When Tom hits Myrtle in Chapter 2 of The Great Gatsby, what does this reveal about Tom?
Tom Buchanan’s ego and wealth makes him not only a bully, but, according to Daisy, “uncivilized” and a “brute.” Tom believes he is entitled to anything he wants, including Myrtle, the wife of a poor mechanic Tom often uses to repair his luxurious cars. Myrtle is definitely below Tom and Daisy in social stature, and when Myrtle doesn’t obey Tom (she won’t stop saying Daisy’s name), he hits her and breaks her nose. The money Tom has inherited makes him feel powerful and unremorseful. Nick describes Tom as a careless man who, “retreats back to his money . . . and lets other people clean up the mess he had made.” Tom’s ego makes him feel as if he is better than everyone else, and therefore, can do what ever he wants.
We also see Tom’s huge ego when he talks about race in the novel. Tom feels that he is from the “Nordic” race and was born to be more powerful than the black man. He is distraught over the possible rise of the blacks when he discusses a newly published book called, The Rise of the Colored Empires. Historically, at the time the novel is written by Fitzgerald, there is also a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920’s. Tom is portrayed as a white supremacist in the novel, in that, he is concerned he will lose his power and privilege if other races are given opportunity. This shows Tom’s selfishness and greed.
Overall, Tom is cruel character who objectifies women and is a racist who enjoys the power and privilege he has obtained as a rich man.
In chapter two of The Great Gatsby, we see that Tom is having an affair with Myrtle. We get a glimpse into the man that is Tom. Tom is married to Daisy, who provides him with the social standing he so longs to have, yet he is seeing Myrtle on the side. Myrtle is married and sees Tom as her ticket to the life she wants.
When Nick accompanies Tom and Myrtle to the city, we see the kind person that Tom really is. Tom comes across as the kind of man who has everything, but deep down he is just a bully. When Myrtle starts to taunt Tom about Daisy, Tom gets furious at her and slaps her. This action shows us that Tom has major anger issues and longs to be in control all the time. We all know that Tom is never going to leave Daisy for Myrtle. Myrtle is just someone to keep Tom entertained until he gets bored with her and moves onto another woman. Tom wants everyone to think that he has everything: money, power, a perfect wife, when in reality, Tom really doesn't have very much to offer.
Tom is going to do whatever he has to do to make sure he gets what he wants. It doesn't matter who he hurts in the meantime. Tom's actions lead to tragic consequences for everyone one involved because of his temper and his constant concern about appearances.
Tom is showing his desire to keep the two parts of his life completely separate. He had Daisy, his beautiful, socially elevated, wealthy wife, whom he loved and protected in his own brutal fashion. He also had Myrtle, whose lust for life fed his ego and whose sexual attraction was undeniable.
Tom is also demonstrating his expectation that he should always be able to make the rules and that they should be obeyed without question. Tom is accustomed to having his own way; when Myrtle doesn't immediately give in and agree to abide by his viewpoint, Tom's volatile temper erupts.
Tom Buchanan and Mrs. Wilson stood face to face, discussing in impassioned voices whether Mrs. Wilson had any right to mention Daisy's name. "Daisy! Daisy! Daisy!" shouted Mrs. Wilson. "I'll say it whenever I want to! Daisy! Dai-" Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand.