In the Great Gatsby Tom is an unlikeable character. How does Fitzgerald use language to portray him like this?
Fitzgerald uses both language, Tom’s various interactions with people and the attitudes he demonstrates through his statements to show his dislikeable character. There are many examples throughout The Great Gatsby that highlight this point.
Tom is an immoral character. He is very unlikeable because of his uncivilized attitude. He is a very arrogant, dominating and boorish man who doesn’t cares about anyone focusing only on what he wants and looks down on poor, helpless people. Not only this, but he is also racist and a complete hypocrite.
Fitzgerald introduces us to Tom in the first chapter of the novel by using language to describe Tom’s hard and over bearing physical description. “He was a man with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner.” “A hard mouth” shows that he is harsh and even cruel to a point; “supercilious manner “ shows that he is a person who thinks and behaves as if he is superior to others around him. This can also be seen in the way “he was standing with his legs apart on the front porch.” This stance reveals his arrogance and cocky nature, this is further demonstrated by the way Fitzgerald describes “his arrogant eyes”. In addition Fitzgerald talks about “the enormous power of that body” which was “capable of enormous leverage – a cruel body.” This suggests that Tom is a big, menacing man who can bully and can cause physical harm to other vulnerable people around him and gives us an idea of the type of personality he will be throughout the novel.
Tom is a self-absorbed character, who is obsessed with his money and social status. While showing Nick his house he says “I’ve got a nice place here… It belonged to the Demaine oil man’, his property symbolizes his wealth and status, the fact that it belonged to somebody famous, increases its value for Tom. He also states,” Oh, I’ll stay in the East, don’t you worry.” This shows that he is confident about his aristocratic pedigree and inherited wealth, he almost believes that it will last forever, which is why he sounds so sure that he will definitely stay in the East. Further more the use of language ‘don’t you worry’ is almost patronizing towards Nick and we can infer Tom’s arrogant attitude towards people. He is so concerned about his status and wants to be seen as an elite East Egger when he says, “ I’d be a God damned fool to live anywhere else.” This shows his snobbery and belief that he comes from an upper class and yet his statements show that he lacks all the proper values and conduct of behavior that should come with somebody of his background.
Further in the novel we learn about Tom’s racist views. While recommending a book he has read he states that “if we don’t look out the white race will be – will be utterly submerged.” This shows his dim wit and his white supremacist attitudes, full of hate and disrespect for other races. However, Tom seems to have a deeper fear that if other races take over the elitist white would lose their luxurious way of life and become “utterly submerged” by others. In addition later on in the novel Tom again shows his negative, ignorant attitudes when he is angry at discovering that Daisy and Gatsby have feelings for each other he states that everything will go overboard and there will be “intermarriage between black and white”. Here, Tom shows his disgust for racial and class differences and hints at the consequence of what will happen if those of “Old Money” marry with the ‘new money’ (i.e. Daisy and Gatsby) —the difference between the two socio-economic classes are as clear as the difference between black and white. Tom’s harsh expressions here give us an idea about his views on not only race but also over class, gender and power differences.
Since Tom is from a rich, privileged background he looks down on people from poorer social class and also sees women as inferior. When Tom needs...
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