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Using textual support, compare and contrast the characters of Tom and Gatsby. In what...

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samba23 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 15, 2010 at 6:23 AM via web

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Using textual support, compare and contrast the characters of Tom and Gatsby. In what ways are they similiar? In what ways are they different?

Please use textual references when answering!

:)

I have a few examples already, i just would like to hear other opinions and view points.

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 15, 2010 at 7:50 AM (Answer #1)

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I like reading that you need textual evidence--good for your teacher for requiring that!  That's how you study literature!  Here's a good passage for you, and I hope it's not one you've already found.

Tom and Gatsby are contrasted in a way that is indicative of the entire work, in chapter 7 during the "showdown."  In my copy the passage begins on page 137 when Gatsby tells Tom that Daisy doesn't love him and never did:

"Your wife doesn't love you, said Gatsby quietly.  "She's never loved you.  She loves me."

Tom tells him he's crazy and Gatsby continues:

"She never loved you, do you hear?"  he cried.  She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me.  It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart she never loved anyone except me!"

A few paragraphs later, Gatsby hammers the point home:

...we couldn't meet.  But both of us loved each other all that time, old sport, and you didn't know.  I used to laugh sometimes--" but there was no laughter in his eyes, "to think that you didn't know."

This is all important to Gatsby.  He is an idealist, and in order for his dream to continue Daisy must have loved him and him alone since they first met and had a relationship five years earlier.  Any thing else will destroy the perfection of the relationship as Gatsby sees it. 

But Tom is not an idealist.  He doesn't care about five years ago.  He doesn't even really care that Daisy says she loved Gatsby then and loves Gatsby now, though he does defend himself.  All he cares about is that Daisy stays with him.  But what's important for your study is that his view of the situation is more accurate than Gatsby's. 

His answer to Gatsby's claim that Daisy loved Gatsby for all of the years that Tom and Daisy were married?

"Oh--that's all."  Tom tapped his thick fingers together like a clergyman and leaned back in his chair.

"You're crazy!"  he exploded.  "I can't speak about what happened five years ago because I didn't know Daisy then--and I'll be damned if I see how you got within a mile of her unless you brought the groceries to the back door.  But all the rest of that's a God Damned lie.  Daisy loved me when she married me and she loves me now."

And the fact is, Tom is correct.  He actually knows Daisy better than Gatsby does.  Gatsby is an idealist and he has put Daisy on a pedestal and idealized her and their relationship.  Tom is a pragmatist, and he knows Daisy better than Gatsby does.

The story is based on Gatsby's illusion, and he's certainly, as presented by Nick, a much more likable character than Tom.  But Gatsby is an idealist and Tom is a pragmatist, and Tom's realistic view trumps Gatsby's idealistic view in the novel.  Daisy tells Gatsby that he asks too much.  Gatsby isn't satisfied just to be loved now.  And Daisy isn't willing to say that she never loved Tom.  At least not after he mentions a memory or two of happy times they had together.

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