The Great Gatsby
In The Great Gatsby, the narrator, Nick Carraway, describes two important but very different characters, Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby. Both men are flawed but only one transcends his faults. By comparing Jay Gatsby to Tom Buchanan, Nick elevates Gatsby in the readers’ eyes.
Nick shows us that while Gatsby pursues a romantic ideal in Daisy, Tom lowers himself by having sordid affairs. Rather than directly stating an opinion about Daisy and Tom’s marriage, Nick provides Jordan’s view of Daisy’s dedicated attitude toward Tom shortly after their honeymoon. “She used to sit…with his head in her lap…looking at him with unfathomable delight,” (p. 78) says Jordan. She adds that she has never seen a girl so mad about her husband. Yet one week later, Jordan read in the Chicago newspaper than Tom had been in a car accident. He was with a chambermaid from the same hotel where he had spent his honeymoon, implying that Tom had already begun having affairs. Tom’s affair with Myrtle is in some ways worse, because not only is she also married, Daisy appears to be perfectly aware of their affair. When Tom receives a telephone call at dinner, Daisy, distressed, follows him. When they return, Daisy points out a singing nightingale and asks, “Isn’t it romantic, Tom?” (p. 16) Tom acknowledges that it is, but quickly asks Nick if he’d like to see the stables, a more concrete subject for Tom. Gatsby, on the other hand, romanticizes Daisy. After their first kiss, she becomes the incarnation of his dream (p. 112), so that he will never be able to forget her. Although Gatsby leaves Daisy to go overseas during the War and does not see her again for almost five years, Gatsby never gives up hope that he and Daisy will reunite, not even after she gets married. He buys a mansion across the bay from her house in hopes of impressing her. Nick reflects, “I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out that green light…of Daisy’s dock. …his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it” (p. 182). When at last Gatsby meets Daisy again, he is so sure of the purity of his dreams that not only does he believe she loves him more than Tom, he believes that she never loved Tom at all.
Gatsby takes the blame for Myrtle’s death, while Tom lets George Wilson believe that Gatsby, not he, had the affair with George’s wife. When Tom arrives at the scene of the accident, the first thing he says to Wilson is that the car that hit Myrtle wasn’t his – “it belonged to a friend” (p. 141). He wants to make it very clear that he is not connected to the accident, and though he could have offered more information, he does not disclose it in order to avoid admitting his affair. Later, in assuming that Gatsby was Myrtle’s lover, Wilson becomes convinced that Gatsby murdered her. He says, “She ran out to speak to [the man in the car], and he wouldn’t stop” (p. 159) Wilson goes to Tom and demands to know who owns the car. Seeing Wilson’s crazed attitude and the revolver in his pocket, Tom remains quiet about his involvement with Myrtle and deflects the blame to Gatsby. “I told him the truth,” Tom tells Nick, adding, “What if I did tell him? He had it coming. He ran over Myrtle…like a dog, and never stopped his car” (p. 180). While Tom would rather blame others and preserve his own image, Gatsby is willing to take responsibility. Although Daisy was the driver, when Gatsby tells Nick about it, he says, “Of course, I’ll say I was [driving]” (p. 144). Ignoring the consequences, Gatsby will do anything to protect Daisy. He is willing to physically defend her as well, standing guard outside her window all night in case Tom becomes violent. Gatsby says, “I’m just going to wait here and see if her tries to bother her…if he tries any brutality she’s going to turn the light out and on again” (. 145). Daisy means more to Gatsby than his own life. She is so important to him that to lose her would be to lose a part of himself.
Nick tells the reader that although Gatsby represents everything he scorns, Gatsby himself is exempt from this judgment. In the opening paragraphs of the book, Nick says that in his younger years, his father advised him not to be too judgmental because “people in this world haven’t had the advantages you’ve had.” Nick says that as a result, he is “inclined to reserve all judgments. Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope” (p. 1). After boasting of his tolerance, however, Nick makes it clear that there actually are limits on what he can tolerate, saying “…I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever.” (p. 2). Nick believes in order, unlike Tom, who lives thoughtlessly and recklessly. Nick says, “Tom and Daisy were careless people. They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated into…their vast carelessness” (p. 180). By contrast, Nick sees Gatsby’s love for Daisy as admirable. He describes Gatsby’s capacity for love as “…an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never seen before” (p. 2). Although the dream would appear to be hopeless since Daisy is married and has a child, Gatsby believes that she will return to him. His dream is incorruptible, and that is what makes Gatsby admirable. Of course, not everything about him is so. Nick learns that he was a bootlegger and that he changed his name to leave behind his early life. Yet, at the end of the book, Nick tells him, “You’re worth the whole…bunch put together!” (p. 154)
Although both Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby have faults, in comparison, Gatsby is viewed as the more admirable of the two. While Tom’s actions reflect his coarse and selfish nature, Gatsby’s idealized quest lends refinement and grace to his character. Gatsby’s flaws are minimized by the beauty and greatness of his dream. Society places greater value on those who seek something greater than themselves.
Good intro, moves quickly and effectively to capture thesis.
Good paragraph 1
“He changed his name to leave behind his early life.” Is this a corrupt element? Not by their standards. But his early relationship with Daisy was based on deceit of passing [can’t read name] off as someone from her social/economic class.