Describe how F. Scott Fitzgerald uses Tom Buchanan as a foil for Jay Gatsby in his novel The Great Gatsby.

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Despite all his illusions, dreams, and attempts to become something he really wasn't by living a lifestyle financed by money acquired through shady dealings, Jay Gatsby at his core was a hard worker, and a warm person with a sincere love for Daisy Buchanan; in contrast, her husband, Tom, was of old money he never worked a day in his life for, and his demeanor toward everyone was immediately recognizable as being cold, arrogant and self-centered, and devoid of conscience.  Early in the novel, Fitzgerald's narrator, Nick Carraway, describes Buchanan thus: 

Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face.. His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed.

Gatsby, in contrast, has an accessibility about him that is very engaging, and in some ways comforting, to those who experience it.  Of Gatsby's smile, Carraway at one point observes:

It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life.

Although this novel is most often described thematically as a look at the corruption of the American dream, on another level, it is simply a love story where the best man not only doesn't win, but winds up dead; for while Gatsby certainly had his share of character flaws, he was motivated by one thing only:  winning the girl of his dreams.  The money, the affluence, the parties, the lifestyle were all constructed in the hopes of winning one person, and, separated from his quest for Daisy, weren't really an important part of who he was.  It's ironic, and tragic what happened to Gatsby at the end, because once Daisy returned to Tom, what he had lived for was extinguished forever anyway.



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The Great Gatsby

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