A hard man

Tom Buchanan, aged 30 during the events of the novel, is one of the most two-dimensional characters of the novel: his aggressive, masculine and unsubtle approach to life is constant. Nick’s description emphasises Tom’s power:

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 the thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage – a cruel body.

As a successful sportsman from a rich Chicago family, Tom has great wealth, a family and a mistress, and is ruthless in his determination to retain these assets. There is an emphasis on his physicality, even violence - he hurts both his female ‘chattels’, Daisy and Myrtle. He is not particularly intelligent and his racial prejudice is mocked by the other characters, especially when he claims to have gained his knowledge from reading and understanding ‘scientific’ research. 

Survival of the fittest

However, Tom may be said to be smart. He is canny enough to investigate Gatsby, swift to react in Wilson’s garage when he realises that he may be associated with Gatsby’s car, and he may be cunning in his interactions with Wilson that lead to Gatsby’s murder. Furthermore, he controls and manipulates Daisy; Nick reports that he uses a ‘husky’ voice to remind her of their past affection when Gatsby is threatening to usurp his position as Daisy’s lover. 

At the end of the novel, Tom is characterised, along with Daisy, as ‘careless’ and destructive. He experiences no sense of responsibility and never reflects on his own actions. 

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