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


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One Saturday night Nick notices that the lights do not go on at Gatsby’s. Worried about his neighbor, he goes over to check on his well-being and is greeted by a rude servant he does not know. Nick inquires if Gatsby is sick; the servant says no and slams the door in his face. Later Nick learns that Gatsby has dismissed his whole staff and replaced them with some of Meyer Wolsheim’s people. Since Daisy frequently comes to Gatsby’s house, he wants to prevent any gossip. Additionally, since Daisy now visits him , he no longer has need to give his lavish parties. “His career as Trimalchio was over.”

Gatsby calls Nick the next day and invites him to lunch at Daisy’s house the following day. Daisy calls to confirm that he is coming. Nick has a feeling that “something was up.” The day of the luncheon is miserably hot, almost the last day of summer. When Gatsby and Nick arrive at the Buchanan’s, Daisy and Jordan, in their typical white dresses, lay upon an enormous couch, like silver idols. Tom is on the phone arguing with Wilson about selling him an automobile. Daisy gets up, gives Gatsby a kiss on the mouth, and tells him she loves him. She also orders Jordan to kiss Nick.

Daisy’s daughter, Pammy, is then brought into the room by her nurse. Her mother calls her “blessed precious” and “absolute little dream” and shows her off to the guests, like a toy or plaything. It is obvious that Daisy is incapable of sustained or true maternal emotion. Gatsby, however, cannot take his eyes off the child, as if he cannot believe that she really exists. As the little girl is led out again, Tom comes in carrying cold gin rickeys for everyone. He then leads Gatsby and Nick out to the veranda in order to show them the place. Gatsby proudly points out his own home directly across the bay.

The group has lunch in the dining room, darkened against the heat. Daisy moans about her boredom and asks, “What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon and the day after that and the next thirty years?” She then complains about the heat and says it makes her feel confused. She demands to go into town and looks to Gatsby for approval. Gatsby stares back at her with adoration. Tom sees the look and is astounded to realize that something is obviously going on between Daisy and Gatsby. Upset by his realization, Tom tries to organize everyone for the trip into town. Daisy and Jordan go upstairs to get ready. When Daisy calls down to tell Tom to bring something up for her to drink, Gatsby remarks that her voice is full of money. Nick agrees and thinks “that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it. He then thinks of Daisy as the golden girl in her white palace. Appropriately, when Daisy and Jordan emerge, they are wearing golden hats above their white dresses.

Tom insists that he drive Gatsby’s car into town, while Gatsby take his coupe. Gatsby does not like the idea, but agrees to it. Tom pushes Daisy towards Gatsby’s car, calling it a circus wagon. Daisy resists going with Tom and announces she will ride with Gatsby. Tom is ready to explode with anger. Once inside the car, he blurts out to Nick and Jordan that he knows what is going on with Gatsby and claims that he has been making an investigation into his past. Jordan tells Tom not to be such a snob.

Nick, Jordan, and Tom grow irritable in the heat of the car. Just as they pass the faded eyes of T.J. Eckelberg, the cautious Nick reminds Tom that he needs gas. Tom impatiently pulls into Wilson’s service station. When the owner emerges, looking pale and green, he explains he is not well and apologizes for having called Tom. He says that he needs money so he and Myrtle can move to the West, suggesting that he has finally realized that Myrtle is having an affair. Tom is suddenly in a real panic. Within a matter of hours, he has learned that both his wife and his mistress are slipping away from him. Myrtle is also in a panic. She has been watching the scene below from an upstairs window. She spies Jordan and assumes that she is Tom’s wife. Her eyes flash with jealous terror.

Tom pulls away from Wilson’s garage and steps on the accelerator, hoping to catch up to Gatsby and Daisy. When he pulls up beside them, they all decide to meet in front of the Plaza Hotel, where they will rent a suite for the afternoon. Once in the room, Tom is still upset and is impatient with everyone. He tells Daisy and Jordan to stop complaining about the heat, and he challenges Gatsby about being an Oxford man. Gatsby explains that he was there for five months, in 1919, after the war. Tom then asks him, “What kind of a row are you trying to cause in my house?” Daisy comes to Gatsby’s defense and tells her husband that it is he that is causing a row. She tells him to have some self-control. Tom is incredulous at her audacity and says, “I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. . .next they’ll have intermarriage between black and white.” Gatsby attempts to answer Tom, but Daisy, not wanting a scene, interrupts and begs to go home. Tom will not let it drop and presses Gatsby, who tells Tom, “Your wife doesn’t love you. She’s never loved you. She loves me. . .She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terrible mistake.” Tom argues and says that sometimes Daisy has foolish ideas and does not know what she is doing. He adds that he loves Daisy; “once in a while, I go off on a spree and make a fool of myself, but I always come back, and in my heart I love her all the time.” Daisy interrupts to tell Tom that he is “revolting.” When Gatsby insists, she also says that she does not love Tom and has never loved him. When Tom reminds her of past memories, she tells Gatsby that she did love Tom in the past. She adds, “I love you now - isn’t that enough.”

Gatsby tells Tom that Daisy is going to leave him. Tom shouts, “She’s not leaving me. . certainly not for a common swindler.” Tom then questions Gatsby about his business and discloses to everyone that the man is involved in bootlegging and other illegal acts. Daisy stands between the two men, looking terrified. Gatsby’s expression looks like he had just “killed a man.” Gatsby tries to defend himself to Daisy, but she merely draws further and further into herself. Gatsby knows he is losing her - - that his dream is vanishing. At the same time, Tom knows he has won the battle and will never lose Daisy. Therefore, he feels comfortable in sending Daisy and Gatsby off together in Gatsby’s yellow car. He has nothing to fear; Daisy will always belong to him.

Nick suddenly remembers it is his thirtieth birthday. A new decade stretches before him; he feels it will be one filled with loneliness. He also thinks of thinning hair and a thinning list of single men to know. He notices that it is seven o’clock when he and Jordan get in the car with Tom. Nick says that Tom talks incessantly, as “we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.

Nick interrupts his narrative to give the details surrounding the accident. Michaelis, the young Greek who runs the coffee shop near the ashheaps, goes over to see Wilson around five o’clock. He finds his friend pale and shaking all over; he tries unsuccessfully to convince Wilson to go to bed. When Michaelis hears a loud noise from upstairs, Wilson explains that he has locked up his wife. He wants to make certain that she does not try and run away before they move from the Valley of Ashes in two days. Michaelis is shocked at Wilson’s words, for he is normally a mild, colorless man.

Michaelis leaves the garage to return to his restaurant, promising Wilson to come back and check on him later. Then a little after seven o’clock, he comes outside and hears Myrtle screaming at her husband: “Beat me! Throw me down and beat me, you dirty little coward!” She then runs out the door of the garage waving her hands. When the “death car” hit her, it did not stop. It happened so quickly that Michaelis was not even sure of the color of the automobile. He and a passerby are the first to reach Myrtle’s body. It is immediately obvious that she is dead. Her mouth is wide open “ripped at the corners as though she had choked a little in giving up the tremendous vitality she had stored for so long.”

When Tom, Nick, and Daisy approach the Valley of Ashes, a crowd has already gathered around the site of the accident. Tom decides to stop and see what is going on. When Nick emerges from the car, he hears a constant wailing sound coming from the garage. When Tom peers inside the garage, he makes a harsh sound and shoves his way through the crowd. Nick and Jordan follow Tom inside, where Myrtle’s body, wrapped in a blanket, is laying on a work table. Wilson is in his office staring down at the lifeless form and moaning, “O my Gao-od!” over and over. Tom, with a dazed look and glazed eyes, is bending over Myrtle’s body.

When Tom asks a policeman what has happened, the officer replies, “Auto hit her. Ins’antly killed. . .She ran out ina road. Son-of-a-bitch didn’t even stopus car.” Michaelis adds there were really two cars, one coming in each direction. The one coming from New York is the one that hit her. A Negro man steps forward and says that is was a big, new, yellow car. He did not see the accident, but passed the yellow car speeding away. From above, Wilson yells, “I know what kind of car it was!” Tom walks over to him and tells Wilson that he has to pull himself together. He then explains that the yellow car he was driving earlier in the day does not belong to him.

Tom physically picks up Wilson and carries him back to his office, putting him in a chair. He then orders two men to come and watch him. He then tells Nick and Jordan it is time for them to leave. As Tom drives away from the death scene and the Valley of Ashes, he moans, “The God Damn coward! . . . He didn’t even stop his car.” He obviously knows that the driver was Gatsby.

When they arrive at the Buchanan’s, Tom is relieved to see that Daisy is home. He tells Nick and Jordan to come inside and have the help prepare them some dinner. Nick, feeling a little sick about the events of the day, refuses to go inside, saying to himself, “I’d had enough of all of them for one day.” As he walks down the driveway to wait for his taxi, Gatsby steps out from the bushes and asks if Nick has seen the scene of the accident and if the woman was killed. When Nick answers affirmatively, Gatsby explains that he drove to West Egg by a side road and put the car in his garage and came to Daisy’s in a taxi. He hopes that no one has spotted the car. Suddenly Nick realizes that Gatsby was not driving the car; it was Daisy who hit Myrtle and kept going. Gatsby admits the truth and adds, “But of course I’ll say I was driving.”

Gatsby then explains what happened. A woman rushed out at the car, as if she wanted to speak to them. Daisy tried to swerve away from her, but there was a car coming from the other direction. As a result, she jerked the wheel back and hit the woman. Gatsby tried to make Daisy stop, but she stepped on the gas instead. Gatsby finally pulled on the emergency brake; when the car came to a stop, he got into the driver’s seat. After hiding the yellow car in his garage, they took a taxi. He is hiding in the bushes to make certain that Tom does not do anything cruel to her. Nick answers, “He won’t touch her. He’s not thinking about Daisy.” But he tells Gatsby he will go up to the house to make certain that nothing is going on.

When Nick peers into the window, he sees Daisy and Tom “sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table with a plate of cold fried chicken between them and two bottles of ale. They weren’t happy. . .and yet they weren’t unhappy either. There was an unmistakable air of natural intimacy about the picture and anybody would have said that they were conspiring together.” Shocked at the sight, Nick crosses the porch where he had dined with the Buchanan’s for the first time -- only three months before. He finds Gatsby in the same place, tells him that all is quiet at the house, and suggests that he goes home. Gatsby insists upon keeping his vigil until he is certain that Daisy is safely in bed. Nick walks away, leaving Gatsby standing in the moonlight, “watching over nothing.”


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The Great Gatsby Study Guide-Free BookNotes Plot Summary
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