The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Compare and contrast the characters of Tom and Gatsby in The Great Gatsby.

In The Great Gatsby, similarities between Tom and Gatsby include that they are both wealthy, are both in their early thirties, and both exert their own will regardless of consequences. Differences between them include that they come from different social and financial backgrounds and that Gatsby is more refined than Tom.

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Jamel Bandy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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Fitzgerald was clear in his intent when he developed the characters of Tom and Gatsby. At the time of their conflict, both men are wealthy, and while Tom's character clearly represents humanity as corrupted by money and power, Gatsby's character suggests that humanity still has the chance of remaining "human," despite the money and power, so long as there is goodness in the heart. It's clear that Tom represents how the ends justify the means, while Gatsby represents do the means justify the ends? I think The Great Gatsby was Fitzgerald's way of holding a mirror up to anyone who read the novel, forcing readers to ask themselves the questions about society that no one really likes to answer.

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The differences between Tom and Gatsby are certainly obvious. Their similarities are more intriguing and interesting to contemplate. I've never given them much thought, really, but here goes.

  • Tom and Gatsby are about the same age (early 30s), as is Nick.
  • Tom and Gatsby are both men who exert their own will without...

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udonbutterfly | Student

Tom came from old money, he has been established in the world of wealth and status since his birth. Whereas Gatsby was a poor guy who acquired his wealth.

Tom also deals in a clean business as opposed to Gatsby who handles in illegal business such as bootlegging liquor. However both of these guys are obsessed with wealth. But Tom is obsessed with the wealth because of the power it gives him whereas Gatsby's obsession with wealth stems from him wanting to win the love of Daisy.

Both Tom and Gatsby also have a one track mind and only think of how things effect themselves. With Tom he only cares about pleasure and image he does no care whether it hurts Daisy. Gatsby only cares about getting Daisy back he does not care what type of situation it would put Daisy in.

Wiggin42 | Student

A similarity between the two is their obsession with wealth, maintaining their status in society, and the desire to have a perfect life. Tom and Gatsby both do despicable things to satisfy their selfish desires. They are both shallow people who care more about the shallow pleasures of life rather than any inward reflection.