What Does Tom Symbolize in The Great Gatsby: Unveiling the Hidden Meanings

Tom Buchanan is one of the most fascinating characters in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, The Great Gatsby. Many believe that his character is inspired by the real-life figures of Fitzgerald’s time. But what does Tom symbolize in The Great Gatsby, and what is the significance of his character to the story? Tom’s larger-than-life persona, wealth, and influence often overshadow the other characters in the novel. He represents the American aristocracy, their excesses and moral vacuity.

Tom is a larger-than-life character who symbolizes the need for power and control. He is physically imposing and has an air of entitlement about him, which reinforces his position as a social elite. Tom’s wealth and power are evident, as demonstrated by his lavish lifestyle and his control over others, especially women. Additionally, his infidelity reflects his disregard for the sanctity of marriage, and he uses his resources to manipulate others to achieve his desires. Tom is a typical representation of the American aristocracy, who see themselves as the ruling class and feel justified in their excesses.

In conclusion, Tom symbolizes the decadence and moral corruption of the American upper class. His character is a commentary on the values of American society during the early 20th century, and his influence has far-reaching consequences on the other characters in the novel. His physical presence and commanding personality make him a formidable antagonist, and his actions drive the story’s conflict. Overall, Tom represents the worst aspects of the American dream, including the belief that money and power can bring happiness and fulfillment.

Tom’s Physical Appearance

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchanan is described as a physically imposing figure. Tom is a former college football player, and his athletic build is a reflection of his past as a strength and conditioning enthusiast. His physical appearance also speaks to his social status as a member of the wealthy class in the 1920s.

  • Tom is described as having a “hard mouth and a supercilious manner.”
  • He has a “husky tenor” voice, which reinforces his dominance over others.
  • Tom is also said to have a “cruel body,” which speaks to his abusive behavior towards others, particularly his wife Daisy.

Additionally, Tom’s appearance is also a foreshadowing of his character development throughout the novel. As the story progresses, Tom’s physicality begins to deteriorate as he is no longer able to maintain his athletic build or his youthful looks. This decline parallels his moral decay as a character, as he becomes increasingly corrupt and abusive towards others.

Physical Characteristics Symbolism
Athletic build Reflects Tom’s past as a college football player and his position of power in society
Hard mouth and supercilious manner Portrays Tom’s arrogance and sense of superiority over others
Husky tenor voice Reinforces Tom’s dominance and control over those around him
Cruel body Reflects Tom’s abusive behavior towards others, particularly Daisy

In conclusion, Tom Buchanan’s physical appearance in The Great Gatsby is a reflection of his social status, past experiences, and current character traits. The symbolism behind his athletic build, arrogant demeanor, and physical deterioration throughout the novel allows readers to gain insight into his role as a wealthy and powerful figure in 1920s society.

Tom’s Wealth and Privilege

In the world of The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchanan embodies wealth and privilege. He has an Ivy League education, a high position in his family’s fortune, and a luxurious lifestyle that allows him to indulge in any whim or desire he may have.

  • Tom’s wealth is evident in his possessions. He has a mansion on Long Island and can afford to maintain a separate apartment in New York City. He has a car collection and can buy anything that strikes his fancy without thinking twice about it.
  • Tom’s privileged upbringing has allowed him to be selfish and arrogant. He believes that money and status give him the right to treat people however he pleases. He is notoriously unfaithful to his wife, believing that he is above social norms and conventions.
  • Tom’s sense of entitlement is further highlighted in his relationship with Myrtle, his mistress. He treats her as a possession, ignoring her feelings and using her for his own pleasure. He feels no guilt about cheating on his wife or leading Myrtle on, believing that he is entitled to do whatever he wants.

Despite his flaws, Tom symbolizes the power that comes with wealth and privilege in The Great Gatsby. He is able to bend the world to his will, even if that means hurting others in the process.

But as we see throughout the novel, Tom’s wealth and privilege cannot protect him from the consequences of his actions. His illicit affairs with Myrtle and Daisy lead to both women’s deaths, and his own downfall.

Symbolism Description
The Mansion and Cars Tom’s wealth and luxurious lifestyle
Myrtle Tom’s objectification and mistreatment of women
The Valley of Ashes The consequence of Tom’s reckless behavior and the destruction of the American Dream

Overall, Tom’s character is a symbolic reminder of the corrupting influence of wealth and privilege. In The Great Gatsby, he serves as a cautionary tale of the dangers of excess and power, and the ultimate cost of hubris.

Tom’s Arrogance and Hubris

In the novel The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchanan is one of the main characters, who symbolizes arrogance and hubris. Tom’s actions and behavior throughout the book represent the classic characteristics of an arrogant and proud person.

  • Tom has a superior attitude towards everyone around him. He considers himself above others, especially those who he deems less wealthy or less educated than himself.
  • He makes no effort to hide his opinions, which are often hurtful and dismissive of those around him.
  • Tom refuses to acknowledge his own faults and mistakes. He has no problem blaming others for his problems, and he refuses to accept any responsibility for his actions.

Tom’s hubris is the driving force behind many of his actions in the novel. He is convinced of his own superiority and believes that he can do whatever he wants without facing any consequences. This mentality leads him to treat others poorly, cheat on his wife, and engage in other types of destructive behavior.

One of the most significant examples of Tom’s arrogance and hubris is his affair with Myrtle Wilson. Tom openly flaunts his relationship with Myrtle in front of his wife, Daisy, and he seems to think that he can get away with it without facing any consequences. However, as the novel progresses, it becomes clear that Tom’s actions have severe consequences, and he is not as invincible as he once believed.

Examples of Tom’s Arrogant and Hubristic Actions:
Tom belittles and humiliates people who he considers inferior to himself.
He engages in an affair with Myrtle Wilson and refuses to end it, even when confronted by his wife.
Tom is dismissive of Gatsby and his attempts to win back Daisy’s love, believing that Gatsby is no match for him.

Overall, Tom Buchanan serves as a symbol of arrogance and hubris in The Great Gatsby. His actions and behavior throughout the novel highlight the dangers of believing oneself to be invincible and above reproach. Although Tom’s actions have dire consequences, the novel suggests that anyone can fall victim to hubris, no matter how powerful or wealthy they might be.

Tom’s Infidelity and Disloyalty

Tom Buchanan, a wealthy man from Chicago, is a character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” Tom is portrayed as a man who is arrogant and selfish, displaying a complete lack of loyalty to his wife, Daisy, and his mistress, Myrtle. Tom’s infidelity and disloyalty are prominent throughout the novel and serve to emphasize the corrupt nature of the upper class in the 1920s.

  • Tom’s affair with Myrtle Wilson: Tom’s affair with Myrtle, who is married to a garage owner, highlights Tom’s lack of moral values and his desire to satisfy his own desires at the expense of others. He uses Myrtle to fulfill his sexual needs, without any regard for her feelings or the consequences of his actions.
  • Tom’s abusive behavior towards women: Tom is abusive towards both Daisy and Myrtle. He is physically and emotionally abusive towards Myrtle, while emotionally manipulating Daisy to keep her in a state of dependency on him.
  • Tom’s hypocrisy: Despite having an extramarital affair himself, Tom is quick to judge and criticize others for their behavior. For example, he criticizes Gatsby for his involvement with Daisy, even though he is committing the same sin with Myrtle.

Furthermore, Tom’s disloyalty extends beyond his relationships with women. He is disloyal to his friends, treating them as mere pawns in his game of power and wealth. He uses his connections to manipulate situations in his favor and to maintain his position of authority within society.

Overall, Tom’s infidelity and disloyalty serve to paint a picture of a man who is morally bankrupt and devoid of any values or principles. He is representative of the societal norms and values during the 1920s, where wealth and power were the ultimate goals, regardless of the cost to others.

Subtopic Description
Tom’s affair with Myrtle Wilson Tom’s affair with Myrtle highlights his lack of moral values and disregard for others.
Tom’s abusive behavior towards women Tom is physically and emotionally abusive towards both Daisy and Myrtle.
Tom’s hypocrisy Tom is quick to judge and criticize others for their behavior, despite committing the same sins himself.
Tom’s disloyalty towards friends Tom uses his connections to manipulate situations in his favor and to maintain his position of authority within society.

Tom’s infidelity and disloyalty serve as a reminder of the corruption and decay of the upper class during the Roaring Twenties.

Tom’s Racism

Tom Buchanan, a wealthy man from the East Egg, is depicted as a racist character in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. He exhibits bigotry towards people of different races, including blacks and especially those of Jewish heritage. His prejudice towards other races is one of the dominant themes in the book, and it reflects the mindset of some people in the 1920s America.

  • Tom’s views on African Americans are clearly expressed in Chapter 1, where he describes them as a race that is “submerged” and “inherently inferior.” He further implies that white people are their natural rulers and that it is their duty to maintain the status quo. Tom’s ideology is a reflection of the prevailing attitudes towards black people during the period.
  • In Chapter 2, Tom’s racism manifests when he and Myrtle, his mistress, are on the train to New York City. He talks about a book called “The Rise of the Colored Empires” and argues that the white race is threatened by the increasing number of people of color. He implies that intermarriage between races is something to be avoided at all costs, and that the white race should work to prevent its elimination.
  • Tom’s prejudice extends to people of Jewish descent. In Chapter 6, he makes a derogatory comment about a Jewish man who is attending one of Gatsby’s parties. He accuses him of being a “nosey Jew” and suggests that he is only interested in the party because he thinks there might be some bootlegging going on. This demonstrates Tom’s anti-Semitic views and his belief that Jews are untrustworthy and greedy people.

Tom’s racism is an essential aspect of his character and shows how people of his class and generation thought about race. It points to the fact that even rich and educated people can hold misguided and harmful beliefs. Racism, prejudice, and bigotry are themes that run throughout the novel and serve as a commentary on the social climate of the 1920s.

Racism Quotes by Tom Chapter
“It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things.” 1
“The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be – will be utterly submerged.” 1
“This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things.” 2
“I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified.” 7
“He began to talk excitedly to Daisy, denying everything, defending his name against accusations that had not been made.” 7

The Great Gatsby is a masterpiece that captures the essence of the 1920s America. Tom’s racism is just one of the many aspects of the novel that make it a timeless classic. It serves as a reminder of how far we have come as a society and how much work still needs to be done to eliminate discrimination and bigotry in all its forms.

Tom’s Incompatibility with Daisy

Tom and Daisy were a married couple but their relationship was far from perfect. They both had their own interests and lived very different lives. Tom was a wealthy man from a wealthy family and enjoyed the privileges that came with it. Daisy, on the other hand, was born into wealth but lacked the same interests as Tom.

  • Tom was unfaithful
  • Tom had a history of cheating on Daisy
  • Daisy wanted love and commitment

One of the reasons behind their incompatibility was Tom’s unfaithfulness. He had a history of cheating on Daisy and continued to do so even during their marriage. Daisy, on the other hand, wanted love and commitment from Tom. She wanted to be the only woman in his life. Tom’s behavior was a direct contradiction to Daisy’s desires and ultimately, this created a rift in their relationship.

The table below summarizes the dynamics of Tom and Daisy’s relationship:

Tom Daisy
Wealthy Wealthy
Unfaithful Wanted love and commitment
Had different interests Wanted Tom to be faithful to her

Overall, Tom’s infidelity and their conflicting desires created a difficult dynamic in their relationship. It ultimately led to their separation and Daisy’s affair with Gatsby.

Tom’s Fear of Becoming “Lesser”

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchanan is a privileged and wealthy character with a strong fear of becoming “lesser” in society. This fear stems from his belief in the superiority of his race, class, and gender.

  • Tom’s racism is evident throughout the novel, particularly in his comments about “colored people” and his disdain for interracial marriage. His fear of becoming “lesser” is tied to his belief in the superiority of white people, and the idea that other races are somehow inferior to his own.
  • Tom is also fixated on maintaining his social status and wealth. He is afraid of losing the privileges that come with his position in society and works hard to maintain his reputation and connections with influential people.
  • In addition, Tom fears losing control over his wife, Daisy. He is threatened by the idea of her leaving him or being attracted to another man, particularly Gatsby. Tom’s fear of losing Daisy is intertwined with his fear of becoming “lesser” in her eyes.

Tom’s fear of becoming “lesser” is driven by his need for power, control, and superiority. He is unwilling to consider the possibility that his beliefs and actions may be flawed or harmful. His rigid worldview ultimately leads to tragedy for himself and those around him.

Examples of Tom’s Fear of Becoming “Lesser”
Tom’s anger and jealousy towards Gatsby, who he sees as a threat to his relationship with Daisy
Tom’s efforts to maintain his social and financial status, including his extra-marital affairs with other affluent women
Tom’s dismissive comments towards people of color and his belief in the superiority of his race and class

In conclusion, Tom Buchanan’s fear of becoming “lesser” is a key aspect of his character in The Great Gatsby. His need for power, control, and superiority leads to destructive behavior and tragic consequences. The novel serves as a commentary on the dangers of unchecked privilege and the negative consequences of rigid beliefs about race, class, and gender.

Tom’s Violence and Anger

Tom Buchanan is one of the main characters in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. Although he is a well-educated and wealthy man, Tom also possesses some negative traits, such as anger and violence. These aspects of his personality are significant in the development of the novel and help to convey important themes about the American society of the 1920s.

  • Tom’s Violence:
  • Tom’s violence is shown in several instances throughout the novel. For example, during the party scene at Myrtle’s apartment, Tom becomes very angry with Myrtle after she keeps mentioning Daisy’s name. He reacts by breaking her nose with a swift blow. Later on, in the novel, Tom confronts Gatsby about his relationship with Daisy and proceeds to punch him in the face. These actions symbolize Tom’s control over those around him and his lack of self-control.

  • Tom’s Anger:
  • Tom’s anger is a recurring theme throughout the novel. It is often portrayed through his treatment of those around him, particularly women. One example of this is when he yells at Myrtle’s sister, Catherine, during the party scene. When Catherine mentions his wife, Daisy, Tom lashes out at her, showing his anger and frustration with his own marriage. This scene is significant as it highlights the unhappy and volatile nature of Tom’s relationship with Daisy.

Tom’s violence and anger are symptomatic of the society in which he lives. He represents the wealthy and powerful elite who controlled the American society of the 1920s. His violence is a symbol of the abuse of power that occurred during this time, and his anger represents the dissatisfaction and frustration that many felt with their own lives. In this sense, Tom is more than just a character; he is a symbol of the wider themes of the novel.

Symbol Meaning
Tom’s physical strength Represents his dominance over those around him
Tom’s violence towards women Symbolizes the abuse of power by men in American society
Tom’s anger Represents the frustration and dissatisfaction felt by many in the American society of the 1920s

In conclusion, Tom’s violence and anger are significant aspects of his character and are important in conveying the wider themes of The Great Gatsby. They highlight the unhappy and violent nature of the American society of the time and the abuse of power that occurred within it.

Tom’s Connections to the World of Politics and Business

Tom Buchanan, one of the central characters in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book The Great Gatsby, symbolizes the world of politics and business. Tom represents the wealthy members of the society who feel entitled and use their money to maintain their power and status. He is a member of the old money elite, and his connections illustrate the way the world of business and politics intersects with the wealthy community.

  • Tom’s connections to business
  • Tom’s family, the Buchanan’s, are one of the wealthiest families in the book, and his connections to business are equally impressive. He is an investor in various ventures, and his wealth affords him the luxury of securing deals and partnerships to further his financial interests. He is also a product of the Ivy League institution of Yale University, which is known for producing a lot of business leaders.

  • Tom’s connections to politics
  • Tom is also connected to politics, and his wealth allows him to use his power and influence to maintain his political interests. He is an advocate of the ‘old ways’ and believes in preserving the status quo. He opposes any changes or reforms that may threaten his privilege and status. Moreover, Tom’s family has a powerful influence on the community, and their money allows them to support political candidates and campaigns that align with their interests.

  • Tom’s role as a symbol of corruption
  • Tom’s character represents the dark side of wealth and power. He is a symbol of the corruption and greed that exists in the society. He uses his power and wealth to control and manipulate those around him, particularly his wife Daisy, and his mistress Myrtle. Tom’s selfish actions and attitudes create a stark contrast in the book to the innocence and optimism portrayed by the character of Jay Gatsby.

In conclusion, Tom’s connections to the world of politics and business in The Great Gatsby show the darker side of wealth and power. His character symbolizes the way the affluent use their money to maintain their status quo and indulge in selfish and corrupt behavior. Furthermore, his character provides insight into the way the wealthy community is connected to business and politics and how their wealth is used to influence and shape society.

Tom’s Role in Symbolizing the Corruption of the American Dream

One of the most important themes in The Great Gatsby is the corruption of the American Dream, and Tom Buchanan serves as a symbol of this corrupting force. Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald portrays Tom as a wealthy, powerful man who is selfish, arrogant, and morally bankrupt.

  • Tom represents the decay of the American aristocracy. He comes from old money and is part of the wealthy elite who believe they are entitled to their status and wealth. However, beneath his polished exterior lies a man who is cruel, abusive, and deeply unhappy. Tom is married to Daisy, but he is also having an affair with Myrtle Wilson, a woman from a lower class. Tom uses his power and wealth to dominate and control others, including both women in his life. In this way, Fitzgerald shows how the American Dream has been corrupted by greed and the desire for power.
  • Tom embodies the idea that wealth and status are all that matter in life. He is unhappy and unfulfilled, but believes that his wealth and power make him superior to others. He sees himself as a man of action, someone who can take what he wants and do what he pleases. His lack of empathy and concern for others is a symptom of a society that values materialism above all else.
  • Tom’s racism and bigotry are also part of his corrupted view of the American Dream. He sees himself as a member of a superior race and believes that others are lesser than him. His treatment of others, particularly people of color, is a reflection of the racism and prejudice that still exist in American society today.

Ultimately, Tom’s role in The Great Gatsby is to show the reader what the corruption of the American Dream looks like. Fitzgerald uses Tom to illustrate the moral decay and ethical bankruptcy that can arise when society values wealth and power above everything else. By doing so, he raises important questions about the true meaning and purpose of the American Dream.

As readers, it is up to us to consider what kind of society we want to live in and what values we prioritise. The Great Gatsby serves as a warning about the dangers of pursuing wealth and status at all costs, and reminds us that there are more important things in life than material possessions.

Symbolism Meaning
Tom’s Mansion Represents the extravagance and excess of the elite in society.
The Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Symbolize the all-seeing eye of God or the collapse of spiritual values.
The Valley of Ashes Represents the moral decay and destruction of innocent lives caused by the pursuit of wealth and power.

The symbolism in The Great Gatsby is rich and abundant, and Tom Buchanan is just one piece of the puzzle. By examining his character and the symbols that surround him, we can gain a deeper understanding of the novel’s central themes and the message that Fitzgerald is trying to convey.

FAQs on What Does Tom Symbolize in The Great Gatsby

1. Who is Tom in The Great Gatsby?

Tom Buchanan is a major character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby. He is a wealthy socialite and the husband of Daisy Buchanan, the novel’s female lead.

2. What does Tom symbolize in The Great Gatsby?

Tom symbolizes the old-money aristocracy and represents the corruption and moral decay of the upper class. He is also a symbol of the masculine ideal and embodies traditional masculine values of power and dominance.

3. How does Tom behave towards other characters?

Tom is often arrogant and condescending towards other characters. He is particularly cruel towards his mistress, Myrtle Wilson, and his treatment of her foreshadows the novel’s tragic ending.

4. Does Tom have any redeeming qualities?

Despite his flaws, Tom is portrayed as a complex character with both good and bad qualities. He is loyal to his friends and has a strong sense of honor, but his moral compass is often compromised by his desire for power and control.

5. What is Tom’s role in the novel’s themes?

Tom’s character represents the decline of the American Dream and the decay of the traditional values of the upper class. He also embodies the theme of the destructive power of jealousy and the dangers of unchecked ambition.

6. How does Tom’s relationship with Daisy contribute to the novel’s plot?

Tom’s relationship with Daisy is a major driver of the novel’s plot, as their marital problems fuel Gatsby’s pursuit of Daisy and the tragic events that follow.

7. What is Tom’s ultimate fate in The Great Gatsby?

Tom’s fate is left ambiguous at the end of the novel, but it is suggested that he continues to lead a life of privilege and excess despite the consequences of his actions.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for taking the time to learn about Tom’s role in The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald’s novel is a timeless classic that explores the complexities of human nature and the pursuit of the American Dream. We hope you will continue to explore great literature and visit our site again soon.