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Essay 1

Character Analysis of Tom Buchanan from the Great Gatsby

Out of the five main characters in the Great Gatsby, I disliked Tom Buchanan the
most ( however his wife Daisy was a close second). He just didn't seem like he was
a nice person, and he also seemed extremely self-absorbed. I don't believe that he
and I would choose the same values that we would consider important in guiding
our lives.

One of Tom's important values is wealth. He was very rich and thought that it made
him superior to other people. He enjoys showing off his possessions, " I've got a
nice place here. It belonged to the Demaine oil man" (Great Gatsby, 12). In this
case, Tom is showing Nick his house and obviously thinks that because it belonged
to the Demaine oil man that it makes it a little more important. Tom thinks that poor
people are inferior to him and he is quite the snob. He is from old money and often
refers to the newly rich as " bootleggers", people who distributed alcohol during
prohibition. Tom doesn't think much of Gatsby , and claims that he pegged him as a
bootlegger the moment he saw him. When Daisy tells Tom that she is leaving him
for Gatsby he says, " She's not leaving me! Certainly not for a common swindler
who'd have to steal the ring to put on her finger!" ( 140). Later, Tom even sends
Daisy home with Gatsby , adding that his presumptuous flirtation was over.

Power and control over people is something that Tom considers important in
guiding his life. Throughout the novel he has shown, time and time again that he is
the type of person who likes to control others and what they do. Sometimes he is
nothing more than a bully and other times he is just cruel. He often talks to George
Wilson, his mistress' husband about selling him his car, which he never actually
intends to do. He is simply toying with the man, but becomes angry when Wilson
tries to talk to him about it: " Very well then , I won't sell you the car at all... I'm
under no obligations to you at all...And as for your bothering me about it at lunch
time I won't stand for that at all!" (122). Tom was being extremely cruel at that
moment because Wilson needed the money that would come from the car and Tom
didn't care. There are times when Tom loses his temper when people don't obey
him. When Myrtle Wilson started shouting Daisy's name ( she said that she could
say it whenever she wanted to), Tom broke her nose. Later in the novel Tom
couldn't stand it when he realizes that his wife and mistress were " slipping
precipitately from his control". He confronts Gatsby in the hotel and says, " I
suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love
to your wife. Well, if that's the idea then you can count me out" (137). Tom couldn't
stand having control so he made a scene. After ridding Daisy of whatever courage
she had, he ordered her to go home. That was how he handled the situation.

Tom also values aesthetics, which means " tasteful or sensitive to beauty". That is
not to say that his actions are very tasteful, but that he acts like man of high class
and good taste. He buys extravagant things such as a bunch of polo ponies or a
$350 000 string of pearls for Daisy. He is concerned with what he sees as the loss
of his own high status and is the perfect example of "old money". He is extremely
pompous : he married the girl that everyone wanted and when he did that he came
from Chicago " with a hundred people in four private cars and hired a whole floor
of the Seelbach Hotel". Tom values expensive things that are both beautiful and

In 1920s, after WW1, USA went under a radical change and social reform took place.
The developments in industrialization caused a decay in moral values. This resulted in
materialism’s obliteration of the doctrines and rules of moral duties. Thus, the society
was torn apart due to the clash between old and new values. The Great Gatsby by F.
Scott Fitzgerald reflects the American society during this period and clearly portrays
the contrast between traditional and corrupted values by manifesting the distinct
character traits, attitudes and habits of the characters; their individual patterns of
typical lives and thoughts about the others.

Old values represent the traditional life style and are based on morality and virtue.
The characteristics of these values are portrayed by some characters, events and
settings throughout the book. Firstly, old values give one a sense of right or wrong
and an obedience to social conventions. For example, Nick, the narrator of the book
who lives according to these values says that he is slow thinking and full of interior
rules that act as brakes on his desires. Then he observes the people around him and
adds that he is one of the few honest people that he has ever known (64). His ideas
show that spiritual values such as self-control, honesty and human respect are
significant but rare. Secondly, the old life style includes close and warm friendships
that depend on respect and love. Gatsby trusts Nick and shares his secrets with him.
They establish a genuine friendship. This emphasizes the importance and scarcity of
sincere relationships. Furthermore, the old life style is characterized by a certain
modesty in which wealth and public show of it are not the only sources of validation.
This way of life is illustrated by the settings of the book. For instance, West Egg,
where Nick and Gatsby live, corresponds to the traditional life style. Nick describes
this place and writes: “I lived at West Egg, the-well, the less fashionable of the two.
(...) My own house was an eye-sore but it was a small eye-sore and it had been
overlooked” (9).We understand that this place is associated by old-fashioned stability,
modesty and frugality; concepts that are meaningful according to the old moral code.

On the other hand, after WW1 as people got away from the traditional life style, their
moral considerations were suspended. These changes are illustrated by the
personalities, behavior and life styles of several characters in the book. Firstly, these
characters are concerned chiefly and only with themselves. As Nick observes Tom and
Daisy who have been cruel ad vulgar, he explains their attitudes towards others by
saying that “they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their
money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let
other people clean up the mess they had made“(187). Throughout the book, they act
vulgarly and cruelly. This criticism points out the fact that selfishness is one of the
major traits present in the society. Secondly, although people meet frequently in social
events, they lack sincere intimacy. At Gatsby’s party, Nick hears the guests milling
around, exchanging rumors about their host but no one seems to know the truth about
Gatsby’s wealth or personal history. This indicates that although people seem very
close, they don’t really share anything and are distant. The corruption of society is
clearly indicated by this secession among people. In addition, suspension of devotion
to family comes along with corruption of values. For example, Jay Gatsby was in fact
called James Gatz. He changed his name because “His parents were shiftless and
unsuccessful farm people-his imagination had never really accepted them as his
parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from
his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God” (104). As it is emphasized
in this quote, Jay Gatsby struggles to establish a new life for himself just because his
parents are poor and don’t fit into the idealistic figure of modern family. Furthermore,
materialism replaces the vanishing values and money promotes to be the only
aspiration of the people. The luxury of Tom’s house is described by elaborate
decorations such as “the frosted wedding cake of the ceiling”, “wine-colored rug” and
an “enormous couch” (12). This rich decoration shows how important appearance and
money are. The fact that decorations of this house are considered significant and
worked on elaborately despite the problematic relationships is a proof of the
corruption in the society.

In conclusion, there are two distinct groups in the society: The conventional people
and the “modern” ones who are pursuers of power and superiority. They disregard
moral values and are carried away by a stream of materialism. There is a huge gap
between these two groups. This secession ruins the unity, peace and prosperity in the
Failed Dreams in the Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby, a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is about one man’s pursuit of the
American Dream and his downfall as he tries to reach this imaginary goal. Although
the dream is different for each person, the principal idea behind the dream is if an
individual is determined to reach a goal, he or she has of chance of achieving wealth,
and the happiness that accompanies it. In The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby believes that
one can acquire happiness through the accumulation of wealth and power.

Jay Gatsby is a visible example of the success and the failure of the American Dream.
Gatsby is living the American Dream. Initially, he appears to be a self-made, wealthy
man, and is a remarkable example of how hard work can lead to material prosperity.
Gatsby exhibits that it is possible to achieve wealth and success through
determination. Although he is the child of “unsuccessful farm people” he manages to
cross this social barrier and overcome his modest childhood. He is able to raise
himself to his high social stature through hard work and perseverance. The one reason
that Gatsby is determined to achieve material wealth is to recapture the love that he
once shared with Daisy. Gatsby’s interpretation of the American Dream is where the
charming hero-himself, becomes extremely successful and affluent and wins the love
back of the “beautiful damsel in distress.” Gatsby throws extravagant parties to try to
impress Daisy. He tries to live out his dream of being reunited with her, and reliving
the past love that they shared. During one of these parties, Nick and Jordan come
across Gatsby’s impressive library that is filled with books. As they came into the
library, they came across a man who was astonished at the fact that the books in
Gatsby’s library were “absolutely real-have pages and everything” (50), but these
books were unread. The pages were not cut, signifying that the books were never
opened and were put there for show. This illustrates the somewhat shallow, false side
of Gatsby. Although he is personified as a high class, intelligent man, this
personification starts to diminish when his superficial side is shown.

Gatsby embodies the mores of the American Dream. He comes from a poor childhood
in the West, and moves to the East in hopes of making his fortune. Nonetheless
Gatsby preserves the innocence of the West. As a result of retaining this innocence,
Gatsby’s dreams prevent Nick from witnessing the moral corruption in Gatsby that he
sees in Tom and Daisy. Before Nick leaves to return home, he yells out “They’re a
rotten crowd…You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together” (162).

Although Gatsby reached his goal of becoming rich and powerful, there still seemed
to be emptiness left in his life. Gatsby had everything that he desired, except for love.
Gatsby tried everything in his power to relive the past and recapture Daisy’s love, but
he failed to do so. His dreams were shattered when he asked Daisy to admit that she
had never loved Tom, and she refused to do so-“I did love him once-but I loved you
too” (140). This was the turning point in their relationship, and the beginning of the
end of their love affair. Gatsby tried wooing her and using his wealth in order for her
to coincide with him, but she never did.

A fascinating parallel can be drawn between Myrtle’s interpretation of the

American Dream and Gatsby’s. Like Gatsby, Myrtle has incentive and aspiration. She
too is trying to reach a higher stature on the social pyramid. She is trying to reach
Tom Buchanan’s social position. In contrast to Gatsby, wealth corrupts and destroys
Myrtle. Myrtle shows her passiveness and her lack of social position and morals when
she lets Tom buy her affection by giving her gifts. Myrtle Wilson dreams of being rich
and having all the money that her heart desires. She thinks Tom is going to leave his
wife Daisy and marry her. She puts up with his vulgarity and beatings in order to
reach her dream. Tom will never leave his wife to be with her. Myrtle’s rendition of
the American Dream never comes true and she eventually gets killed.

The upper class that is depicted in The Great Gatsby is an example of how the
American Dream has failed. The principles of working hard, taking responsibility,
having respect and showing decency towards one another are lost to greediness,
selfishness, and snobbery. These people are superficial and believe that money can
buy happiness. They come to Gatsby’s parties uninvited, and gossip about Gatsby in
his own home-“’Somebody told me they thought he killed a man once’…‘I don’t
think its so much that… it’s more that he was a German spy during the war” (48).
People tend to overlook the significant characteristics in others, and tend to focus
more on the shallow characteristics of the person.

The Great Gatsby is not merely a description about the failed aspirations of many
people; it is also about how the American Dream is too extreme an ideal to ever be
reached. The American Dream can be perceived in many ways. One can consider the
American Dream to be about wealth and power, and others can see if as ones
accomplishments fulfilled through hard work and dedication
Character Analysis of Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway

A man is tested against nature and then tested again by how well he behaves in
relation to other men,” (46) Richard Lehan stated in The Great Gatsby: The Limits
of Wonder. In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald tested each of his characters by
giving him or her a place in society and seeing how each one would react to his or
her surroundings. East Egg and West Egg are the areas where the main characters in
this novel lived and through stereotypes of Tom, Daisy, Gatsby and Nick, it is clear
what East and West Egg represent.

Because of East Eggers’ old, exclusive money, they seemed to think that they were
superior and if any obstacle appeared in their path, they were secure with their
money behind them. In Modern Critical Views: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harold Bloom
states that “In Gatsby we see that the charming irresponsibility of the flapper has
developed into the criminal amorality of Daisy Buchanan, and that the smug
conceit of the Rich Boy has hardened into Tom Buchanan’s arrogant cruelty,” (74).
When Daisy ran over Myrtle Wilson, she and Tom simply disappeared and left
Gatsby to deal with the punishment of a crime that he never committed. Tom’s
affair also represented their ideas on morality – that as long as he had old money, he
could do whatever he wanted. “Surrounded from childhood by the artificial security
of wealth, accustomed to owning rather than wanting, they lack anxiety or illusion,
frustration or fulfillment,” (75).

West Egg represents western values such as romanticism and capitalism. Nick
Carraway and Jay Gatsby are typical possessors of “new money,” who achieved
wealth but still are not accepted into the exclusive society of East Egg. Gatsby was
much more of a romantist that Nick was, for he did everything – attain massive
amounts of wealth, throw huge parties, involve himself in illegal business affairs,
and even embark upon an affair – in order to win back Daisy. “In creating himself,
Gatsby had no social or moral context to give his intensity direction,” (Lehan 31).
With no other life goal than Daisy, Gatsby ended up engaging in immoral activities.

Both East Eggers and West Eggers were wealthy, but because of one major
difference in their lives, they would not and could not ever understand each other.
That difference is the American Dream. “Those who possess the necessary means
lack the will, motive or capacity to pursue a dream,” (Bloom 75). The rich do not
care to detach themselves from the meaningless, materialistic lives that they lead in
order to pursue a dream, because everything else they have was handed to them on
a silver platter. West Eggers, did not have the “necessary means” - money – to
easily follow a dream, but through the American Dream, they rose up “from rags to
riches” because they had the will.

Even though money plays a big role in The Great Gatsby, wealth was not Gatsby’s
American Dream. “The thirst for money is a crucial motive in Gatsby (as in
Fitzgerald’s other novels), and yet none of his major characters are materialists, for
money is never their final goal,” (74). Money was the element that connected
Gatsby to Daisy. Money for Daisy was an excuse for her to act however she
desired. There was no way for their romance to work out if money was such an
important ingredient. That is why Daisy gave Gatsby up when Tom revealed to her
the origin of Gatsby’s wealth (Lehan 76).

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