Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | MonkeyNotes
THE NOVEL - CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Chapter VII joins all the major characters and geographical locations of the novel together in a final catastrophe. In terms of the action, it is the most important chapter in the novel.
Now that Gatsby has won Daisy, he has called off his parties, fired his servants, and replaced them with friends of Meyer Wolfsheim. His dealings with Wolfsheim reinforce our fears about what he is doing to make his money. His retreat from a glittering nightlife shows us how far his obsession with Daisy has gone. He has dismissed his servants because Daisy has been coming to his house in the afternoons, and he doesn't want anyone around who will gossip. The only reason he gave parties was in the wild hope that Daisy, would come-and now she is his.
NOTE: THE WEATHER
Fitzgerald carefully orchestrates the weather throughout the novel. The showdown between Tom and Gatsby, for instance, takes place on the hottest day of the summer. The late August heat is oppressive. There is nothing comforting about nature in this modern wasteland; the sun is more a burden than a nourisher of life.
On the appointed day, Nick arrives for lunch at Tom and Daisy's house. Gatsby is there; so is Jordan Baker. All the major figures are together if this were the final scene in a Shakespearean tragedy. The nurse brings in the Buchanans' daughter. Gatsby is stunned; he had never quite believed the child existed until this moment. Drinks are served, and everyone tries to be well mannered, avoiding the issue at hand. But Daisy and Gatsby cannot conceal their love for one another, and Tom sees it.
Daisy has suggested that they go to New York for the afternoon, and Tom now takes her up on it. Notice that they choose New York for the confrontation to come-the same setting that Fitzgerald used for the drunken party in Chapter II. There are close parallels between the two parties, not only in the way the characters behave at them, but in the fact that they have to pass through the valley of ashes to get there.
Jordan, Tom, and Nick ride together in Gatsby's car and stop at Wilson's garage to buy gas. Daisy and Gatsby drive by in Tom's blue coupe, unnoticed by Myrtle Wilson. What Myrtle does notice from her upstairs window is her lover Tom Buchanan, sitting in the yellow Rolls Royce with Jordan. Jordan she takes for Daisy.
The whole scene at Wilson's garage has an eerie, mythic quality, as though it were set in a world of its own. Wilson, described literally as "green," has discovered that his wife has been having an affair, but he doesn't know with whom. Myrtle thinks her husband knows it's, Tom and watches, "terrified," from the window. Nick realizes that Wilson and Tom are in identical positions-both having just learned that their wives are unfaithful. Wilson wants to take Myrtle away-out West-and Tom begins to feel his whole world collapsing. Over all this, the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg "kept their vigil." The eyes seem to mock these characters' feeble attempts to hide from the truth. The eyes alone seem to see the corruption and the decadence beneath the gorgeous facade.
The yellow Rolls catches up with the blue coupe, and they decide to engage a suite at the Plaza Hotel. It's four o'clock in the afternoon and the heat is overwhelming. Tom, his ego battered by the day's events, mocks Gatsby for calling people "old sport," insinuating that Gatsby never went to Oxford. Gatsby, in a response that delights Nick, simply tells the truth. He attended Oxford for five months after the war through an opportunity offered to some of the officers. Unwilling to let Gatsby get the upper hand, Tom asks him point blank what his intentions are towards Daisy and starts attacking Gatsby about his parties and his life-style. Gatsby, pushed into a corner, responds, "'Your wife doesn't love you. She's never loved you. She loves me.'"
The two men go after each other, begging Daisy to support them. Gatsby wants Daisy to say she never loved Tom, never in all the years of their marriage. It is this effort to deny the past-to shape the world according to his dream-that brings about Gatsby's downfall. Tom admits he has been less than an ideal husband, but points out "'Why-there're things between Daisy and me that you'll never know, things that neither of us can ever forget.'" Daisy has tried up to this point to support Gatsby, but now she finds herself turning to Tom. Now that Gatsby's dream has been pierced, Tom finds it easy to tear it to pieces. He has done some investigating of Gatsby's activities and has evidence about his "drug-store" fronts for bootlegging operations. With each thrust, Gatsby's parries become weaker and weaker, and we can feel Daisy slipping slowly but quietly back into the protective camp of her husband. A romantic dream is worth less to her than the security of a husband, unfaithful though he may be. For Gatsby there is nothing left but "the dead dream," which sustains him like a ghostly spirit that fights on after the body is dead. The party is over. Tom has won. He is confident enough to send Gatsby and Daisy home together in Gatsby's yellow car; Gatsby can do no more harm to him. When they leave, Nick realizes that today is his thirtieth birthday.
NOTE: NICK'S THIRTIETH BIRTHDAY
Nick's birthday, like the green light and the eyes of Dr. Eckleburg, is one of those symbols that gives the novel's action a deeper meaning. While we identify emotionally with Gatsby, this is Nick's novel too, and his birthday reminds us that it is a novel about Nick's growing up. He came to New York, naive and inexperienced, having learned about life through books. The summer's events have taught him about life in a way that no book ever could-just as the years on Dan Cody's yacht educated Gatsby. The final phase of his education is learning about death, and death is just around the corner.
Fitzgerald lets us think about death before we know the victim. The suspense works nicely; for a short time we know neither who is dead nor how the person died. Michaelis, the young Greek who runs the all-night restaurant next door to Wilson's garage, tells the story as he experienced it: Myrtle Wilson, who had been locked indoors for most of the day by her husband, had rushed out into the street shortly after seven, frantically waving her arms, only to be struck by a car coming from New York. The car had paused for a moment and then driven on into the night. We are not told whose car it was, but we can guess. Nick, piecing events together from Michaelis' and newspaper accounts, pictures Myrtle Wilson kneeling in the road, her mouth wide open, her "Left breast swinging loose like a flap." He wants to emphasize her extraordinary vitality at the moment of her death and the desperate agony with which she tries to hold on to life.
When Tom arrives with Nick and Jordan, his first thought is that Wilson will remember the yellow car from that afternoon. His second thought is that Gatsby was the driver. Tom has his dreams, small as they may be, and he could never let himself believe that Daisy might have been at the wheel.
As for Nick, he has had enough of all of these Easterners. When he arrives with the others at Tom's house, he remains outside. Suddenly, Gatsby calls to him from the bushes. He had been waiting for them to get back, afraid that Tom might do something harmful to Daisy. Gatsby tells Nick that Daisy was driving and that he has decided to take the blame for her. What other decision was possible by a man so deeply in love? He is still afraid to leave and sends Nick to check on Daisy. Nick looks in a window and sees Daisy and Tom sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table, eating cold fried chicken and talking. It is an ordinary domestic scene in sharp contrast to the drama that surrounds them. They aren't happy, but they are not unhappy either. Nick realizes that they have accepted each other again and that Gatsby has lost Daisy irrevocably. She has returned to the protection of Tom's money and influence. He will take care of her and get her through the crisis. Nick goes home and leaves Gatsby "standing there in the moonlight-watching over nothing."
The dream is over.