In the novel The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchanan is a very wealthy man, who lives in the east egg of long island, who is described by Fitzgerald as arrogant and overbearing. He is snobbish towards others who either don’t have as much money as him, haven’t had money that long, or got their money unethically. The light that Tom is portrayed in, displays him as someone who will never be hindered by his poor qualities as a person. Tom’s overbearing attitude and arrogance end up being his downfall because he cannot see his own mistakes.
Arrogance is when someone feels that they must always have a final say, and find it necessary to prove others wrong. Tom’s arrogance comes into full bloom during the meeting between himself, Gatsby, Nick, and Daisy. When Gatsby tells Tom that Daisy no longer loves him, Tom refutes this by claiming that Daisy could never love Gatsby, because he got his money illegally. Tom says that
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?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 you can count me out? Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions and next they?ll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white.?
He goes on to let Daisy go home with Gatsby because he is so confidant that she will not desert him. Tom’s presumptuousness, that Daisy will be completely loyal to him because he knows that she will not run off with a nobody criminal, is his arrogance. He doesn’t understand that it’s his fault that Daisy is unhappy and wants to leave. He is blind to the fact that Gatsby has been trying to impress Daisy, and that she loves him too. Tom’s arrogance causes him to be blind to the fact that Daisy is very unhappy, and that she truly loves Gatsby.
Fitzgerald describes Tom’s overbearing nature through descriptions and the subtle actions that Tom takes. He is physically described as cruel, and aggressive. When Nick first sees Tom in the book, he describes him.
?His eyes appeared as if they established dominance over his face. There was a touch of paternal contempt in his voice, even towards people he liked.?
Nick is the one character in the book that does not judge someone by appearances, and we can therefore see Tom’s overbearing nature in an impartial light. Tom is described as someone always in control of a conversation. When talking he seems to say
“Now don’t think that my opinion on these matters is final, just because I’m stronger and more of a man than you are.”
Tom doesn’t talk to people so much as he speaks to them. He tells Nick that he has a nice place, rather than wait and be complimented on it. Additionally, when Nick first visits Tom’s house, he walks into the study and sees Daisy and Jordan sitting on the couch, looking indifferent. When Tom walks into the room, he immediately takes control of the situation by slamming the window shut, because he doesn’t want a breeze. Tom’s overbearing mannerisms don’t let him consider others’ opinions with any merit or see anyone else as an equal. He is especially unkind to Gatsby and researches his past in order to discover exactly how Gatsby makes his money, for the sole purpose of rubbing it in Gatsby’s face. He also feels superior to Gatsby, because Tom inherited his money, and Gatsby had to work for it. Tom causes his own downfall because he pushes everyone he meets underneath him and asserts himself in every situation. He then assumes that everything is fine because he is in charge.
Tom’s overbearing and arrogant characteristics are the determining forces in the book. If Tom was able to see how he made Daisy feel, it is possible that he would have tried to restore his marriage with her. If Tom had seen how he treated other people and made them subordinate to himself he may have tried to give other people a chance. Tom instead ignores that his marriage is crumbling and that people see him as forceful and overbearing. Tom’s personality and character traits blind him to the way he comes off towards people and prove that no matter how rich you are, no matter how happy you pretend to be, if you truly don’t care about others then you will never be happy.
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