Why Does Tom Attend Gatsby's Party

Why does Tom attend Gatsby's party in The Great Gatsby? How does this scene reveal the contrast between Gatsby and Tom?

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In The Great Gatsby, Tom attends Gatsby's party because he does not want Daisy to go by herself. Fitzgerald writes,

"Tom was evidently perturbed at Daisy’s running around alone, for on the following Saturday night he came with her to Gatsby’s party.”

Tom also wants to see for himself how Gatsby and Daisy interact. He also wants to laud his position as Daisy’s husband and someone from old money over Gatsby. In this way, the scene reveals the contrast between Gatsby and Tom. There is something unpleasant about Tom being there, something almost menacing.

Nick detects a difference the night Tom attends the party. The champagne flows like always and the freeloaders are there chatting happily with one another, but there is a negative overhang. Nick writes that he “felt an unpleasantness in the air, a pervading harshness that hadn’t been there before.”

Importantly, Tom also wants to discover just who this Jay Gatsby really is. While Gatsby does everything he can to show off to Daisy and Tom, Tom is trying to uncover the truth about Gatsby, his background and the source of his wealth.

“Who is this Gatsby anyhow?” demanded Tom suddenly. “Some big bootlegger?”

"Where’d you hear that?" I inquired.

"I didn’t hear it. I imagined it. A lot of these newly rich people are just big bootleggers, you know."

Tom describing Gatsby as someone "newly rich" is his way of dismissing Gatsby and of making clear how far below Tom Gatsby is in the social hierarchy. Tom ends up saying, "I’d like to know who he is and what he does,’ insisted Tom. ‘And I think I’ll make a point of finding out.’

Tom also wants to mock Gatsby and point out how gauche his party and overall lifestyle is. Gatsby wants to show Tom and Daisy the number of famous Hollywood people at the party. He says, "You must see the faces of many people you’ve heard about," but Tom does not seem to be impressed.

Gatsby's pointing out that there are celebrities at his party gives him a sense of having arrived, having succeeded, being equal to people like Tom who have come from money and have not had to worry about it as Gatsby has.

However, Tom exudes arrogance at the party and clearly scoffs at Gatsby. According to Fitzgerald, “

Tom’s arrogant eyes roamed the crowd. We don’t go around very much,’ he said. ‘In fact I was just thinking I don’t know a soul here.”

Tom says this in an arrogant way aimed at deflating Gatsby. Tom does not care what famous riff-raff attends Gatsby’s party. To Tom, Gatsby is and always will be an arriviste.

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In chapter 6 of The Great Gatsby, Tom is starting to figure out that there might be something going on between Daisy and Gatsby. When Gatsby throws a party Tom and Daisy decide to join. This is ironic because Tom is at a party in West Egg, not his usual place. He is from East Egg and looks down upon the people who live in West Egg, but he goes to the party anyway.

Tom goes to the party to keep an eye on Daisy. He wants to see how she acts around Gatsby. He is not impressed by the party. He has negative remarks about the decorations and everything. Daisy, herself, seems to be having a bad time. Tom wants to discredit Gatsby in Daisy's eyes, so after hearing the bootlegging rumor, he tells Daisy that Gatsby made his money from bootlegging. Daisy is quick to jump to Gatsby's defense, saying that he has make his money from a chain of drugstores his family had. What is ironic about this is that Nick has found out the truth of who Gatsby really is.

Nick knows the whole background of Gatsby and Daisy. He is keeping it to himself for now, but there is some truth to what Tom is saying. Although Tom is having an affair of his own, he doesn't want Daisy to betray him. That would be the end to the facade that he has what everybody else wants, a good marriage to a wealthy woman and all the money he could ever want. The real tragedy is just beginning. 

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Tom attends the party in many ways to try and ruin Gatsby.  Once there he is critical of everything about it, the decorations, the people that are there, the way that Gatsby behaves, anything he can be critical of, he does so.  He also attempts to substantiate a rumor that Gatsby is a bootlegger and decides after the party that he will really dig into Gatsby's past and try to discredit him.

This event begins to unravel Gatsby's ascent into high society and starts the downward path to his destruction.  It begins to become clear that Daisy's love for Gatsby is as false as her love for Tom and that the charade of high society is sadly a model for the love that Gatsby thinks he is going to find when he asks Daisy to abandon Tom and be at his side.

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