In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, who is the villian?

6 Answers

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, I find that Tom and Daisy are the villains.

A villain is also called the antagonist—defined as... who contends with or opposes another in a fight, conflict, or battle of wills. 

In some ways, Jay Gatsby is his own worst enemy: he pursues Daisy, a married woman, ready to sacrifice everything for her—losing any sense of self he might have had before they met. But he is also the poor son of migrant farmers. While he has reinvented himself, that poor young man he once was is still looking for acceptance, which he never finds from Daisy. He is a foolish and tragic figure, perhaps, but not a villain. 

Tom Buchanan is a villain—there is little in him that we can admire. He has a mistress, and Daisy knows it: he hardly hides it. A complete hypocrite, he suspects that Daisy may be having an affair, which angers him. He is a pompous bully who has more money than values. And Tom sends Wilson after Gatsby, blaming Jay for Myrtle's death (when Gatsby was innocent), and Wright kills Gatsby. This is villainous behavior.

I find that Daisy is also a villain. She has a battle of wills with her husband, but also with Jay. When he declares their love for each other in front of Tom, Daisy (who has not sent Jay away, but led him on) backs down...she refuses to turn away from Tom—seemingly not because he is the father of their daughter or that she loves him. She is, however, comfortable with her life: for Tom is extremely rich—she won't leave him. First she rejects the idea that she ever loved only him, saying:

Oh, you want too much...I love you now—isn't that enough? I can't help what's past...I did love him once—but I loved you too...Even alone I can't say I never loved Tom...It wouldn't be true.

As Tom accuses Gatsby of shady business dealings, Daisy pulls away: not necessarily because Jay has done something wrong: Tom is no hero either. But she will not be dragged down by Gatsby. Perhaps his desperate appeals to her make him look weak and unattractive. However...

Her frightened eyes told that whatever intentions, whatever courage she had had, were definitely gone now.

Daisy and Gatsby leave the meeting in his yellow car, and Nick (the narrator) and Tom follow more slowly in Tom's car. They pass the scene of a hit-and-run, where Tom's mistress has been killed by Gatsby's car. When they arrive at the Buchanans, Nick and Gatsby speak. Nick first believes—with disgust—that Gatsby did it, and is still only worried about Daisy. However, Gatsby soon admits that Daisy was driving: she killed Myrtle.

And Gatsby is completely prepared to take the blame...

...of course, I'll say I was [driving]...

After hitting Myrtle, Daisy refuses to stop at the scene. At home, the threat of the accident forges a bond between Daisy and Tom: Tom will protect her at all costs. And Daisy has no problem letting Gatsby take the blame for the death. Because Tom had told Wright that Jay killed his wife, Wright shoots Jay to death. Daisy does not come to Jay's funeral; sends no note. She completely turns her back on him, even though he died for actions. I see Daisy as a villain, too.

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures 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 mess they had made...

Daisy and Tom are very much the same: I see them both as villains.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think a case could be made that Gatsby himself is the villain--although F. Scott Fitzgerald may not have intended it that way. After all, this is a story about one man trying to steal another man's wife. Nick Carraway seems like a weak character. He exists mainly to defend Gatsby and to make the reader see Gatsby as a colorful, romantic figure. This was probably Fitzgerald's main reason for deciding to write his novel from the point of view of a minor character. Such narrative devices usually exist in order to tell the reader what to think and feel. Without Nick Carraway giving a romantic spin to everything, the reader would be more likely to exercise his or her own judgment and see Gatsby as a gangster concocting an elaborate scheme to steal a weak, gullible young woman from her husband and daughter and using her weak, gullible cousin as a cat's paw. Nick tries to make himself seem broad-minded and honest, but he acts like a pander, a go-between, especially in allowing Gatsby to use his little cottage as a temporary love nest. In England a man like Gatsby would be called a bounder, an upstart. The whole novel is a  sordid business overlaid with a thick frosting of romanticism by a young writer with great talent but not too much experience.


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rachellopez | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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The way the book is written, several people could be the villains. I see Tom and Daisy as being the main villains or the antagonists. They are the main reason Gatsby had died and they had no guilt after the fact. However, Gatsby had an internal war with himself, believing he had to live to be with Daisy, and creates a sort of villain out of himself. I feel like F. Scott Fitzgerald is the only person with the true answer though.

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user8102672 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

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I see Tom and Daisy as big factors contributing to Gatsby's demise. Daisy pushed Gatsby to recreate his life just so he could show her he could be rich, that was why Daisy wouldn't be with him, was because he was "poor". Tom then started to unwravel Gatsby. I feel though that Gatsby was his own villian, he slowly started to wear at himself.

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girlygrrlash | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

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Tom and Daisy are ultimately the villains, however, even though Gatsby is the protagonist in the novel I somewhat see him as a villain as well...