Tom Buchanan and Curley

Two Peas in a Privileged Pod

More in Common Than You Think?

The character in Of Mice and Men that is most similar to Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby is Curley. Curley and Tom Buchanan have many similarities throughout both books. These shared characteristics stem from one thing both men have an abundance of: privilege. Curley and Tom are easily two characters with the least amount of struggle in The Great Gatsby and Of Mice and Men.

Power Play

Inheritance of power is prevalent in both Tom and Curley’s lives. Tom lives in East Egg in New York, known for “old money” and high class. The readers learned that he played football in college, and loved to show off his talent. His family has an enormous amount of money, which he has been handed down dutifully to Tom. Tom Buchanan was born into a world of luxurious living, which is normal to him due to growing up with money to blow. Tom has an air of arrogance surrounding him, and is most likely unaware of real-life struggles. The Buchanans have a high social status, which leads to Tom believing he is better than everyone else, and turns him into a bully. Tom commonly does flashy things, such as buying "a string of polo ponies for Lake Forest" (Page 6). Curley’s father, who is known just as “Boss” in Of Mice and Men, owns the ranch that which many men work on. Just like Tom, Curley most likely has grown up with his dad having power over others, and therefore, Curley has the upper hand over them. He knows that he could have his dad fire anyone he wants gone. Because of these advantages over the other men, Curley’s ego is large. Curley was formerly a fighter, and enjoys picking fights with men who are bigger than him, to prove that he can beat up anyone he wants. “Well… tell you what. Curley's like a lot of little guys. He hates big guys. He's alla time picking scraps with big guys. Kind of like he's mad at 'em because he ain't a big guy. You seen little guys like that, ain't you? Always scrappy?” (Page 26) Curley enjoys picking on Lennie, who appears to have a mental illness, because he is an “easy target” for a former fighter like himself. Curley believes he is better than everyone else, and loves to prove it by throwing a few punches. Tom’s way of presenting his dominance is by showing off his large amounts of money, and Curley does the same by beating other men in fights.

No Struggle=No Strength

There are many things that Tom and Curley do not have to worry about in life, that many others struggle with simply by being themselves. Discrimination of any kind is absent from their lives. They are both white, men, young, strong, privileged, and are mentally stable. Many characters in both books do not have the same good fortune as Curley and Tom are born with. Since these men have never had to forego many difficulties, they don’t understand what it is like to be at a disadvantage. In the times that the books are set (1920’s-1930’s), ideals of oppression and discrimination were accepted and welcomed.
In Of Mice and Men, these ideals were introduced mainly through Candy, Crooks, and Curley’s wife. Curley’s wife was looked down upon by the men who barely know her, and is often referred to as an object instead of a person. “I think Curley married… A tart.” (Page 28) Crooks is a black man who works as the stablebuck on the ranch. He sleeps in a different barn than the rest of the men, and only has eaten with them on Christmas. Crooks feels as though he cannot be a part of the friendship the other men have with each other. “Crooks stared hopelessly at her, and then he sat down on his bunk and drew into himself.” (Page 80) Candy is an older man who has grown old on the farm, and has a crippled hand. Candy views himself as useless, and the Boss thinks of him as no help, so he doesn’t do much of anything anymore. “Jus’ as soon as I can’t swamp out no bunkhouses they’ll put me on the country.” (Page 60)

In The Great Gatsby, the ideals of discrimination were put into the spotlight by Tom Buchanan. “It’s up to us (white people), who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things.” (Page 19) Tom continues to talk about a book that discusses coloured empires, showcasing the idea that other races will rise up and dominate the white race. In the 1920’s racism was common, and other races were looked down upon. In the books, there is not a time where Tom or Curley are looked down upon in a discriminatory way. These men both obviously do not suffer from oppression. The time they live in is welcoming to the oppression of those who are different from you. Both men are given another privilege that is not materialistic, but idealistic.

Ignorance is Bliss

Curley, the son of the ranch owner, and Tom, the recipient of the family fortune, have many things in common. These men have not had struggles in their lives, and this makes them oblivious to the struggles of the characters who are suffering from discrimination. Their blindness to how others feel unites these two characters in their arrogance and uncaring ways that stem from the overwhelming advantages that they possess.


The form that I chose was to write my essay as a regular paper, and then put it into a “newspaper” format. I came up with titles to make it look more like an article about the two characters, Tom Buchanan and Curley, and their similarities and differences. My format highlighted my messaged by showing how both of the men have so much in common even though they are in two different books. I wanted to show how they both don’t have many struggles and how these men take advantage of their power. I referenced both books, Of Mice and Men and The Great Gatsby, by including multiple quotes from each book by many characters. I also talked about some of the main traits of Tom and Curley that represent who they are and why they are like that. I also included other characters in my essay to get some of my points across, showing the difference between the privileged and the oppressed.