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In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
"Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had." (1.1-3)
It's a lot easier to be morally upright when you're not pinching and scraping to make a living… which makes the immorality of the wealthy even more unforgivable. Every advantage in the world, and they can't even be nice people? Nick may forgive them, but we're not sure we do.
Why they came East I don't know. They had spent a year in France for no particular reason, and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were rich together. (1. 17)
Okay, hilarious. Isn't playing polo basically the definition of "being rich together"?
His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed. There was a touch of paternal contempt in it, even toward people he liked—and there were men at New Haven who had hated his guts. (1.20)
Wealth makes Tom "paternal," as though it gives him the right to tell the entire world how to behave. But remember—he didn't earn the wealth. He's literally done nothing to deserve it. So why does he get to be mean-dad to everyone?