The Great Gatsby
Support your answer by close reference to Fitzgerald’s writing. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald creates a most unpleasant character in the form of Tom Buchanan. Fitzgerald achieves this primarily by consistently showing Buchanan’s unpleasant characteristics to the reader in every situation where we meet him. Buchanan is displayed as a selfish, controlling and physically dominant bully who disregards care for anyone, including his wife, to get what he wants.
He is also incredibly prejudice and not particularly intelligence and his racist views make him even more unpleasant, particularly to a modern audience. In, addition to his own characteristics, Buchanan is also unpleasant as he represents the immorality and materialistic nature of “Roaring Twenties”. A chief characteristic of Buchanan is his selfishness. He selfishly pursues his desires with no regard for the consequences. His infidelities are a good example of this when we learn the he had a “little spree” in Chicago, an affair with a chambermaid just after his honeymoon, and Myrtle is just the latest of his mistresses.
The Great Gatsby Essay Example
In addition, because Buchanan is of the “old money” East Egg ilk, he treats those self-made (such as Gatsby) with conceited contempt. For example he describes Gatsby, despite his vast wealth, as “Mr. Nobody from Nowhere”. This conceited disposition means he spends money freely and treats people poorly without any justification, an truly unpleasant characteristics. Fitzgerald focuses descriptions of Buchanan on his physicality. His wife Daisy describes him as “… a brute of a man, a great, big, hulking physical specimen”.
Buchanan’s appearance is linked to his physical behavior and his need to be in control at all times. According to Nick Caraway the narrator, his clothes fail to hide his “cruel body”, just as his sophistication and money can’t hide his brutal nature. Moreover, Buchanan is cold and rude in a constant effort to demonstrate his superiority and control over others. WHen he is buying Myrtle a dog he challenges the salesman, “That’s no police dog”, and then overrules him, “‘It’s a bitch,’ said Tom decisively”. Interestingly, in this exchange Buchanan also shows a disregard for money
which lets him control the lower classes. When he says “Here’s your money. Go and buy ten more dogs”, Buchanan simultaneously insults the salesman by implying he’s dishonestly overpriced the dog, while showing that he is so wealthy it doesn’t matter to him how much the dog costs. Lastly, Tom’s language also shows that he likes to be in control, he regularly uses the personal pronoun “I”, for example telling Nick “I’ve got a nice place here” rather than “we’ve”, thus he excludes Daisy. Continuing on with these characteristics Fitzgerald consistently portrays Buchanan as a bully.
Buchanan bullies both verbally and physically. On the verbal side of his actions Buchanan silences any opposition by interrupting and talking over other people. In his first appearance, he interrupts both Daisy and Jordan so he can make his point. Moreover, Tom uses orders to control people, he ends his first conversation with Nick by turning him around “abruptly” and telling him “We’ll go inside. ” Lastly, in Chapter 7 he verbally insults Gatsby in an attempt to drive Daisy back into his arms. Such a vitriolic attack causes Daisy to beg “Please, Tom!
I can’t stand this any more. ” and causes the reader to view Buchanan as an even more unpleasant person. To make matters even worse, Buchanan shows he is also vindictive, after he’s ended Gatsby’s dalliance with Daisy he makes them travel home together, almost adding insult to injury as he knows that Gatsby is no longer a threat to him. Fitzgerald also displays Buchanan’s stupidity, or at the very least general ignorance, and his incredibly prejudiced views. Of course, often Fitzgerald displays both these attributes at the same time.
Fitzgerald tells us Buchanan is a racist who worries that immigrants will challenge his privileged existence. He fears that ‘the white race will be… utterly submerged’ and that society will one day allow “intermarriage between black and white”. Buchanan’s racism could be a front for his fear that the “new rich” will over turn the class system that he so much enjoys being on top of. His lack of intelligence and racism is also shown very well in Chapter 1 where he gives an incoherent argument about the collapse of the “Nordic” rule of civilization (of which he believed himself and Nick to be a part of).
Of course a lack of intelligence does not make a character unpleasant, however, in Buchanan’s case his stupidity is shown through his racist remarks which is really rather unpleasant. Lastly, throughout the entire book Fitzgerald shows the reader the hypocrisy of the ‘Jazz Age’ or the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and this is reflected in Buchanan’s actions. Firstly, he is appalled when he learns of Daisy’s affair with Gatsby, but he is himself a serial philanderer. In addition, he criticises Gatsby for “sneering at family life”, but “was God knows where” when his daughter was born.
In fact, whilst Buchanan sets a high level of class and moral standard to others, Nick notes that he moves “from libertine to prig” and thus has no morals himself. Furthermore, in accordance with the time period Buchanan’s wealth and sense of superiority makes him “careless” and uncaring. Nick summarises Tom and Daisy’s behavior when he says “they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money… and let other people clean up the mess… ” This lack of care, this “careless[ness]” is an unpleasant characteristic.
In conclusion, the entirety of Buchanan’s character is unpleasant. Not only is he controlling, selfish, a bully, a hypocrite and a racist but he is so confident and sure in his decisions and actions that it is even more unpleasant. Fitzgerald shows that Buchanan is not only an unpleasant man, but that through his sense of entitlement he is “careless” and has no regard for anyone or anything else other than himself. That is without doubt his most unpleasant trait.