Is Gatsby richer than Tom?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, the question of wealth and social status is a central theme. While both Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan are portrayed as wealthy individuals, it becomes evident that the wealth of Tom and his wife Daisy surpasses that of Gatsby.

Firstly, it is important to note the source of their wealth. Tom and Daisy were born into affluent families and inherited their wealth and status. They come from old money, which is considered more prestigious and respected in society. On the other hand, Gatsby’s wealth is acquired through illegal means, namely bootlegging and organized crime. While his parties may be extravagant and his mansion opulent, the origin of his wealth is tainted and lacks the legitimacy and respectability that Tom and Daisy’s money possesses.

Furthermore, Tom and Daisy are portrayed as highly educated individuals. They have received a proper upbringing and have attended prestigious schools. Their education not only enhances their social standing but also allows them to navigate the intricacies of high society with ease. Gatsby, on the other hand, lacks this educational background. He is self-made in terms of wealth, but his lack of education and refinement is noticeable. This further highlights the disparity between the two couples in terms of social status and sophistication.

Another aspect that sets Tom and Daisy apart from Gatsby is their social connections. They belong to the established elite of East Egg, associating with influential people and occupying positions of power. Their connections and relationships within high society contribute to their perceived superiority in terms of wealth. On the other hand, Gatsby, despite his extravagant parties, is viewed with suspicion and curiosity by the old money crowd. His social circle consists mainly of those seeking his lavish hospitality rather than genuine connections within the upper echelons of society.

Additionally, the physical manifestations of wealth differ between the characters. Tom and Daisy live in a grand mansion, with multiple properties, and are surrounded by luxurious possessions. Gatsby, on the other hand, lives in a mansion that is merely a facade, designed to impress and deceive others. His possessions are primarily meant to create an illusion of wealth and sophistication rather than being genuine symbols of prosperity and refinement.

While both Gatsby and Tom Buchanan are wealthy individuals in The Great Gatsby, the novel makes it clear that Tom and Daisy’s wealth is superior. Their inherited wealth, education, social connections, and genuine possessions all contribute to their elevated status in society. Gatsby’s acquired wealth, lack of education, questionable sources, and superficial displays of opulence pale in comparison. The stark contrast between the two couples emphasizes the distinction between old money and new money, highlighting the superiority of Tom and Daisy’s wealth.