The Analyzation of Tom Buchanan

By: Julia Nicholson

Tom Buchanan's Dream

Tom Buchanan's American dream was to stay wealthy. He wanted to own everything that a significant wealthy man would have in the 1920's, and maybe even more.

"… and in a dark moment the thickish figure of a woman blocked out the light from the office door. She was in the middle thirties, and faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can… She smiled slowly and, walking through her husband as if he were a ghost, shook hands with Tom, looking him flush in the eye… 'I want to see you,' said Tom intently. 'Get on the next train'" (Fitzgerald 26). - Myrtle, the woman described in the quote above, is the woman Tom is having an affair with. She is a part of his American Dream because of the fact that he already has a wife, yet he's continuing to meet with other women in order to gain his satisfaction of "having more."

"Slowly the white wings of the boat moved against the lie cool limit of the sky. Ahead lay the scalloped ocean and the abounding blessed isles. 'There's sport for you,' said Tom, nodding. 'I'd like to be out there with him for about an hour'" (Fitzgerald 118). - As Tom describes the boat he owns, we get a view of the wealthy side of his life. This gives us an idea of his dream by demonstrating how he has something a usual rich man would have.

"'I've heard of making a garage out of a stable,' Tom was saying to Gatsby, 'but I'm the first man who ever made a stable out of a garage'" (Fitzgerald 119). - Tom saying the words "but I'm the first man who ever made a stable out of a garage" demonstrates Tom's want for what the wealthy society has, but also the fact that he wants something more, something original that he can take pride in.

Symbols Representing Tom

Money, Alcohol, and Pearls


"In a basket swung from his neck cowered a dozen very recent puppies of an indeterminate breed… 'That's not a police dog,' said Tom… 'It's a bitch,' said Tom decisively. 'Here's your money. Go and buy ten more dogs with it'" (Fitzgerald 28). - Tom's comment to the seller shows how freely Tom throws around his money because of his wealthy status.

"'I know I'm not very popular. I don't give big parties. I suppose you've got to make your house into a pigsty in order to have any friends - in the modern world'" (Fitzgerald 130). - Since Tom is from East Egg, or "Old Money," he treats money differently than Gatsby does. In this quote, Tom is speaking to Gatsby about the way Gatsby flaunts his money because he's apart of West Egg, or "New Money" - it sickens Tom to see money represented that way.


"Meanwhile Tom brought out a bottle of whiskey from a locked bureau door" (Fitzgerald 29). - Tom's way of bringing out alcohol during any circumstance shows his dependence on alcohol.

"His hand, trembling with his effort at self-control, bore to his lips the last of his glass of ale" (Fitzgerald 119). - Tom's need for alcohol just to keep himself under control is another example of his dependence on alcohol, causing Tom to be viewed as a borderline alcoholic.


"She groped around in a waste-basket she had with her on the bed and pulled out the string of pearls. 'Take 'em down stairs and give 'em back to whoever they belong to'… We gave her spirits of ammonia and put ice on her forehead and hooked her back into her dress, and half an hour later, when we walked out of the room, the pearls were around her neck and the incident was over. Next day at five o'clock she married Tom Buchanan without so much as a shiver, and started off on a three months' trip to the South Seas" (Fitzgerald 76). - Pearls are a way of representing Tom's power, and need for power, over Daisy. Fitzgerald made a point of Daisy taking off the pearls when she was drunk before the wedding - supposedly missing Gatsby - but when she put the pearls on, she made an appearance of being perfectly satisfied with marrying Tom.

Character Traits of Tom

Abusive, Pessimistic, Shallow


"We all looked - the knuckle was black and blue. 'You did it Tom,' she said accusingly. 'I know you didn't mean to, but you did do it. That's what I get for marrying a brute of a man, a great, big, hulking physical specimen of a -'" (Fitzgerald 12). - The fact that Tom caused Daisy to bruise her knuckles clearly gives an example of his violence towards others, including his own wife.

"'She's not leaving me!' Tom's words suddenly leaned down over Gatsby. 'Certainly not for a common swindler who'd have to steal the ring he put on her finger… You're one of that bunch that hangs around with Meyer Wolfsheim - that much I happen to know. I've made a little investigation into your affairs - and I'll carry it further tomorrow… I found out what your drug stores were… He and this Wolfsheim brought up a lot of side street drug stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter'" (Fitzgerald 133). - When Tom's desperate because he feels like he's losing Daisy, his automatic response is to gain power over the situation in order to call the shots. Instead of handling it like a mature adult, he continued to fish for a fight and yell.

"… and his determination to have my company bordered on violence" (Fitzgerald 24). - Although Tom did not mean any harm in this particular quote, he seems to have a problem with controlling himself... making him seem violent or abusive right away.


"I meant nothing in particular by this remark, but it was taken up in an unexpected way. 'Civilization's going to pieces,' broke out Tom violently. 'I've gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things…'" (Fitzgerald 12). - By Nick making the point that his intentions were never offensive, it gives the reader a point of view that focuses on Tom's way of reacting to regular statements in a negative way.


"'Doesn't her husband object?'

'Wilson? He thinks she goes to see her sister in New York. He's so dumb he doesn't know he's alive'" (Fitzgerald 26). - Referring to the affair of George Wilson's wife, Myrtle, and Tom Buchanan, we see a side of Tom that is careless about his relationships with others. Once again, we see Tom going against some of his closest friends and family in order to gain his dream.

Tom's Color

Red - Shame, Rage, Aggression, Power

"Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand. Then there were bloody towels upon the bathroom floor, and women's voices scolding, and high over the confusion a long broken wail of pain" (Fitzgerald 37). - Referring to when Tom punched Myrtle, this gives the reader a very good example of Tom's violence and rage. Although times have changed, in the 1920's it was definitely not socially acceptable to punch a woman, under any circumstances.

"'Self control!' repeated Tom incredulously. 'I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that's the idea you can count me out… 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'" (Fitzgerald 130). - Because Tom felt the need to get defensive over his marriage towards Gatsby, he did what he could to take power of the situation, therefore leading him to be aggressive.

The Price Tom Paid for His Dream

Marriage and Friendships

"'… Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling, and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl'" (Fitzgerald 17). - While Tom was trying to retrieve his goal of having a marriage and a mistress, he failed to attend the birth of his child. In American society, it's a big deal for the husband to be at the hospital when the baby is born, in order to support his wife, and because he didn't attend due to Myrtle makes the situation even worse. Therefore, losing the once strong relationship he and Daisy used to have.

"The voice in the hall rose high with annoyance. 'Very well, then, I won't sell you the car at all… I'm under no obligations to you at all… and as for your bothering me about it at lunch time, I won't stand that at all!'" (Fitzgerald 116). - This conversation between Tom and Wilson (Myrtle's husband) gives the reader of what Tom is willing to do for his dream; jeopardize the friendship of he and Wilson along with jeopardizing Wilson's business in order to keep his affair with Myrtle.

"There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind, and as we drove away Tom was feeling the hot whips of panic. His wife and his mistress, until and hour ago, secure and inviolate, were slipping precipitately from his control" (Fitzgerald 125). - In the last few chapters of the Great Gatsby, Tom loses everything and all control at once. His entire life he's been striving for the life he could enjoy living, but also the life he could control. Now that he's losing all that he's worked for, he's torn apart.

Works Cited

"Corruption of The American Dream in | Writinghood." Writinghood | Everything about Blogging, Online Writing, Online Publishing, Creative Writing and Writing Help. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2012. <>.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott, and Matthew J. Bruccoli. The great Gatsby. New York, NY: Scribner, 1996. Print.

"Free Text Host - The Anonymous Text Hosting Service - No Registration Required." Free Text Host - The Anonymous Text Hosting Service - No Registration Required. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2012. <>.

"In The Great Gatsby what is Tom Buchanan American Dream." The Q&A wiki. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2012. <>.

"The Use of Colors in The Great Gatsby." Lesekost. Lesen ist Kino im Kopf. Herbert Huber bringt alles dazu. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2012. <>.

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