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Free Study Guide-The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald-Book Notes

 

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THE GREAT GATSBY BOOK REVIEW / NOTES


CHAPTER VIII


Summary

Nick cannot sleep. He tosses “half-sick between grotesque reality and savage frightening dreams.” At dawn he jumps out of bed and heads to Gatsby’s house. The front door is open, and Gatsby is in the hall. When Nick enters, Gatsby says in a whine, “Nothing happened. I waited, and about four o’clock she came to the window and stood there for a minute.” Nick suggests that Gatsby go away, but he will not consider it. Even though the dream is shattered, he refuses to leave Daisy.

Gatsby then tells Nick about his past, probably because “Jay Gatsby had broken up like glass against Tom’s hard malice.” Gatsby begins with an explanation of Daisy. He explains that she was the first girl he had ever really known. While he was in the army at Camp Taylor, he went to her house as often as possible. Poor himself, he had never been in such a beautiful house. As a penniless young man, he knew that he did not belong there. “So he made the most of his time. He took what he could get, ravenously...eventually he took Daisy one still October night, took her because he had no real right to touch her hand.”

Gatsby knows he misled Daisy, for he had made her think that he came from a similar background to hers, that he could take care of her. As a result, he committed himself to someday being able to support her, to be worthy of her. She became his holy grail, his mission in life, his golden dream. In fact, “he felt married her.” Daisy seemed to care for him as well; but he was a soldier destined to be sent away. On his last afternoon with Daisy, Gatsby held her silently in his arms for a long time.

Gatsby claims he did well in the war, becoming a major and commanding the divisional machine guns. After the war, he desperately tried to get home to Daisy, but he was sent to Oxford. He was distressed because her letters indicated that she was restless and impatient; she was not sure she was doing the right thing by waiting for him. In truth, she was again mingling with her high society, having half a dozen dates a day. When she met Tom Buchanan, she felt he offered her the right things and decided to marry him, encouraged by her parents. She wrote Gatsby a letter of explanation and sent it to Oxford. Gatsby tells Nick that Daisy probably never loved Tom, or if she did, it was only for a short while when they were first married. He is still convinced that she has always loved him more.

Gatsby returned from Europe while Tom and Daisy were still on their honeymoon. He used the last of his money to go to Louisville and soak up the memories of her. As he left Louisville on the train, “He stretched out his hand desperately, as if to snatch only a wisp of air, to save a fragment of the spot that she had made lovely for him. . .he knew that he had lost that part of it, the freshest and the best, forever.”

Although Nick needs to go to work in the city, he wants to stay with Gatsby. He misses several trains and finally makes himself get up around ten o’clock. He promises to call Gatsby from the city, around noon. Gatsby lies to himself and says that Daisy will probably phone too. As Nick walks away, he calls back to his friend, “They’re a rotten crowd. You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.” On hearing these words, Gatsby breaks into a radiant and understanding smile, “as if we’d been in ecstatic cahoots on that fact all the time.” Nick realizes it is the only compliment he has ever paid Gatsby, for during the last three months he had “disapproved of him from beginning to end.”


Nick has trouble concentrating at work. When Jordan calls him at noon, she actually wakes him from dozing. She criticizes Nick by saying, “You weren’t so nice to me last night. . .however, I want to see you.” She suggests that she come into the city since she has left the Buchanan’s. Nick simply says he is too busy to see her. After they hang up, he calls Gatsby’s house four times, but the line is always busy. He decides to go home early, on the three-fifty train.

When Nick had passed through the Valley of Ashes on the way to work, he had crossed to the other side of the train. He did not want to see the curious crowds that would be gathered around the place of the accident. Nick then gives more information about the previous night. After Myrtle had been hit, Michaelis made a clumsy attempt to distract Wilson, asking how long they had been married. Wilson answered that she had been his wife for twelve years, but they had no children; he also stated they had no church. Wilson then blurted out, “He killed her. . .he murdered her.” Michaelis explained that he saw the whole thing, and it was an accident, but George insisted that Myrtle “ran out to speak to him and he wouldn’t stop.” At that moment, Michaelis noticed that Wilson’s eyes looked like ashheaps. Wilson went on to explain that he had told Myrtle on the previous night that she might fool him, but she could not fool God, for “God sees everything.” Just as Wilson spoke these words, Michaelis looked up and saw the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckelberg staring at him. Wilson seemed to be looking at them as well. Michaelis went home after dawn and slept for four hours. When he awoke, he went to check on Wilson, but his friend was gone.

Wilson had gone out on foot to search for the owner of the yellow car. At noon, he had bought a sandwich and coffee in Gad’s Hill. By half past two he was in West Egg, where he asked someone for directions to Gatsby’s house. At two o’clock Gatsby had put on his bathing suit. Before going to the pool, he blew up an air mattress, asked the servants to bring the phone out to him if there were calls, and told the chauffeur that the yellow car was not to be taken out of the garage for any reason, even though the right front fender needed repair.

The butler waited until four o’clock to see if Gatsby received a phone call; it was “long after there was anyone to give it to if it came.” Gatsby must have known the call from Daisy would never come; he must have felt “that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is." The chauffeur heard the shots, but had not thought anything about them. Then Nick arrived at Gatsby’s house, anxiously looking for his friend. He hurried to the pool with the chauffeur, the butler, and the gardener. “The laden mattress moved irregularly down the pool,” surrounded by a red circle in the water. As they carried Gatsby’s body from the pool, they noticed Wilson’s body a little way off in the grass. “The holocaust was complete.”

 

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