In The Great Gatsby, why does Nick call Tom and Daisy careless people?

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cybil eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Daisy and Tom Buchanan are "careless people" because they are insensitive and thoughtless. Tom physically abuses Myrtle Wilson by striking her in the face and leads her to believe he would marry her if his wife weren't Catholic, which is a lie. He misleads Tom Wilson by implying that Myrtle was Gatsby's mistress and that Gatsby was responsible for her death. Thus Tom gets Gatsby killed, but Daisy is the one who was driving the car that struck Myrtle. Daisy, of course, never admits her guilt. 

Daisy enjoys flirting with Gatsby, but when problems arise, she hides behind Tom. Somehow she doesn't foresee the confrontation that takes place between Tom and Gatsby in the hotel room, perhaps because she hasn't been taking Gatsby's attention seriously. This couple tends to run away from difficulties, mostly because they have the money to do so and they have little sense of obligation to others. According to Nick, they "smashed up other people's lives" and left the wreckage behind for someone else to clean up, someone like Nick, who does have a sense of integrity and honor.

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom and Daisy never thought about the consequences of their actions. According to Nick, for 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.” This carelessness includes both Gatsby and Myrtle. After Myrtle was killed Nick does not seem to grieve but he does plan his revenge on Gatsby. Daisy does not bother to either attend Gatsby's funeral or send flowers. She and Tom simply leave town. Two years later, when Nick sees Tom again, Tom casually admits he told Wilson that Gatsby owned the car that hit Myrtle. The only thing Tom will admit crying over is a box of dog biscuits.

destineymora | Student

The word that can sum up many of the themes in the book is position. The word encompasses themes like class, wealth, social standing, and others. Gatsby's whole life is spent trying to attain money and status so that he can reach a certain position in life. That is what motivated him to move to West Egg, make money by any means necessary, and strive to win Daisy back. There is a position in life that he yearns for and will do all that it takes to achieve it.

Daisy and Tom on the other hand show how people can use their position to look down on others and live their life carelessly. As Nick says about Daisy, "in a moment she looked at me with an absolute smirk on her lovely face as if she had asserted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged". It is this superior mind set that allows Tom to cheat on his wife and allows he and Daisy to run away from the death of Myrtle. They need not worry about such things because they are too good for it. Nick sees it as a kind of carelessness. "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness...". They can use their wealth and position to escape whatever they choose.

The word careless also sums up one of the most important ideas in the book. Nick refers to Jordan, Tom, and Daisy as careless in one form or another. Their actions are careless and they are careless people. This is due to the ease of their life. These people live the decadent life of the roaring twenties that many of the writers of this era were criticizing. The mindless, indulgent, irresponsible life style where consequence is just an afterthought. Fitzgerald uses these characters to expose this life with their selfish actions. This carelessness can be seen when Tom and Daisy run away after Myrtle is killed or when Jordan is driving Nick through the city. These people do not worry about paying for their actions so they do as they please. Tom is not worried about hurting Daisy so he flaunts his relationship with Myrtle, his mistress. Daisy, in turn, goes off with Gatsby without a thought to her marriage. Consequence is a unheard of concept to these people so they live their lives without thinking about it.


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The Great Gatsby

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