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Could you please tell me the meaning of "the supercilious assumption was that" in the...

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coutelle | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:32 PM via web

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Could you please tell me the meaning of "the supercilious assumption was that" in the following excerpt of the second chapter of The Great Gatsby?

I think he’d tanked up a good deal at luncheon and his determination to have my company bordered on violence. The supercilious assumption was that on Sunday afternoon I had nothing better to do.


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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:53 PM (Answer #1)

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A supercilious person is one who believes he is better or more important than other people. Early on in Chapter 1, Nick describes Tom in this way: 

Now he was a sturdy straw-haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward. 

Tom definitely thinks he is better than others. This is clear in how he treats Daisy, and certainly how he treats Myrtle and George. But even in broader terms, Tom believes that his (white) race is superior to other races. He reveals his racist attitude when he mentions the book The Rise of the Colored Empires. He says to Nick, Daisy, and Jordan that, “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.” 

Tom is arrogant and proud. He is definitely supercilious. When Tom takes Nick to meet Myrtle, Tom thoughtlessly assumes that Nick has nothing to do that afternoon. In other words, Tom is so full of himself that he assumes that Nick would rather spend time with him than with whatever he had or had not planned for that afternoon. 


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