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


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The wild rumors about Gatsby still abound, and because of them a young reporter from New York shows up at Gatsby’s door to interview him. After reporting this incident at the beginning of the chapter, Nick begins to set the record straight about his neighbor. He again interrupts the real chronology of the story to explain Gatsby’s past. He was born as James Gatz, and his parents were “shiftless and unsuccessful” North Dakota farmers. The son never accepted them as his parents, but dreamed, even as a boy, of a better life for himself. At age sixteen, he set off to make his own way as a clam digger and salmon fisherman on the shore of Lake Superior. He knew women early and quickly grew contemptuous of them for their ignorant and hysterical behaviors. He went to St. Olaf Lutheran College, hoping to pay for an education by being a janitor, but he scorned the manual work and left after two weeks. Still dreaming of material greatness for himself, he drifted back to Lake Superior, searching for something to do with his life. One day as he loafed on the beach, he spied a large yacht drop anchor nearby. James Gatz rowed a borrowed boat out to the “Tuolomee,” which represented all of the beauty

and glamour in the world to a young, idealistic boy. The seventeen year old pulled up beside the yacht and introduced himself to Dan Cody, the boat’s owner. He gave his name as Jay Gatsby, giving birth to a new person. Along with the new name came a new image of himself, and it was an image to which he would remain faithful.

Dan Cody, at the time, was fifty years old and worth millions due to his Montana copper mining venture. With vast wealth and no purpose, he became a drifter, drinker, and womanizer, sometimes prone to violence. But this older gentleman took an immediate liking to the young Gatsby and believed him to be quick and ambitious. As a result, Cody invited the youth to sail with him to the West Indies while serving in a vague capacity as steward, mate, skipper, and secretary. In essence, Gatsby became Cody’s assistant and protector, watching over him during his drunken outings and wild parties; in return, Cody trusted the young man more and more. The arrangement lasted five years and through three trips around the continent. It ended only because of Cody’s premature death, likely caused by his recent lover, Ella Kaye. She inherited millions from Cody, and Gatsby came away with $25,000, a strong belief in alcoholic temperance, and an amazing new history for himself.

Nick has not seen his neighbor in several weeks because Gatsby is devoting his time to Daisy, and Nick has been involved with Jordan. As a result, Nick decides to go over and check on Gatsby one Sunday afternoon. He has not been in Gatsby’s mansion for two minutes when a party of three horseback riders stops for a drink. One of the men is Tom Buchanan, and Gatsby is “profoundly” affected by his presence. After introductions are made, Gatsby tells Tom that he knows Daisy. This confession seems to calm his nerves, and he even asks the trio to stay for dinner. The offer is declined, but the female rider casually suggests, out of politeness rather than interest, that Gatsby come to supper with them. The socially unaware Gatsby does not realize that there is no sincerity in her offer, and he goes off to prepare himself for the dinner party. Tom remarks, “My God, I believe the man’s coming. Doesn’t he know she doesn’t want him?” The socially superior Tom immediately recognizes Gatsby’s lack of class and wonders how in the world Daisy knows him. When Gatsby returns downstairs, he discovers he has been left behind by the threesome.

Tom, who is perturbed over Daisy knowing Gatsby and running around alone too often, brings his wife to Gatsby’s next Saturday night gathering. It is the same kind of party with the same kind of people as always, but Nick notices that there is a “peculiar quality of oppressiveness” about his one. He tries to blame the air of unpleasantness on the repetitive nature of the parties, but he instinctively knows that is Daisy’s presence that is really causing the change. She tries to be excited about the party-goers and involved in the festivities, but everything about the party offends her. The women are inebriated and acting poorly, and Tom is chasing a girl that is “common but pretty.” Daisy is obviously “appalled by West Egg, this unprecedented place that Broadway had begotten on Long Island....appalled by its raw vigor....that herded its inhabitants along a short cut from nothing to nothing.” The only pleasures in the evening for Daisy are the time spent with Gatsby and observing a movie star, “a gorgeous, scarcely human orchid of a woman,” who sat under a white plum tree all evening being wooed by her director. Daisy’s fascination with this couple hints at her own “play-acting” in life.

As they are waiting for their car, Daisy and Tom argue about Gatsby. Tom accuses him of being a bootlegger and openly scoffs at the “menagerie” of people at the party. Daisy comes to Gatsby’s defense and falsely says that she finds most of the party-goers more interesting than their own friends. She also claims that the poorly behaved guests had not been invited and that the host is just too polite to object to their presence. She also tells Tom that Gatsby’s wealth comes from a chain of drug stores that he owns. Before she gets in the car with Tom, Daisy gives one more romantic glance back to Gatsby’s mansion and worries that some young girl may steal Gatsby’s heart and blot out five years of unwavering devotion to her.

Gatsby asks Nick to stay after the other guests have left. Nick immediately notices that his neighbor’s eyes look tired and that his face is drawn tight. He is the picture of misery. Gatsby tells Nick that Daisy did not enjoy the party, that she does not understand him, and that he feels far away from her. (Ironically, he felt very close to her when she was still only a dream represented by the green light.) What he wants is for Daisy to tell Tom that she never loved him and to free herself to marry Gatsby. He wants to erase the last five years and recreate everything with Daisy as before. Gatsby, however, is beginning to sense this may never happen. In his misery over that knowledge, he paces up and down “a desolate path of fruit rinds and discarded favors and crushed flowers.” Nick tries to warn his neighbor that it is difficult to repeat the past, but Gatsby fools himself into believing that through his wealth he can make everything right with Daisy.


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