The Great Gatsby

The title character in the novel, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is not the only character of focus for readers. There are two other characters who play an important role as well. They are Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Daisy Buchanan is Nick Carraway’s (the narrator) cousin and the love interest of Jay Gatsby. Tom is the unfaithful husband of Daisy and also a conspirator against Gatsby. There is an obvious love triangle, through out the entire novel, between Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, and Tom Buchanan. Fitzgerald wants to see if the readers’ feelings about the Buchanans or Jay Gatsby change as the novel progresses. Instead of choosing a part of the text, I would go over the main events and points in the whole novel as it pertains to this situation. For this essay, I will do a Reader-Response analysis on the love triangle between these three and how infidelity can lead to heartache and more.

The book, Literary and Cultural Theory, defines Reader-Response analysis as having to “indicate an emphasis on the reader in the process of textual interpretation” (Hall 44). The novel is told through the eyes of Nick Carraway. Through this channel, he shows the readers, the good, the bad, and the ugly. From the beginning, we notice that the marriage between Tom and Daisy is not a very stable one. There is obviously infidelity in the union. The Buchanans are part of the aristocratic crowd living in East Egg. When we, the readers, first meet Tom, he is said to have had, “two shining arrogant eyes” (Fitzgerald 7) that “had established dominance over his face” (Fitzgerald 7). His voice is described as being “a gruff husky tenor” (Fitzgerald 7). Both Tom and Daisy were descendants from wealthy families. Tom seemed to be more of a braggart than Daisy though. Tom can also be thought of as being a racist because when he was telling Nick about a book called The Rise of the Colored Empire, he makes a remark, “The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be – will be utterly submerged” (Fitzgerald 13).

Fitzgerald attempts to show Daisy as being a little naïve or foolish, in my opinion. Daisy even hopes that her daughter becomes “a beautiful little fool” (Fitzgerald 17) one day. I find it a little odd that Daisy does not care that Tom is receiving phone calls at home from his mistress. It is not as if she does not know what is going on. Tom also seems a little uncaring as well. When Daisy was talking about the birth of her daughter and she says that, “Tom was God knows where” (Fitzgerald 17). My first thought was that he was probably with Myrtle Wilson, his mistress.

The extramarital affair between Tom and Myrtle Wilson is not a very secretive one. Jordan Baker, a friend of Daisy’s and Nick’s love interest, is one of the characters who knows of the affair. She even informs Nick about it upon meeting him for the first time when she says, “Tom’s got some woman in New York” (Fitzgerald 15). This comes about when Tom apparently receives a phone call from Myrtle at home. Myrtle is the wife of George Wilson, a local mechanic. Tom acts as a wolf in sheep’s clothing towards Myrtle’s unsuspecting husband. Because of Tom’s arrogance, he feels okay being seen with Myrtle in public. He even goes as far as to introducing Nick to Myrtle in Chapter Two of the novel.

Myrtle seems to get whatever she wants from Tom. They even rent an apartment together in New York for their little rendezvous. The readers can tell that Myrtle is spoiled when Fitzgerald writes, “…she let four taxicabs drive away before she selected a new one, lavender-colored with gray upholstery…” (Fitzgerald 27). Tom even buys Myrtle the dog that she wanted for the apartment as well. Things may seem good, but Myrtle does not always get away with everything. She and Tom’s relationship may seem like a nice thing, but it also turns violent. While at their apartment one day, Myrtle taunts Tom by shouting out Daisy’s name. Fitzgerald writes, “Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her nose with