|Residence||Tom Buchanan's mansion, East Egg, New York, United States|
Daisy Buchanan (wife)
Pammy Buchanan (daughter)
Nick Carraway (second cousin-in-law)
Tom is an imposing man of muscular build with a "husky tenor" voice and an arrogant demeanor. He was a football star at Yale. He has no moral qualms about his own extramarital affair with Myrtle Wilson, but when he begins to suspect Daisy and Gatsby of having an affair, he becomes outraged and forces a confrontation.
Tom Buchanan comes from a staggeringly wealthy family with long-standing social prestige. Born in Chicago, Tom moved east during his college years, when he attended Yale and met Nick Carraway at the university's social club. At Yale, Buchanan was a football star; as Nick accounts, Tom was “one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence."
Tom Buchanan has parallels with William Mitchell, the Chicagoan who married Ginevra King (the heiress who inspired the character of Daisy.) Buchanan and Mitchell were both Chicagoans with an interest in polo. Like Ginevra's father, whom Fitzgerald resented, Buchanan attended Yale and is a white supremacist.
Tom speaks approvingly of the scientific racism presented in a book titled The Rise of the Colored Empires, written by a man named Goddard, which is a fictional reference to the real book The Rising Tide of Color: The Threat Against White World-Supremacy (1920) by Lothrop Stoddard. Fitzgerald may have used a portmanteau name, blending Stoddard with the "G" of Madison Grant, a colleague of Stoddard. Fitzgerald could have also been referring to Henry Herbert Goddard, an American psychologist, eugenicist, and segregationist who wrote a famous book called The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness. He also coined the word “moron,” and was the first to translate the Binet IQ Test from French to English (he distributed 22,000 copies of the translation). He also publicized the famous US Army IQ Tests, when, during World War I, the government was able for the first time to measure the skull size and perform IQ tests on a massive number of men. He also wrote about racial differences in IQ and claimed that the results showed that Americans were unfit for democracy. However, the results were, even in their day, challenged as scientifically inaccurate, and later resulted in a retraction from the director of the project, Carl Brigham.
Excerpt from the book:
“Civilization is going to pieces,” broke out Tom violently. “I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read The Rise of the Coloured Empires by this man Goddard?”
“Why, no,” I (Nick) answered, rather surprised by his tone.
“Well, it’s a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be—will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.”
“Tom’s getting very profound,” said Daisy, with an expression of un-thoughtful sadness. “He reads deep books with long words in them. What was that word we—”
“Well, these books are all scientific,” insisted Tom, glancing at her impatiently. “This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things."
"We've got to beat them down," whispered Daisy, winking ferociously toward the fervent sun.
"You ought to live in California —" began Miss Baker, but Tom interrupted her by shifting heavily in his chair.
“This idea is that we’re Nordics. I am, and you are, and you are, and—” After an infinitesimal hesitation he included Daisy with a slight nod, and she winked at me again. “—And we’ve produced all the things that go to make civilization—oh, science and art, and all that. Do you see?”
There was something pathetic in his concentration, as if his complacency, more acute than of old, was not enough to him any more.
Tom is a segregationist, as evidenced by his opposition to miscegenation: "Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions, and next they’ll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white.”
- The Great Gatsby (1926) Played by Hale Hamilton
- The Great Gatsby (1949) Played by Barry Sullivan
- The Great Gatsby (1974) Played by Bruce Dern
- The Great Gatsby (2000) Played by Martin Donovan
- The Great Gatsby (2013) Played by Joel Edgerton
All of these images are from the 2013 film adaptation.