How does Nick feel about Tom in Chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald?

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When we are reading a story through the eyes of a narrator, the narrator gets to choose which details to share, and the details that Nick shares about Tom make it clear in what low regard he holds Tom.  He presents Tom as an aggressive, not particularly intelligent, bully.  Let's look at some details from the text that Nick gives us.

We are introduced to Tom as a man with "...a rather hard cruel mouth and a supercilious manner" (11), whose "arrogant eyes .. established dominance over his face" (11), giving the impression he was "leaning aggressively forward" (11). Nick says his body was "capable of enormous leverage - a cruel body" (11).

This impression of cruel brutality is reinforced when Nick shows Daisy calling Tom "a brute of a man" (16), after Tom has injured her finger. And we also learn that Tom has a mistress in New York, which is clearly causing Daisy pain as well. 

Nick also shares with us that Tom has been reading a book about how white people are intended to be the dominant race, which sounds like a particularly silly book, one that no intelligent person would take seriously.  Tom seems to lose his train of thought as he tries to provide some examples from the book to make his point, and Nick finds "something pathetic in his concentration" (18). 

This early portrait we get of Tom, in Chapter One, seen through the eyes of Nick, shows us an unpleasant man.  Nick sees him as not particularly intelligent, a strong and aggressive man who bullies his wife and no doubt bullies others as well. 

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The Great Gatsby

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