Describe Tom Buchanan's role in chapter 2 in The Great Gatsby.

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 2, Tom Buchanan and Nick Carraway drive through the Valley of Ashes to visit George Wilson's garage. After arriving at the garage, Nick witness Tom arrange a meeting in the city with Myrtle. Tom then treats George disrespectfully and displays his arrogance by speaking in a condescending manner. In the city, Nick joins Tom and his mistress at Tom's apartment and participates in their party. Towards the end of the party, Myrtle mentions Daisy's name, and Tom breaks her nose by violently slapping her in the face. Overall, Tom is portrayed as an arrogant, deceitful man who has no sympathy for others and has a violent temper. He casually carries on an affair in front of his wife's cousin and disrespects George to his face before partying with his wife in the city. Tom is clearly a despicable man who embodies the superficial, superior nature of the affluent East Egg citizens. He plays the role of the antagonist as he creates drama and physically assaults Myrtle. Tom is an archetype of a selfish bully who negatively affects the lives of others without experiencing remorse.

amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the themes in The Great Gatsby is honesty. Gatsby himself is dishonest because of the superficiality of his constructed social persona. But Tom's dishonesty is more selfish and malicious. A comparison is initiated in chapter 2 between Tom and Gatsby. Gatsby later emerges as an idealistic manipulator and, in this chapter, Tom emerges as a thoughtless manipulator. 

Nick has known Tom since college, but he learns that Tom is racist and perhaps even has Nazi-like beliefs on race. He also learns of Tom's affair with Myrtle and the condescending way Tom treats Mr. Wilson. By the end of chapter 2, Tom has clearly established himself as a selfish elitist. His role is not necessarily the villain in the novel because he, Daisy, Myrtle and even Gatsby all play destructive roles. But Tom does establish himself in this chapter as a thoughtless elitist. Certainly, Nick sees this with Tom's racist comments and the callous way he breaks Myrtle's nose. While Nick does find redeeming qualities in Gatsby, he finds none in Tom. 

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The Great Gatsby

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