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.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

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...

(The entire section contains 9 answers and 1336 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on July 21, 2020
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on July 21, 2020
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on July 21, 2020
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team