The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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In The Great Gatsby, why does Nick call Tom and Daisy "careless people"?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Nick refers to Tom and Daisy Buchanan as careless people because he's witnessed them ruin lives and simply disappear by hiding behind their wealth. Throughout the course of the summer, Nick Carraway witnessed Tom Buchanan manipulate George Wilson and carry on an affair with his wife behind his back. Tom displayed a complete lack of sympathy for George and was simply using him so that he could communicate with his wife on a regular basis. Similarly, Nick witnessed Daisy carry on an affair with Gatsby and play games with his heart. Once Daisy learned that Gatsby was a bootlegger, she went back to Tom because he was financially secure.

After Tom exposes Gatsby as a criminal, Daisy drives Gatsby's car and runs over Myrtle Wilson when she sprints into the street. Daisy then demonstrates her selfishness by allowing Gatsby to take the blame for the murder. Furthermore, Tom tells George that Gatsby is responsible for his wife's death and George proceeds to kill Gatsby before committing suicide. Nick...

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destineymora | Student

The word that can sum up many of the themes in the book is position. The word encompasses themes like class, wealth, social standing, and others. Gatsby's whole life is spent trying to attain money and status so that he can reach a certain position in life. That is what motivated him to move to West Egg, make money by any means necessary, and strive to win Daisy back. There is a position in life that he yearns for and will do all that it takes to achieve it.

Daisy and Tom on the other hand show how people can use their position to look down on others and live their life carelessly. As Nick says about Daisy, "in a moment she looked at me with an absolute smirk on her lovely face as if she had asserted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged". It is this superior mind set that allows Tom to cheat on his wife and allows he and Daisy to run away from the death of Myrtle. They need not worry about such things because they are too good for it. Nick sees it as a kind of carelessness. "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness...". They can use their wealth and position to escape whatever they choose.

The word careless also sums up one of the most important ideas in the book. Nick refers to Jordan, Tom, and Daisy as careless in one form or another. Their actions are careless and they are careless people. This is due to the ease of their life. These people live the decadent life of the roaring twenties that many of the writers of this era were criticizing. The mindless, indulgent, irresponsible life style where consequence is just an afterthought. Fitzgerald uses these characters to expose this life with their selfish actions. This carelessness can be seen when Tom and Daisy run away after Myrtle is killed or when Jordan is driving Nick through the city. These people do not worry about paying for their actions so they do as they please. Tom is not worried about hurting Daisy so he flaunts his relationship with Myrtle, his mistress. Daisy, in turn, goes off with Gatsby without a thought to her marriage. Consequence is a unheard of concept to these people so they live their lives without thinking about it.