Annie Shepherd-Barron, Luxmoore
Comparison Between the Portrayal of Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby in Chapters 1 to 6
Fitzgerald purposefully portrays Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan in contrasting ways to emphasise the variety of money within the American market, during the era in which the novel is set. A major difference between the two men is ‘new money’ and ‘old money’, where Gatsby represents ‘new money’, but Daisy and Tom represent ‘old money’. The contrast between the two comes down to where the money originated from; "Old money" families have fortunes dating from the 19th century or before, have built up powerful and influential social connections and tend to hide their wealth and superiority behind a facade of civility. The "new money" class made their fortunes in the 1920s boom and therefore has no social connections and tends to overcompensate for this lack with lavish displays of wealth. Gatsby is an ideal example of the latter due to his enormous parties and excessive lifestyle, which is permanently on show and surprises many, including Daisy when she says ‘It makes me sad because I've never seen such -such beautiful shirts before’, demonstrating her unawareness of ridiculous wealth. This concept is lightly mentioned in Veblen’s Conspicuous Consumption, yet is more focused on the lifestyle of these separate social groups. Tom Buchanan talks of playing polo within the first chapter and this is a show of how valuable his time is and that he has enough money to enjoy such activities, instead of working. Veblen references these lifestyles, saying that ‘”leisure” […] connotes non-productive consumption of time’ and this is directly relevant to Tom’s habits. He never seems to overexert himself in any way, remaining composed and aloof, which creates an image of classic wealth, whereas Gatsby has his car and hydroplane, insinuating his activeness and current use of money. Furthermore, their housing displays an imminent divide between Gatsby and Tom, because of the two islands (West Egg and East Egg), where Daisy even turns her nose up at Gatsby’s living space, in comparison to her own.
Another disparity amid Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby is their general behavior; the most obvious comparison to make is their demeanor in Daisy’s presence, as Gatsby appears to glow...