How does Tom Buchanan explain, "civilization going to pieces"? What does this imply about his character?

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During Nick's initial visit to Tom and Daisy Buchanan's home, Nick humorously remarks that Daisy makes him feel uncivilized and wishes that she would have a conversation about crops to make him more comfortable. While it is obvious to Nick, Daisy, Jordan , and the reader that Nick's...

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During Nick's initial visit to Tom and Daisy Buchanan's home, Nick humorously remarks that Daisy makes him feel uncivilized and wishes that she would have a conversation about crops to make him more comfortable. While it is obvious to Nick, Daisy, Jordan, and the reader that Nick's comment is a humorous way to compliment Daisy, Tom interrupts by saying,

Civilization’s going to pieces . . . I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read The Rise of the Colored Empires by this man Goddard (Fitzgerald, 9).

Tom then proceeds to elaborate on the book he is reading by saying that Goddard's theory examines the demise of the white race at the hands of minorities. Judging from the book's title and Tom's comments regarding the importance of defending his "dominant race," it is fair to assume that Tom is a racist. In addition to Tom's overt racial prejudice, he also comes across as an ignorant bigot who wishes to be viewed as intelligent and important. As the novel progresses, Tom is further portrayed as a violent, selfish, callous man, who openly cheats on his wife and is not afraid to hit women.

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In Chapter one of “The Great Gatsby”, Tom makes a comment about “civilization going to pieces” during a dinner party with himself, Daisy, Jordan, and Nick.  The conversation begins after Daisy explains to her company that Tom hurt her finger; she then goes on to call him “hulking”.  After this, Nick responds, seemingly joking around, by telling Daisy that she makes him feel “uncivilized.”  Then Tom says, “Civilization's going to pieces.”  The comments that follow explain what Tom means by this.  He continues by talking about his pessimistic attitude and asks Nick if he read a book entitled “The Rise of the Colored Empires” which he explains to be a book that advises “the white race” to look out for themselves only and not let anyone control them and, according to this book they need to “produce all the things that go to make civilization.”  Tom’s comments during his conversation on this subject do reveal a few things about his character.  First, it the reader that he is racist and believes that he is of the dominant race.  Secondly, it tells us that he feels that he is superior over others.  These two personality traits do dominate Tom’s character throughout the novel.

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