Tom Buchanan Physical Description

What is the physical description of Tom in The Great Gatsby?


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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nick offers a physical description of Tom Buchanan in the first chapter of The Great Gatsby. Specifically, he states that Tom is a "sturdy" man, aged thirty years old, with "straw" hair and "shining eyes." He is also described as being very muscly which is particularly noticeable when he moves his body. Also, in this section, Nick comments that Tom's voice is "husky" and "gruff."

It is interesting to note that Tom's physical description is used to emphasize some key points of his character. His athletic body, for example, is described as "cruel"  by Nick; an adjective which matches his temperament, as we see when he strikes his mistress, Myrtle.

In Chapter Six, when Tom attends the party at Gatsby's house, he is described as having "arrogant eyes" as he surveys the crowd. He is also nicknamed "the polo player" by Gatsby himself, a testament to his physical prowess. These descriptions further highlight Tom's athletic and powerful physique. Moreover, it is, perhaps, interesting that of all of Tom's physical attributes, it is always his stocky and muscular frame which the other characters in the book seem to notice. 

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nick spends three paragraphs in the 1st chapter describing the fact that he believes Tom never recovered from being a collegiate football player hoping for more. That in itself tells us something about Tom.

Then, he tears into Tom's physical description,

Tom Buchanan in riding clothes was standing with his legs apart on the front porch.

This is a gesture of power. Next,

Now he was a sturdy straw-haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of leaning aggressively forward... you could see a great pack of muscle when his shoulder moved under his thin coat.

I think it's safe to say the picture painted of Tom is a man of strength and power.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You can find a lot of the physical description of Tom Buchanan in Chapter 1.

We know that Tom is a big, athletic man.  He used to be a big football star in college.  We know that he has blonde hair the color of straw.

We know that he is now thirty years old.

Other than that, we are told that he has a hard mouth and arrogant eyes.  He is said to be always leaning forward aggressively, making up for the effeminate clothes he's wearing at the time.

He is very muscular with a "cruel" body.


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The Great Gatsby

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