Described by Nick Carraway in Chapter One as a "straw-haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious mouth," Tom Buchanan, once a member of the social club at Yale, is an arrogant man with a touch of contempt for others, who considers his opinion on matters as final. Having moved from the wealthy suburb of Chicago, Lake Forest, Illinois, to the East coast, Buchanan has brought along his polo ponies and pretentiously installed them in a stable on his property, which he displays to Nick.
Tom has a sense--albeit at times distorted--of what is appropriate for people of the upper class. When Daisy describes Jordan to Nick in the hopes that he will spend time with her, Tom comments that she is a "nice girl" and her family "oughtn't to let her run around the country this way," suggesting that such behavior is inappropriate for one of her social class. He is also disdainful of the character of Jay Gatsby, an "outsider" who lives in the less prestigious West Egg and whose taste is questionable. For instance, in Chapter Seven he calls Gatsby's luxurious car a "circus wagon." Gatsby, he contends, cannot be an Oxford man because "he wears a pink suit." He also insinuates that Gatsby is not what he pretends to be, "All this 'old sport' business. Where'd you pick that up?" And, he questions Gatsby about having gone to Oxford. In addition, he hautily threatens,
"Who are you anyhow?....You're one of that bunch that hangs around with Wolschiem--that much I happen to know. I've made a little investigation into your affairs--and I'll carry it further tomorrow.
At Wilson's garage, as one of higher social class, Tom speaks in a demeaning manner to Wilson the poor husband of his mistress Mrytle, when he stops for gas. And, of course, Tom's supercilious attitude is evidenced in his implication of Gatsby as having been the driver of the car that later has struck and killed Myrtle since he is unconcerned about the consequences to the lower class Wilson and the parvenu Gatsby. Further in Chapter Seven, he verbally assaults Gatsby, asking what "kind of a row" he tries to cause in his house. Then, when Daisy accuses him of being the one who causes "a row," he castigates Gatsby and his sense of superiority alluded to also in Chapter One with his mention of Lothrop Stoddard's novel,
"I suppose the lastest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife....Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions and next they'll throw everthing overboard and have intermarriage between black and white...."
As narrative voice for Fitzgerald, Nick comments,
Flushed with his impassioned gibberish he saw himself standing alone on the last barrier of civilization.
Having lived himself in the East, Fitzgerald later describes Tom and Daisy much like those Easterners with whom he became disenchanted,
They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.
Like Jordan Baker, Daisy and Tom Buchanan are "bad drivers," unconcerned about those beneath them socially.
He inquires of Gatsby his background, how he has made his money