which are in continual conflict with one another throughout the book. He portrays power through excessive selfishness, and self-assurance in his individuality, and physicality, and clings tenaciously to his egoistic beliefs. However, he is not afraid to demonstrate his ignorance and constrained viewpoints. Tom, like his wife, benefited much from his family’s financial situation and enjoyed being of high status since infancy (Scott 67). Because of this, his morality and views on humanity are mostly determined by his level of income. He views death (including that of Myrtle Wilson) and the atrocities of other social stratification as incidental ideas unworthy of his attention.

However, basing on similarities, both Tom and Jay exercise power that is attributed to their huge amount of wealth possessed. Although Jay is not as boastful as Tom, he asserts his dominance in society is more subtle and frequently goes unnoticed throughout the book. Secondly, the two men share their power and wealth to other people in different ways. For instance, Jay organizes expensive parties he is wealthy that involve different people. On the same note, Tom shares his power and wealth by buying expensive gifts for Daisy in an attempt to win her heart.


Gatsby and Tom are both similar in certain ways but at the same time, equally different. The two men’s similarities are mostly portrayed through aspects such as wealth and their love for Daisy. However, the two are very different in terms of their love for Daisy, even though they both wanted to be with her.

The similarities between them include their commitment to achieving financial stability, their wealth, their desire to win Daisy, and their high regard for social standing. Gatsby exemplifies his appetite for money when he embraces bootlegging after quitting his demeaning job as a janitor, while Tom is born to a wealthy family and hence regularly flaunts his possessions. The breakdown of similarities and differences between these two men can help readers understand the disillusionment in the pursuit of the American dream through gaps in behaviour and character among members of the affluent class.

Work Cited

Scott, Fitzgerald F. The Great Gatsby. RIPOL Classic, 2017.

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