Study Guide

The Great Gatsby Marriage

Advertisement - Guide continues below


Chapter 1
Daisy Buchanan

Before I could answer her eyes fastened with an awed expression on her little finger.

"Look!" she complained. "I hurt it."

We all looked – the knuckle was black and blue.

"You did it, Tom," she said accusingly. "I know you didn't mean to, but you did do it. That's what I get for marrying a brute of a man, a great, big, hulking physical specimen of a– "

"I hate that word hulking," objected Tom crossly, "even in kidding."

"Hulking," insisted Daisy. (1.67-72)

That poor bruised little finger is like a symbol of Tom and Daisy's marriage: he hurts it unintentionally, and Daisy just cannot stop talking about it. You get the feeling that Fitzgerald kind of wants her to stop whining already.

Tom Buchanan

"Did you give Nick a little heart-to-heart talk on the veranda?" demanded Tom suddenly.

"Did I?" She looked at me. "I can't seem to remember, but I think we talked about the Nordic race. Yes, I'm sure we did. It sort of crept up on us and first thing you know–"

"Don't believe everything you hear, Nick," he advised me. (1.137-143)

The first rule of marriage is: Don't talk about marriage. Tom is worried that Daisy's been airing their dirty laundry—which is its own form of betrayal.

Chapter 2
Nick Carraway

The fact that he had one [a mistress] was insisted upon wherever he was known. His acquaintances resented the fact that he turned up in popular restaurants with her and, leaving her at a table, sauntered about, chatting with whomever he knew. (2.3-4)

Tom is just the worst. It's one thing to have a mistress; it's quite another to embarrass your wife and friends by rubbing that mistress in their face. Right? Right.

Chapter 4
Nick Carraway

I saw them in Santa Barbara when they came back, and I thought I'd never seen a girl so mad about her husband. If he left the room for a minute she'd look around uneasily, and say: "Where's Tom gone?" and wear the most abstracted expression until she saw him coming in the door. She used to sit on the sand with his head in her lap by the hour, rubbing her fingers over his eyes and looking at him with unfathomable delight. It was touching to see them together – it made you laugh in a hushed, fascinated way. That was in August. A week after I left Santa Barbara Tom ran into a wagon on the Ventura road one night, and ripped a front wheel off his car. The girl who was with him got into the papers, too, because her arm was broken – she was one of the chambermaids in the Santa Barbara Hotel. (4.143)

Girls who go with Tom seem to get in trouble, whether it's Daisy's bruised fingers, this girl's broken arm, or Myrtle's mutilated chest. Yeah, we'll be avoiding this guy.

Chapter 7
Tom Buchanan

"You're crazy!" he exploded. "I can't speak about what happened five years ago, because I didn't know Daisy then—and I'll be damned if I see how you got within a mile of her unless you brought the groceries to the back door. But all the rest of that's a God damned lie. Daisy loved me when she married me and she loves me now." (7.246)

Notice how Daisy's love is like a possession to Tom? He sees marriage as a system of ownership, and he's all about controlling access. Gatsby can bring groceries to the back door and drive her around, but he can't have anything more.

"Self-control!" repeated Tom incredulously. "I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that's the idea you can count me out […] 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."

Flushed with his impassioned gibberish, he saw himself standing alone on the last barrier of civilization. (7.222-230)

Uh-huh. Tom is definitely the last bulwark of family values. You know, values like abusing your wife, taking mistresses, and then callously ignoring their brutal deaths.

P.S. If ever a quote were going to date a book, this would be it. We just don't think this way anymore. And thank goodness for that.

He nodded sagely. "And what's more, I love Daisy too. Once in a while I go off on a spree and make a fool of myself, but I always come back, and in my heart I love her all the time."

"You're revolting," said Daisy. She turned to me, and her voice, dropping an octave lower, filled the room with thrilling scorn: "Do you know why we left Chicago? I'm surprised that they didn't treat you to the story of that little spree." (7.251-252)

Tom expects a lot more from Daisy than he does from himself, but this was just par for the course in upper class marriages of the time (and a lot of time previously, too). Men got to play around; women got to produce heirs. It's a bargain.

"She's not leaving me!" Tom's words suddenly leaned down over Gatsby. "Certainly not for a common swindler who'd have to steal the ring he put on her finger."

"I won't stand this!" cried Daisy. "Oh, please let's get out." (7.275-281)

And one last proof that Tom sees marriage as an economic exchange: he's "bought" Daisy honestly, but Gatsby would have to buy her dishonestly. No word on what Daisy wants, of course.

Daisy Buchanan

"Oh, you want too much!" she cried to Gatsby. "I love you now – isn't that enough? I can't help what's past." She began to sob helplessly. "I did love him once – but I loved you too." Gatsby's eyes opened and closed.

"You loved me TOO?" he repeated. (7.264-266)

Gatsby seems more upset by this confession than by the fact that Daisy's actually married to someone else. Marriage doesn't mean much of anything; it's just a dying social system. The feeling is what matters.

Nick Carraway

He had discovered that Myrtle had some sort of life apart from him in another world, and the shock had made him physically sick. (7.160)

George Wilson can't deal with the fact that Myrtle has a lover. It's not the sex that seems to bother him so much, but the fact that she has some sort of independent existence. Marriage is supposed to be about joining your lives, and so having a separate life is a total betrayal.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...