Free Study Guide-The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald-Book Notes
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CHAPTER NOTES WITH ANALYSIS
This longest chapter of the novel provides the climax of the plot. It
opens in the Buchanans’ house and serves as a flashback to a similar scene
that occurred three months earlier in the first chapter. Appropriately,
it is almost the last day of summer and the hottest day of the year; this
setting serves as a foreshadowing of the tragic events that are to occur
within the chapter.
Daisy and Jordan, as always, are dressed in white and lounging on the
sofa, trying to stay cool. Once again, Tom is called away to the telephone.
Wilson is on the other end, and the two men argue about the car that Wilson
wants to buy from Tom. All of these repeated actions, which are flashbacks
to earlier events, clearly indicate that nothing has changed for Tom and
Daisy; their lives go on in the same meaningless manner. It is appropriate
that Gatsby says Daisy’s voice is full of money, for her wealth is the
only thing that characterizes her; she is and will always be a symbol
of the “golden girl,” shallow and rich. It is only Gatsby’s world that
has changed. Nick opens the chapter by saying that Gatsby’s career as
Trimalchio is over. In reality, he is still a Trimalchio, a vulgar character
whose lack of class is reflected in his ostentatious display of wealth.
It is just that Gatsby no longer feels the need to make a career of showing
off his money. He no longer has to give his extravagant parties to attract
Daisy’s attention, for she is now part of his life.
Nick never makes it clear to what extent Daisy and Gatsby are involved,
but it really does not matter; Gatsby feels that he has found his dream.
He does say that Daisy often visits his house in the afternoon, and it
is obvious that she is familiar with him, for she gives him a kiss on
the mouth as soon as Tom leaves the room to take the phone call. She also
says that she loves him, but it is uttered casually and lacks sincerity.
For Daisy, her attachment to the vulgar Gatsby is a game, a fleeting entertainment.
Tom, however, cannot miss the fact that something is going on between
his wife and Gatsby. He explodes at the realization, especially when he
figures out that Nick and Jordan have known about the relationship all
On this day, Daisy is bored. In spite of her wealth, she has no personal
depth and no way of entertaining herself. Her life is so empty that she
wonders out loud what she will do for the next thirty years. Tom is no
better. Like his wife, he plays at life, racing horses and cars and having
petty sexual relationships. At the moment, the two of them are at loggerheads.
Daisy wants to go into the city to break the boredom and escape the heat;
Tom at first refuses. Then, all of a sudden, he agrees to her suggestion
after he has realized that there is something going on between Daisy and
Gatsby. It is obvious that Tom has something up his sleeve.
Tom is used to having his way, and this afternoon he wants to drive
Gatsby’s car. When Gatsby’s hesitates, Tom insists; it is almost like
he wants to prove that he has power over Gatsby. Finally, Gatsby and Daisy
leave in Tom’s car, with Tom, Jordan, and Nick leaving in Gatsby’s yellow
automobile. In the Valley of Ashes, the ever cautious Nick reminds Tom
that he needs to stop for gasoline. Tom impatiently turns into Wilson’s
garage. Wilson, looking pale and sick, apologizes to Tom for the phone
call. He then explains that he needs money, for he and his wife are moving
to the West in a couple of days. Tom can hardly believe his ears. It is
the second shock that he has had on this hot and torrid afternoon. This
man, who always wants to be in control, realizes he is losing both his
wife and his mistress. It is almost more than Tom can bear. In his own
way, he is as panicked as Wilson; it is also ironic that these two men,
at opposite ends of the social scale, find themselves in the same situation
- betrayed by their wives and fearful of losing them forever.
Locked away upstairs, Myrtle looks down and sees the yellow automobile.
She then spies Tom, the man she loves. When she sees Jordan, she wrongly
assumes she is Tom’s wife; her jealousy is almost unbearable. She watches
as her lover pulls away, knowing she may never see him again.
Tom steps on the gas to catch up with Daisy and Gatsby. They all agree
to meet in front of the Plaza Hotel, where they will rent a suite. It
is significant that the climax will occur on neutral ground, rather than
in the home of Daisy or Gatsby. Inside the room, the air is filled with
tension as Tom worries about his marriage being in jeopardy; ironically,
the “Wedding March” plays in the background. It does not take Tom long
to attack Gatsby. He begins by questioning whether he is an Oxford man
and then revealing that his wealth comes from bootlegging and other illegal
activities. Tom is so brutal that Daisy comes to Gatsby’s defense. Tom
then says he is not going to stand by while some Mr. Nobody tries to steal
his wife. Daisy interrupts and begs to go home. She does not want to be
forced into making a decision; she wants to continue the duality of being
Tom’s wife and Gatsby’s lover. It is a fun game for her that breaks the
boredom of her existence.
Gatsby cannot stand quietly by and let his dream slip away. He tells
Tom that Daisy has always loved him and never loved Tom. He claims Daisy
only married Tom because as a soldier, he was too poor to support her
in the style to which she was accustomed. Gatsby then turns to Daisy and
insists that she tell her husband that she loves only him; he also insists
that she say that she never loved Tom. Even though Daisy utters the words,
it is apparent there is no truthfulness in them. When Tom brings up memories
from the last four years of their married life, Daisy breaks down. She
turns to Gatsby and says, “I love you now. Isn’t that enough?” For Gatsby
it is not enough; his dream insists that she blot out the years of separation.
When she refuses to do so, Tom wins the battle, and his wife. Daisy is
lost to Gatsby forever. Tom, knowing he has won, sends Daisy and Gatsby
off together; he has nothing to fear.
Immediately after the hotel scene, Nick remembers that it is his thirtieth
birthday. This is significant, for this day is a turning point in Nick’s
life, as well as Gatsby’s life; and his thirtieth birthday marks his passage
into full adulthood, when the carefree days of youth are behind forever.
Appropriately, from this day forward Nick will judge the Buchanan’s and
Jordan as unworthy and vulgar, in spite of their wealth; subconsciously,
he has already made the decision to leave the crazy shallowness of the
East and return to the solid roots of the Midwest, where he grew up.
The falling action begins with the trip home to the Eggs. Daisy, in
order to calm herself down, requests to drive Gatsby’s car. When Myrtle
spies the yellow automobile, she assumes that Tom is inside. She bolts
out of the garage, waving her arms to stop her lover. Daisy does not see
the woman until it is too late. She tries to veer away, but there is an
oncoming car. She jerks the wheel back, hitting Myrtle and killing her
instantly. With characteristic shallowness, she does not stop, but pushes
the accelerator harder. Gatsby begs her to stop and finally uses the emergency
break to halt the vehicle. He immediately knows that he will take the
blame for Daisy, claiming to be driving the car himself.
When Tom arrives at the accident scene, he stops his car to see what
is going on. When he realizes that Myrtle has been killed, he is in a
state of shock. When he learns that it is a new yellow car that has killed
her, he is beside himself with rage, thinking that Gatsby is the murderer
of his mistress and the lover of his wife. He openly states that he cannot
believe that the son-of-a-bitch did not even stop. He then tries to convince
Wilson that the yellow car he was driving earlier in the day does not
belong to him. As always, both Tom and Daisy think only of themselves.
Nick is shaken by the events of the day. The scene in the hotel has
had a deep impact on him. Now the sight of Myrtle’s lifeless body and
the sound of Wilson’s wailing is almost more than he can bear. He instinctively
knows that this day will make a difference in his life; therefore, he
cannot understand how Jordan can be so unaffected by everything that has
transpired. She casually asks him to take her out to dinner, reminding
him it is only half past nine. Suddenly, Nick realizes that he could never
spend the rest of his life with Jordan.
When Nick arrives at the Buchanan’s, he is a changed man; he wants nothing
more to do with these frivolous people. He even refuses to go inside the
house, as if some of the sickness that resides there may rub off on him.
When he walks down the driveway to wait for his taxi, he encounters Gatsby,
who emerges from the bushes. When Nick questions him about the accident,
he admits that Daisy was driving the car and refused to stop. This news
only confirms what Nick has already decided; the Buchanan’s and their
world are simply too shallow, selfish, and careless for him. As if to
prove his point, he goes up on the porch to see what is going on inside
so that he can reassure Gatsby that Daisy is safe. Tom and his wife are
in the kitchen. Two ales and a platter of cold chicken are before them.
Neither happy or unhappy, it is obvious that they are conspiring together
to cover up the truth of the accident. The scene literally makes Nick
When he goes back to Gatsby to tell him that everything is calm inside,
Nick asks him to come home with him. Gatsby refuses; he will keep his
vigil until he is certain that Daisy is safely in bed. When Nick leaves,
Gatsby is standing alone “watching over nothing.” He has lost Daisy and
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