Compare and contrast Tom and Gatsby in The Great Gatsby.

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In The Great Gatsby, similarities between Tom and Gatsby include that they are both wealthy, are both in their early thirties, and both exert their own will regardless of consequences. Differences between them include that they come from different social and financial backgrounds and that Gatsby is more refined than Tom.

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Fitzgerald was clear in his intent when he developed the characters of Tom and Gatsby. At the time of their conflict, both men are wealthy, and while Tom's character clearly represents humanity as corrupted by money and power, Gatsby's character suggests that humanity still has the chance of remaining "human," despite the money and power, so long as there is goodness in the heart. It's clear that Tom represents how the ends justify the means, while Gatsby represents do the means justify the ends? I think The Great Gatsby was Fitzgerald's way of holding a mirror up to anyone who read the novel, forcing readers to ask themselves the questions about society that no one really likes to answer.

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The differences between Tom and Gatsby are certainly obvious. Their similarities are more intriguing and interesting to contemplate. I've never given them much thought, really, but here goes.

  • Tom and Gatsby are about the same age (early 30s), as is Nick.
  • Tom and Gatsby are both men who exert their own will without regard to consequences.
  • Tom may have gone to college, but he is not an educated man; neither is Gatsby.
  • Tom and Gatsby meet in several situations without revealing their true thoughts/feelings about each other. (It is only in the hotel scene that their mutual hatred is expressed.) Until then, in their dealings with each other, each man exercises self-control and wears a social face.
  • Tom and Gatsby are both controlling personalities.
  • Tom and Gatsby both refuse to accept defeat. Tom reclaims his wife, and Gatsby dies waiting for Daisy to call.

Considering their backgrounds, the similarities in their personalities are a bit surprising.

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It's hard to top #2 poster, but I can say that these two characters are two of my favorite to discuss with my students because they are so purposefully different and yet share the same love--a love of money and for the power it brings.  Fitzgerald, you have to give him props, creates a character that can easily be despised: a bigoted, selfish, cruel, and violent man.  And thankfully, even though Gatsby himself isn't free from unsavory behavior, he is a likeable character, and one for whom we root from start to end.

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Both men attempt to present a facade to the public. With his riding pants and boots, Tom Buchanan seeks to dissemble, but, as Nick narrates in chapter one,

"Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body...—a cruel body."

No fancy house and no distinguished clothes can hide the true villain that Tom Buchanan is—just as no clothes, no winged car, and no glamorous party can disguise the hint of something incongruous about Gatsby. Certainly, his connection to Wolfsheim casts doubt upon Jay Gatsby's facade.

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I agree with other editors and just wish to add that in many ways Tom and Gatsby act as foils for each other, highlighting and exacerbating their differences. I also think the teacher below makes a very strong point by questioning the "love" that these characters have for Daisy. I think we can correctly state that it is not love at all—rather they have different motives for wanting her.

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I think a similarity is that neither of them really "love" Daisy. To love someone, you have to know who they really are, and neither Tom nor Gatsby has a clue who Daisy actually is! True, they both want her, but, in my opinion, for reasons that don't have anything to do with true love. Tom wants her because to lose her would be to lose face, and he wouldn't now how to organize his life without her. Gatsby is in love with some crazy ideal woman that he thinks Daisy is; she never shows herself to be that person, though.

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Isn't it interesting that Tom is the one born with money, privilege, and prestige, yet he is not as polished and refined as Gatsby, who was not born into the life he now leads.  Rather, Gatsby was born "on the wrong side of the tracks", has gained his wealth through criminal activities, and deals with people who are rough around the edges in his daily business.  It almost seems that there is a definite point being made in the novel that these two characters are so different in personality and upbringing, which should (one would expect), in turn, effect how each man behaves.

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The previous post was quite thorough. I would say that one of the fundamental points of contrast between them both is how Fitzgerald sees justice within their narratives.  Tom is the personification of cruelty and shallowness.  In contrast, for all of his faults, Gatsby is not a bad person and has many redeeming qualities.  Yet, Tom does not receive anything in way of sanction or punishment for his behavior.  He does not get reprimanded nor face any type of judgment for his callous ways with women or his lack of care and understanding for others.  Gatsby, through no fault of his own, is killed by a jealous husband and suffers from a sense of love unreciprocated.  In the end, the lack of justice in their narratives might be a point of significant contrast between them.

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In most ways. these characters could not be more opposite. Look at the following:

1. Tom is crude; Gatsby is more refined. Though Tom has grown up with money, he is not refined nor is he gracious. Gatsby grew up with virtually nothing; however, though he is still rather socially inept and lacking in some niceties, he strives to be a courteous host and generally wants to please those around him.

2. Tom is overpowering; Gatsby is more reserved. Tom is a large man (with a voice that doesn't match his physical presence, by the way) and uses his presence to intimidate. Daisy calls him a brute and his mistress calls him "hulking" enough times to get a punch in the nose. Gatsby, on the other hand, is barely recognized at his own parties. He's shy and rather reclusive, and he is not an imposing presence--even when he wants to be, as in his confrontation with Tom in the hotel.

3. Tom was born with money and privilege; Gatsby engaged in shady business dealings to earn his fortune. They both treat their money pretty casually; however, Tom uses his to travel (usually when he has to get out of messy affairs) and please himself, while Gatsby sees money as the means to an end (to win Daisy, since that's why she couldn't marry him years ago).

4. Tom is a bigot (check his reading material and his views about it); Gatsby apparently makes few judgments about people (as can be seen in the array of party guests he entertains). The young Jay Gatz grew to disdain those whose sole motivation was money; however, as an adult he appears to be willing to overlook such things as he pursues his goal.

5. Tom has no purpose or direction in life other than to enjoy being rich and self-indulgent; Gatsby cares little for himself and is single-minded in his goal to win back the only woman he ever loved.

Undoubtedly there are many more. The more difficult task is comparing the two men. Here goes:

1. Both men love Daisy. Though Tom has shown disrespect for her since virtually the day they were married (an affair while on their honeymoon, even), we do see love toward the end as they sit together at the table.

2. Both men commit consistent indiscretions--Tom with women, Gatsby in his business dealings.

3. Both men are crushed at the thought of losing Daisy. Tom's pride would not survive the loss, and Gatsby's dream of a life with Daisy eventually kills him.

Again, there are undoubtedly more, but this should get the wheels turning. Two rich men who love the same woman have to share some common characteristics; because she only ends up with one of them, there are obviously some differences. In any case, their commonality is Daisy.

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In The Great Gatsby, how do Nick and Tom differ from one another?

Firstly, in terms of Nick's description, he comes from a prominent, well-to-do family from the Midwest, which implies that they were middle class. His father ran a wholesale hardware business which was founded by his grandfather's brother. Tom, on the other hand came from an enormously wealthy family, so much so, that "even in college his freedom with money was a matter of reproach."

Furthermore, Nick seems to have been quite bookish and academic at college, the same one Tom attended. He mentioned that he "was rather literary in college." There is no mention of his participation in any sport, whilst Tom in contrast, "had been one of the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven" and was some sort of national figure in a way. Nick had also come to the East to find work, more particularly, "to learn the bond business," whilst Tom evidently, because of his family's wealth, did not have to work at all. He instead, traveled at whim, with no particular reason to do so.

Another clear difference between the two characters seems to lie in their intelligence. Tom tends to easily believe what he reads as the truth, without making any informed decisions, which makes him appear gullible. This is displayed in his referencing of books which are obviously based on stereotypical and prejudiced notions, whilst Nick seems to be more circumspect. This also indicates that Tom himself is quite prejudiced towards those of another racial disposition since he makes obnoxious remarks in this regard. Nick, on the other hand, does not come across as so severely judgmental.

This does not mean to say that Nick is completely objective though, because he does pass judgment on a number of characters, such as those who attend Gatsby's parties, Tom and Daisy, the characters who attend Tom's get-togethers, including Myrtle Wilson and even Gatsby himself, whom he clearly favors above everyone else. He states, for example, that Jay is 'worth the whole damn bunch put together' and that 'they're a rotten crowd'.

In terms of character, it seems that Nick is more morally upright than Tom. Tom indulges in seedy extra-marital affairs and seems to be not much concerned about what he does. He is hardly ever apologetic and seems to feel no guilt for what he does because he continuously indulges in these secretive tete-a-tetes. Added to this, he is also a hypocrite stating: 'Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions, and next they’ll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white', whilst he is involved in an extra-marital affair. The last part of his remark also displays his bigotry. Nick, in opposition, shows some moral conscience when firstly, he rejects Gatsby's offer of a job for reward in having agreed to arrange a meeting between Jay and Daisy.

Nick also expresses some guilt in having ended an affair with a previous girlfriend and even about breaking up with Jordan Baker, which he found "awkward and unpleasant." He is also the one of only two Jay's 'friends' who attend his funeral, the other being the man with the owl eye glasses. It can, however, be said that in indulging and assisting Jay by arranging a meeting between him and Daisy, Nick is complicit in their adultery. He also remains silent about the affair, which indicates that in this regard, he lacks moral responsibility.

Nick also displays greater humility than Tom could ever hope to have. Tom comes across as boorish and arrogant - a man made supercilious by his wealth, whereas Nick does not seem to display a similar characteristic.

One can also mention one other minor disparity between the two men. Nick had done military service and fought in the First World War, whilst there is no reference about Tom having done the same. In the end, it is this polarity between the two which informs Nick's great dislike for Tom. In their final encounter, he makes this pertinently clear: 

“What’s the matter, Nick? Do you object to shaking hands with me?”

Yes. You know what I think of you.

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Compare and contrast Gatsby and Tom in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby.

Jay Gatsby is the protagonist in The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Tom Buchanan is his nemesis throughout the novel. Both men claim to love Daisy, which is the cause of their dissension.

Each man's appearance is an indication of his character. Physically, Tom is a much more imposing figure, full of violence and aggression:

[H]e 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 always leaning aggressively forward. Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body--he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing, and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage--a cruel body. 

Gatsby, on the other hand, has a more refined wardrobe and displays an entirely different body language than Tom. When Nick sees Gatsby from a distance for the first time, Gatsby "gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone--he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling." In contrast to Tom, Gatsby's body reverberates with solitude and longing.

Their attitudes are also quite different. While Tom displays blatant racist views in his conversations, Gatsby is not concerned by such matters. Gatsby's conversations are not innocent, however, as he is constantly talking about business deals which we learn are not particularly above-board. Not surprisingly, Tom is aggressive and opinionated when he speaks in social settings, and Gatsby is rather awkward and inept in them. 

When Nick comes to visit the Buchanans, Tom rather arrogantly says, "I've got a nice place here"--something a guest would traditionally say to the host. When Gatsby is preparing for Daisy to visit, he says to Nick, "My house looks well, doesn't it?" Though Gatsby is also proud of his home, his question is not the same as Tom's arrogant assertions.

Both men claim to love Daisy. The Buchanans married because they both came from rich families and it was the expected thing for them to do. Tom demonstrates his love for Daisy by having a series of affairs with other women, even on his honeymoon; he does not work very hard to keep these affairs private, which is why the Buchanans move so much. It is clear in chapter one that Daisy--and everyone else--is quite aware that he is currently having an affair, though she does not know it is with Myrtle. Daisy has a bruise on her finger from Tom, and he clearly assumes she will just take whatever treatment he gives her because she always has.

Gatsby desperately loves Daisy and wanted to marry her, but he did not have a family name or money which were acceptable to Daisy's family. He does not see her for five years, and in that time Gatsby works feverishly to acquire the things which he believes Daisy needs in order to be with him. He buys a house across the peninsula from her and throws lavish parties in the misplaced hope that Daisy will one day appear. He yearns for her and longs for her, but he has created a romanticized version of her which dilutes his original, pure love for Daisy.

Daisy loved Tom once, but she loves Gatsby more. Tom is more aggressive than the idealistic Gatsby, so he gets the girl. 

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How are Tom and Gatsby alike and how are they different in The Great Gatsby?

A small feature, but one that should be noted, is that Tom is from "old money" and Gatsby is "new money".  In a time when the American aristocracy was evaporating, this conflict between old and new shows in the way that Nick reacts to his time in New York.  He is from old traditions, and New York has become a new world of sorts, sans tradition and in some cases, sans morals.  The separation between Tom and Gatsby is representative of the fact that they live on separate "eggs" on Long Island.  Gatsby struggles because, no matter how much money he has, he will never be as accepted as Tom because his money is not rooted in family and history.

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How are Tom and Gatsby alike and how are they different in The Great Gatsby?

There is a lot that can be used to compare Tom and Gatsby in the book. Just consider the interactions they both have with Daisy.

Tom and Gatsby do not really know who Daisy is. By that I mean they both have a preconceived notion of what they need her to be. Tom needs her to look good and not question him too much. While he is a philanderer, it never occurs to him that she would do the same to him. He assumes that by marrying her, he has fulfilled her dreams.

Gatsby wants Daisy, but it is the Daisy of his fantasies that he is really in love with. The Daisy in his fantasies is swept away by his new-found wealth, and they live happily ever after. But Gatsby does not think of the real Daisy, not the fact that she has a husband, or a child, or that she is flighty.

Tom and Gatsby are different with respect to Daisy , as well. Tom is dismissive of his wife. He doesn't appear to hear anything she says. Daisy is used to it, as well. If you notice, most of her comments are rhetorical. Gatsby listens, but he puts his own connotations on her words. While he does talk to her, he changes the context of the conversations to suit his idea of what she would say.

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Compare and contrast the characters of Tom and Gatsby.What is Fitzgerald revealing through these similarities and differences?

Tom and Gatsby are foils, as framed by Nick.  Tom cannot stand the former, and he worships the latter.


  • Tom and Daisy had been in Mid-west (Chicago).
  • Gatsby lies and says he's from Mid-west (as if trying to compete with Tom).

Two Parties: Tom & Myrtle's apt Ch. 2 vs. Gatsby's Ch. 3:

  • Tom is a racist brute: he breaks Myrtle's nose, whereas
  • Gatsby is a boyish idealist (Nick more or less overlooks the fact he is a criminal).
  • Gatsby's party: Even though there is gossip about Gatsby's elusive past, Nick believes in none of it.

Both are full of emptiness, especially relationships:

  • Gatsby and Daisy's history is empty
  • Gatsby from "Mid-West" = "San Francisco"; Nick knows it's a lie; he chooses to believe it.
  • Gatsby associated with the mob
  • Tom and Daisy's marriage
  • Tom was cheating on their honeymoon
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In The Great Gatsby, what is the difference in Tom's and Gatsby's morals? How do they both treat Daisy differently?

Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby both display moral turpitude, but for different reasons. One should view their acts of immorality in the context of their backgrounds.

Firstly, Tom Buchanan grew up wealthy and spoiled. The result of this is that he perceives whatever he has as an extension of himself, even the people he associates with. This means that as far as he is concerned, they are mere possessions. This holds true with regard to his relationship with Daisy. She was his prize possession. He had won her over with his wealth and status and she therefore belonged to him.

In this sense, he expects her to be dutiful and loyal to him and anyone who challenges this arrangement will pay a very high price indeed. Tom's arrogance also spills over into his other relationships - the affairs that he has with a variety of women, most notably, Myrtle Wilson. Tom does not care that she is married or that he too, is wed to Daisy. He has no qualms in committing adultery.  Myrtle is but a plaything. One could argue that he shows greater commitment to Daisy for he, for example, slaps Myrtle violently when she mockingly cries out Daisy's name. He also vehemently defends his relationship with Daisy and even displays a certain amount of gentility when he confronts Jay about his affair with her.

This, however, is only Tom's idea of self-preservation. His arrogance cannot allow him to accept that his wife could have the temerity to reject him. It is for this reason that he threatens to expose Jay and later virtually plots with Mr Wilson to have Jay killed, by suggesting that Jay had been the one who had killed Myrtle and that he was responsible for her death. This shows that he lacks the moral measure to accept or tell the truth. Once again, it is all about him and he will not let anything stand in his way to get rid of those who threaten his position.

Because Daisy is but a possession, Tom does not deem it necessary to display her the same loyalty that he expects of her, therefore his extramarital affairs. He indulges his pleasure but expects her to remain true to him. His immoral behaviour does not bother him one bit.

Jay Gatsby stems from an impoverished upbringing. When he falls in love with Daisy, he is completely overwhelmed. He is a true romantic and she becomes his holy grail. Their relationship is interrupted when he goes to war, but he remains true to her. She however, grows impatient and marries Tom Buchanan.

Jay never gives up on his dream to win Daisy back. In his quest to win her hand he strives to attain as much wealth as he can. This desire leads him down an immoral path. He makes associations with the criminal underworld - bootlegging and selling junk bonds, which makes him enormously wealthy in a very short time. The depth of his criminality is clearly illustrated by his relationship with Meyer Wolfsheim, a man who had infamously 'fixed' the World Series. It is clear that Jay's association means that he has to know how such people, on the fringes of society, operate by using threats, violence and even murder.

Jay, however, chooses to be blind to this since he is obsessively driven by his desire to be with Daisy. Even though he has accumulated so much wealth, Jay remains loyal to Daisy, for he could have had any woman he wanted - the young ladies of the age would have freely thrown themselves at him. At his parties he remains aloof, driven by his great ambition. His parties were there only so that he could pique Daisy's interest and draw her closer. 

Jay and Tom are complete contrasts in their attitudes to Daisy. Whilst Tom sees her as only an attachment, Jay is overwhelmed by her - she is the one and only for him. He wants no other. He is absolutely infatuated. Jay is overwhelmed by the idea of being in love with, and being loved by, Daisy. For him there is no other and therefore, he would not do anything to jeopardise his chances to be with her, least of all to have an affair.

Tom is the complete opposite. He risks losing Daisy by having affairs. His arrogance makes him believe that Daisy would never leave him and, in the end, he is disappointingly right.   

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How can the characters Tom, Daisy, Jay, and Nick be compared and contrasted in The Great Gatsby?

An examination of various motifs in The Great Gatsby may afford the student a method of comparison and contrast of the major characters:

  • Moral Ambiguity

All characters are included in a confusion of morality.

Tom is the proudest of his immorality as he takes Nick with him to New York so that he can show off his mistress, Myrtle Wilson. While Tom does not approve of Tom's adultery and chauvinistic treatment of Myrtle, he does not say anything to Tom; moreover, he continues to hob-nob with the wealthy Buchanans even though he has criticized Gatsby in the first chapter as a person "who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn." On his thirtieth birthday, Jordan Baker tells him that he is also a "bad driver," a liar, since he has found associating with the wealthy a "consoling proximity."

Daisy, who is completely dependent upon her husband Tom--

If he left the room for a minute she'd look around uneasily, and say: "Where's Tom gone?" and wear the most abstracted expression until she saw him coming in the door--

wants to be loved. When Jay Gatsby courted her, Daisy was greatly in love; after Jay went off to war, Daisy compromised herself, accepted a $30,000. necklace, and married Tom. Nevertheless, she does want to be loved as the above citation illustrates. Her flaw is that she allows her awe of social status and wealth to interfere and cloud her sense of morality.

On the other hand, Jay Gatsby perceives wealth, not as an impediment to love, but as a means to his "grail," Daisy. Lured to the green light, like the song of the mythological Sirens, Gatsby feels justified in his illegal behavior that has as its goal the reclaiming of his youthful love from a man underserving of her. His choice of immoral behavior with Daisy is obscured by his conviction that he can repeat the past and is deserving of her because she loved him first and seems to love him still.

In their own ways, all these characters are moral failures.

  • Materialism

The high value placed upon material possessions and ownership obfuscates true values for the characters. When Nick first has dinner with the Buchanans, Tom proudly displays his property and talks of all that he owns. In his pursuit of money, Tom thinks that he can purchase people or anything that he wants; even when his mistress is killed, he washes the scandal away with his wealth by making Gatsby the scapegoat.

So devoted to materialism is Daisy that she cries when Gatsby displays his gilded mansion and many-colored shirts, while Gatsby believes that 

the promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy's wing

and perceives wealth as a means to the attainment of his love. But, this parvenu soon becomes the victim of this desire for materialism because he does not possess the requisite social status to attain Daisy and because his romanticism conflicts with the valuing of objects. Certainly, Daisy is not worthy of Gatsby's idealized love and his romantic notions. 

Nick realizes that he has become corrupted by his association with those who value too highly material possessions; consequently, he plans a return to the Midwest where values are more wholesome. Acknowledging that Gatsby in his romantic convictions is "worth the whole damn bunch put together," Nick repudiates Daisy and Tom as "careless people" who smash up people's lives and imprison themselves in their own wealth. Like them, Gatsby has surrendered his hopes to material acquisition.

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In The Great Gatsby, what are the character traits of Gatsby and Tom that are similar?

Interesting question.  I see many more similarities between Gatsby and Nick or even Gatsby and Myrtle than I see between Gatsby and Tom.  But I'll try. 

The most obvious is that each man is filthy rich.  Tom has had money all his life and lives in the fashionable East Egg section of New York.  He buys polo horses, can keep a mistress in a furnished apartment, drives expensive cars.  Gatsby has a mansion in West Egg, has "beautiful shirts," a cream-colored luxury car,  a house with a swimming pool, and expansive yards big enough for lavish parties. 

Both are in love with Daisy.  And to each Daisy is regarded more as an object than as a true woman.  Tom sees Daisy as a possession that he owns that he will let no one steal.  At the confrontation at the Plaza Hotel, Tom is ruthless in his defeat of Gatsby and puts an end to any notion that Daisy will leave Tom for Gatsby.  Gatsby too sees Daisy as one with a "voice full of money."  He falls in love with because of her youth and her wealth.  He desires her because she represents a time in his youth that he would like to relive. 

Both have ties to the past.  As Nick notes, Tom's life has been anticlimatic after his college football days.  Gatsby thinks he can relive the past. 

Both use Nick as a confidant in an illicit love affair  Tom proudly displays his mistress Myrtle to Nick while Gatsby uses Nick to set up a tryst with Daisy. 

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In The Great Gatsby, what are the character traits of Gatsby and Tom that are similar?

DISCONTENT: Both men do not consider the value of what they have right in front of them, they push for something that is outside of the scope of the rules to achieve their own gains. For example, Tom breaks the vows of marriage to pursue a relationship with a woman who may be for all we know far less attractive than his own wife. This results in a dissatisfying marriage built on a facade. Gatsby on the other hand, breaks the moral code of mankind and not only allows but encourages a murder without any remorse, just so he can hopefully maintain a relationship with his reclaimed girlfriend.

SUCCESS WITHOUT EFFORT: We can tell from Gatsby's "gonnections", the rumors of his past, and his calls from Detroit and Chicago that he is in some kind of dirty business. He hasn't gone about building a company with his own two hands and then thriving from it. No, he is likely a well-to-do boot-legger. Tom, on the other hand, may have never worked a day in his life for all we know. His wealth is inherited and all he has to do is live.

LIARS: Both men lie to get what they want. Gatsby lies constantly to Nick and to Daisy both by what he says and by what he leaves unsaid. Nick asked him a question about the Midwest and Gatsby's answer had to do with San Francisco. That's not the Midwest. Furthermore, Gatsby lied about his family and background. Tom's life is a lie to his wife. He doesn't tell her about his relationship with Myrtle, but Daisy knows.

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Compare and contrast Gatsby and Tom from The Great Gatsby. How are they alike? How are they different?

Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan are both rich, but they are very different people. 

Each of them is willing to put his personal interests ahead of the interests of others. We see this in Gatsby when he insists that Daisy denounce her love for Tom. Gatsby is willing to ask Daisy to say something that is very difficult for her to say in order to gratify his own desire. 

Tom carries on an affair and hits his girlfriend, showing that he is quite willing to disregard the well-being of those closest to him (his wife and his girlfriend). 

Tom's money is "old money" and he is perfectly secure in his wealth. Gatsby has raised himself out of a state of relative poverty and so represents "new money". 

Tom is not very bright and is impressionable, as evidenced by his speech at the dinner early in the novel where he talks about a racist book he has been reading.

He tells Nick that, based on a book Tom has read and obviously reveres, “The Rise of the Colored Empires,” civilization is “going to pieces”...

Gatsby is not impressionable at all, but is instead rather extremely single-minded. Where Tom is jaded, cruel and bitter, Gatsby is hopeful and dedicated to the pursuit of a fantastic (and somewhat innocent) dream. 

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.… Tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.…

Gatsby builds up his great wealth for a purpose - to attain Daisy's hand in marriage - and all of the power he accumulates is directed toward this end. He is an idealist and a dreamer.

For Tom, status and power exist as an accepted way of life. It is his due, as old money, to wield power and authority. There is, for him, no goal, or ideal, or aim that justifies or organizes his power and his personality. We see Tom in the end as a bigot and a coward.

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