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Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan: Character Comparison


The Great Gatsby is a story that is centered on three main characters in a love triangle, Daisy is married to Tom Buchanan and Gatsby is Daisy’s old flame since collage days and is still in love with her though she is married. The Great Gatsby demonstrates how the power of dreams can be indeed destructive at times. Tom Buchanan is athletic and comes from a well to do family married to lovely Daisy. He comes across as an arrogant spoilt brat who takes pride in bullying others and has an affair with another woman Myrtle despite being married to Daisy. However, he gets infuriated when he discovers that his wife Daisy has an affair and is ready to cause havoc, Turnbull, A. (1962).

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Tom’s wife Daisy was in love with Gatsby in her younger days in Louisville and even went to the extent of promising Gatsby that she would wait for him to marry her. But as her desire to be loved intensified, she eventually gave in to the powerful wealthy young Tom Buchanan who asked her to marry him to which she agreed and forgot all about Gatsby. Through time, her husband Tom started cheating on her hurting her feelings. Residing in the same neighborhood across their house lives Gatsby who still adores her but she does her best to conceal her pain caused by her husband’s never ending flings with other women, Bruccoli, A. J. (1985).

Jay Gatsby, the central character of the Novel lives right across the Buchanans just as wealthy as Tom in a lavish mansion organizing parties every weekend though he remains mysterious as no one knows what he does, how he got his wealth or where he comes from. With time, Daisy’s cousin Nick finds out that Gatsby was born in North Dakota and was called James Gatz. He dedicated his life to amass wealth after working for a millionaire. It was love at first sight when he met Daisy while training in Louisville as an officer. Nick also finds out that Gatsby amassed his wealth through criminal activities as he was so determined to win over Daisy at all costs and was convinced that getting rich getting recognition socially would help him get Daisy. Nick eventually finds Gatsby to be a man with astonishing optimism with ability to convert his lifelong dreams into reality making him an interesting character despite being dishonest, naughty and imperfect as well, Lehan, R. D. (1966).

Apart from Tom and Gatsby wanting to individually own Daisy, they are very much different as far as their affection for Daisy is concerned. They both share quite a number of similarities just as much as they are very different. Tom and Gatsby’s similarities range from their dedication for financial success, harboring antagonistic feelings towards one another, being wealthy, wanting to possess Daisy, both put a lot of value to status in society, Gatsby illustrates his need for wealth when he gets into organized crime after abandoning his disgraceful janitorial job while Tom shows off his costly and luxurious sports car after graduating from Yale, Bruccoli, A. J. (1985).

The other similarity between the two is the fact that they both want to own Daisy. Gatsby goes to the extent of resorting to criminal activities to acquire wealth in an effort to win Daisy’s affection. He is even ready to face the law on Daisy’s behalf after she kills Myrtle Wilson, Tom’s mistress using Gatsby’s car. To keep Daisy on his side, Tom makes use of his great personality as well as his enormous wealth. The other similarity both Tom and Gatsby share is their hatred as well as resentment for one another. This is best illustrated when both of them portray their detest for one another when both get into an argument when they run into each other in a Plaza Hotel. They both expose each other’s mistakes to their immediate friends as well as hauling insults at one another. “I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife” yells Tom is one fine example of their relentless insults.

As much as there are so many similarities between Gatsby and Tom, they also differ in numerous ways. Tom is arrogant with a bullish personality and has an athletic physique. He resides in East Egg that is popular with residents with old money. Because his family was well off, Tom never had to work when he was growing up and graduated from Yale. Tom is a spend thrift and a big show off. He buys expensive things and brags about them to his friends. Tom doesn’t care about others due to his merciless nature. His arrogance and devil may care attitude comes through strongly when he smashes things up including helpless creatures then beats a fast retreat into his wealthy fortress, Lehan, R. D. (1966).

Tom’s relationship with Daisy is just for possession sake but not real love. He constantly goes out with other women without caring about the feelings of his wife convinced that his wife will never walk away from him because of his wealth. With other women preoccupying his mind Tom has no time to romance his wife. This is what makes Tom very different from Gatsby, Turnbull, A. (1962).

On the other hand, Gatsby is totally different from Tom for his kindness as well as passionate and likable personality. He throws great parties every Saturday and doesn’t mind strangers attending them. Unlike Tom who has a house in East Egg where people have old money, Gatsby owns one in West Egg where people spend new money. Gatsby comes from a poor family in North Dakota that barely had enough money to take him to college. He honestly and passionately loves Daisy and willing to do anything for her love. He is good-hearted and loyal as well. Daisy is the main reason Gatsby went to unimaginable lengths to amass wealth just to win her over.

Gatsby is so much in love with Daisy to the extent of equating her to the Holy Grail. Gatsby gets disappointed because of his idealistic way of looking at life. He strongly believes that he will one day win Daisy’s love, but realistically his chances are next to nil as Daisy more or less only cares about riches and hence prefers Tom to Gatsby because of his wealth. Once, Gatsby cried, “Can’t repeat the past?”… “Why of course you can!” Lehan, R. D. (1966).


Gatsby and Tom are both similar in certain ways but equally different in so many ways. Their differences eventually culminated into an inevitable fight that crashed Gatsby’s dream. This is a good illustration of the negative consequences whenever there are differences between two individuals.


  1. Bruccoli, A. J. (1985). New Essays on The Great Gatsby. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  2. Fitzgerald, F. S. (1963). The Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
  3. Lehan, R. D. (1966). F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Craft of Fiction. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
  4. Milford, N. (1970). Zelda. New York: Harper and Row.
  5. Turnbull, A. (1962). Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

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