The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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How is Tom Buchanan affected by materialism in The Great Gatsby?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Tom Buchanan is portrayed as an extremely wealthy, selfish individual, who is arrogant, controlling, and callous. Tom Buchanan hails from an affluent family and flaunts his wealth whenever he gets a chance. His wealth increases his arrogance to the point that he believes he is superior to others because he has money. Despite being completely ignorant and shallow, Tom believes he is above reproach and deserves respect. Tom also believes that he is more intelligent than others because he is wealthy and even boasts about his recent studies, which ironically emphasizes his ignorance and lack of perspective.

His wealth also allows him to engage in frivolous, reckless behavior and he uses his money as a shield to protect his reputation. For example, Tom rents an apartment in the city, publicly carries on an affair with Myrtle, and is indirectly responsible for Gatsby's death. Towards the end of the novel, Nick Carraway acknowledges how Tom's wealth makes him a careless...

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Asher Wismer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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pauline1 | Student

Materialism refers to the conviction that material success holds the highest value in human life. Those that subscribe to this school of thought are more concerned with material possessions as opposed to integrity.

Tom Buchanan is an ardent subscriber to the doctrine of materialism. He is married to Daisy, Nick’s cousin. Tom seems to be more preoccupied with his own wealth and success as opposed to social equality. He is portrayed as a rich individual who blatantly boasts about his well-being to other people.

For instance, the first words that come out of Tom’s mouth when Nick pays him a visit are “…it is a nice place I’ve got here”. This is a clear indication that Tom is more concerned with his material wealth and superiority as opposed to his visitor’s welfare.

Additionally, Tom is depicted as an individual who can go to any extent to protect his belongings. He lacks integrity and is callous when it comes to protecting his own interests. Tom lies to Wilson that it was Gatsby who had knocked down and killed Myrtle. Agitated by the death of his wife, Wilson tracks down Gatsby and guns him down before taking his own life. Tom sets up Wilson against Gatsby to get back at the latter for having an affair with his wife. This shows that Tom is overly obsessed with material things, and he would do anything to eliminate those that challenged his superiority.