Please explain the similarities and differences between Tom's and Gatsby's love for Daisy.F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel about the illusions of the Jazz Age, "The Great Gatsby," both Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby are unrealistic about their relationships with Daisy Buchanan; their love for her is an illusion.  Both have taken Daisy under false pretenses.  When Gatsby was dating her, he

took what he could get, ravenously and unscrupulously--eventually he took Daisy one still October night, took her because he had no real right to touch her hand.

 Tom, "supercilious" and from an extremely wealthy family, simply acquires Daisy as he has acquired a stable of polo ponies.  This acquisition having been accomplished, Tom philanders and amuses himself with other women, such as Mrytle Wilson, with whom he is extremely brutal, having "broken her nose with his open hand." 

After Daisy tells Gatsby that she loves him, Tom catches the look between Gatsby and Daisy:

He was astounded.  His mouth opened a little and he looked at Gatsby and then back at Daisy as if he had just recognized her as someone he knew a long time ago.

On the other hand, Jay Gatsby romanticizes Daisy, thinking of her years ago in her white car; her idealized purity makes her an illusion for Gatsby.  When he kisses Daisy,

At his lips' touch, she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete.

When Daisy plans to betray him by allowing Gatsby to take the blame for the death of Myrtle,  the romantic Gatsby stands by in the garden looking into the house in his pink suit under the moon, keeping vigil for her. Gallantly, he tells Nick that he will say that he drove his car on the night Myrtle was killed.  So, Nick leaves "as though my presence marred the sacredness of the vigil...watching over nothing."

On the other hand, Tom allows George Wilson to believe that Gatsby drove the "death car" that murdered his wife.  He is no gallant hero for Daisy as is Gatsby, who pays "a high price for living too long with a single dream."  Tom Buchanan only acquired Daisy as one would acquire a new automobile, while Jay Gatsby acquired wealth so that he could acquire Daisy.

Read the study guide:
The Great Gatsby

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