Describe the characters' morals that are revealed at the Buchanans' dinner party in Chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby.

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mdelmuro eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby, Nick's dinner with the Buchanans reveals many of the negative moral characteristics that will be evident throughout the novel.

First and foremost, Tom shows his feelings of superiority and entitlement when he discusses the book Rise of the Colored Empires. While Tom does not really deal with any black people in the novel, he feels superior to everyone who does not share his or Daisy's social status. In this scene, Tom claims "Civilization's going to pieces ... I've gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things." These attitudes become clear as he and Daisy judge the new moneyed people on the other "less fashionable" part of Long Island, where Gatsby lives.

Daisy reveals herself to be amoral and complicit in Tom's feelings about society. Instead of challenging his rant about the Colored Empires book, she remains silent and jokes about it mockingly saying, "We've got to beat them down." In addition, Daisy's ignorance regarding her husband's self-claimed moral superiority that is, in actuality, racism, is one that is chosen. Before explaining that she feels the same way about the world Tom does, she tells Nick what she hopes for her daughter: "I hope she'll be a fool—that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool."

Finally, Jordan shows her lack of morality in not condemning Tom's actions regarding his mistress in the city. Instead, Jordan's only judgment related to Tom's mistress is to criticize her timing. Jordan says, "She might have the decency not to telephone at dinner time. Don't you think?"

Overall, the dinner scene at the Buchanans' home could be seen as a perverse communion in which each character shares his or her worst characteristic.

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The Great Gatsby

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