In The Great Gatsby, why does Tom love Daisy and not Myrtle?

Tom loves Daisy and not Myrtle because Daisy occupies the same social class as him and hails from a wealthy, prestigious family. In addition to Daisy's background, she shares a similar outlook on life as Tom and, like her husband, willingly hides behind her money to avoid responsibility. Tom views Myrtle as a possession and simply uses her to satisfy his sexual desires. She is nothing more than his mistress, who does not hail from a privileged family.

Expert Answers

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

In The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchanan is portrayed as a completely selfish, arrogant man, who objectifies women and continually cheats on his wife. Whether or not Tom Buchanan actually loves Daisy can be debated, but it is evident that he values her more than Myrtle Wilson. Given Tom's superficial, materialistic personality, one could argue that Tom loves Daisy because of her wealthy upbringing, social class, and careless disposition. Unlike Myrtle Wilson, Daisy hails from an affluent family and occupies the same social class as Tom. Wealth, status, and upbringing are significant elements that differentiate elite members of society, which is why the East Egg residents view the West Egg citizens with contempt. As an extremely wealthy man, Tom feels obligated to marry someone in his stratosphere and values Daisy's affluent family background.

In addition to Daisy's status and wealth, Tom also values her careless personality. Tom and Daisy are both depicted as selfish, inconsiderate individuals with no moral compass. They are willing to ruin the lives of those around them and retreat back into their money, which is evident by their response to Myrtle, George, and Gatsby's deaths. Daisy's lack of morals and concern for others makes Tom feel comfortable, and she has no qualms about hiding behind their wealth.

In contrast, Myrtle Wilson does not enjoy the privileges Daisy was born with and does not share Tom's social status. Tom views Myrtle as a possession and even breaks her nose when he feels agitated. As a despicable, immoral man, Tom finds it natural to have a mistress wherever he resides but hypocritically criticizes Daisy for carrying on an affair with Gatsby.

Overall, one could argue that Tom Buchanan loves Daisy because of her prestigious background, social status, and careless personality. Tom objectifies Myrtle and simply uses her to satisfy his sexual desires.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on June 24, 2020
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Tom Buchanan epitomizes upper-class privilege and the male double standard of sexual conduct. Whether he loves anyone but himself is debatable. Nevertheless, he believes that he loves Daisy. She is his wife and the mother of his child. Part of Tom's class privilege is his belief in his right to have a mistress. His attitude toward both women is actually similar in that he treats them as possessions.

Tom earnestly claims to love his wife regardless of his, by his admission, repeated infidelities. The affair with Myrtle seems to be just one "spree" in a string. In Chapter 7, he protests to Gatsby that Daisy loves him:

And what's more I love Daisy too. Once in a while I go off on a spree and make a fool of myself, but I always come back, and in my heart I love her all the time.

He says this in front of his wife, who declares him "revolting."

The double standard means in part that he would never think of loving the mistress or having an affair with anyone he might love, from their own set. The idea of Daisy's possible affair with Gatsby infuriates him not only because a wife has no similar entitlement to cheat, but because he sees her as a possession and Gatsby has taken something he owns.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Tom loves Daisy and not Myrtle because Daisy belongs to the same social class as him. While she might not come from as much money, as Nick makes sure the audience knows that Tom is filthy wealthy (he always mentions the polo ponies), she runs in the same social circle. To the wealthy, at least according to Nick, where one comes from matters more than the money one has. For example, Gatsby, regardless of how much money he had, could never have Daisy, as evidenced by her rejection of the parties held at Gatsby's home.

To Tom, Myrtle was just his living sex toy he liked flaunting around town. When taking Nick to meet Myrtle, Tom shows no shame and tells Nick (emphasis mine), "I want you to meet my girl." While this might just seem a throw-away statement, Tom's actions later in the night, when he "broke her nose with his open hand," show a complete disregard for Myrtle as a person. In addition, it seems as if after this event that Tom does not really see Myrtle, his "girl," again.

Meanwhile Daisy, whom Tom shares similar moral standards with considering they come from the same social class, does not really seem to care what happens to Gatsby, a man she seems in complete love with. Like Tom, Daisy completely discarded Gatsby after she ran Myrtle over.

I bring up Daisy in response to your question in order to emphasize why Tom loves her, but not Myrtle. They share the same moral values: carelessness resulting from being American aristocrats. Nick summarizes the values of Tom and Daisy this way:

"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mass they had made..."

After Tom smashes Myrtle's nose and literally lets others clean up her mess, he retreats back into his marriage with Daisy, who does the same when George Wilson kills Gatsby.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial