Chapter 7 marks the climax of The Great Gatsby. Twice as long as every other chapter, it first ratchets up the tension of the Gatsby-Daisy-Tom triangle to a breaking point in a claustrophobic scene at the Plaza Hotel, and then ends with the grizzly gut punch of Myrtle’s death.
Read our full summary of The Great Gatsby Chapter 7 to see how all dreams die, only to be replaced with a grim and cynical reality.
Image: Helmut Ellgaard/Wikipedia
Quick Note on Our Citations
Our citation format in this guide is (chapter.paragraph). We're using this system since there are many editions of Gatsby, so using page numbers would only work for students with our copy of the book.
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The Great Gatsby: Chapter 7 Summary
Suddenly one Saturday, Gatsby doesn't throw a party. When Nick comes over to see why, Gatsby has a new butler who rudely sends Nick away.
It turns out that Gatsby has replaced all of his servants with ones sent over by Wolfshiem. Gatsby explains that this is because Daisy comes over every afternoon to continue their affair—he needs them to be discreet.
Gatsby invites Nick to Daisy's house for lunch. The plan is for Daisy and Gatsby to tell Tom about their relationship, and for Daisy to leave Tom.
The next day it is extremely hot. Nick and Gatsby show up to have lunch with Daisy, Jordan, and Tom. Tom is on the phone, seemingly arguing with someone about the car. Daisy assumes that he is only pretending, and that he is actually talking to Myrtle.
While Tom is out of the room, Daisy kisses Gatsby on the mouth.
The nanny brings Tom and Daisy's daughter into the room and Gatsby is shocked to realize that the child actually exists and is real.
Tom and Gatsby go outside, and Gatsby points out that it's his house is directly across the bay from theirs. Everyone is restless and nervous.
From the way Daisy looks at and talks to Gatsby, Tom suddenly figures out that she and Gatsby are having an affair.
Daisy asks to go into Manhattan and Tom agrees, insisting that they go immediately. He gets a bottle of whiskey to bring with them. There is a short, but crucial, argument about who will take which car. In the end, Tom takes Nick and Jordan in Gatsby's car while Gatsby takes Daisy in Tom's car.
On the drive, Tom explains to Nick and Jordan that he's been investigating Gatsby, which Jordan laughs off. They stop for gas at Wilson's gas station. Tom shows off Gatsby's car, pretending it's his own. Wilson complains about being sick and again asks for Tom’s car because he needs money fast (the assumption is that he will resell it at a profit).
Wilson explains the he's figured out that Myrtle is cheating on him, so he's taking her the way from New York to a different state. Glad that Wilson hasn't figured out who Myrtle is having the affair with, Tom says that he will sell Wilson his car as he promised. As they drive off, Nick sees Myrtle in an upstairs window staring at Tom and Jordan, whom she assumes to be his wife. (It’s critical to realize that Myrtle now also associates Tom with this yellow car.)
It's still crazy hot when they get to Manhattan. Jordan suggests going to the movies, but they end up getting a suite at the Plaza Hotel. The hotel room is stifling, and they can hear the sounds of a wedding going on downstairs.
The conversation is tense. Tom starts picking at Gatsby, but Daisy defends him. Tom accuses Gatsby of not actually being an Oxford man. Gatsby explains that he only went to Oxford for a short time because of a special program for officers after the war. This plausible-sounding explanation fills Nick with confidence about Gatsby.
Suddenly Gatsby decides to tell Tom his version of the truth—that Daisy never loved Tom but has always only loved Gatsby. Tom calls Gatsby crazy and says that of course Daisy loves him—and that he loves her too even if he does cheat on her all the time.
Gatsby demands that Daisy tell Tom that she has never loved him. Daisy can’t bring herself to do this, and instead said that she has loved them both. This crushes Gatsby.
Tom starts revealing what he knows about Gatsby from his investigation. It turns out that Gatsby's money comes from illegal sales of alcohol in drugstores, just as Tom had predicted when he first met him. Tom has a friend who tried to go into business with Gatsby and Wolfshiem. Through him, Tom knows that bootlegging is only part of the criminal activity that Gatsby is involved in.
These revelations cause Daisy to shut down, and no matter how much Gatsby tries to defend himself, she is disillusioned. She asks Tom to take her home. Tom's last power play is to tell Gatsby to take Daisy home instead, knowing that leaving them alone together now does not pose any threat to him or his marriage.
Gatsby and Daisy drive home in Gatsby’s car. Tom, Nick, and Jordan drive home together in Tom's car.
The narration now switches to Nick repeating evidence given at an inquest (a legal proceeding to gather facts surrounding a death) by Michaelis, who runs a coffee shop next to Wilson's garage.
That evening Wilson had explained to Michaelis that he had locked up Myrtle in order to keep an eye on her until they moved away in a couple of days. Michaelis was shocked to hear this, because usually Wilson was a meek man. When Michaelis left, he heard Myrtle and Wilson fighting. Then Myrtle ran out into the street toward a car coming from New York. The car hit her and drove off, and by the time Michaelis reached her on the ground, she was dead.
The narration switches back to Nick's point of view, as Tom, Nick, and Jordan are driving back from Manhattan. They pull up to the accident site. At first, Tom jokes about Wilson getting some business at last, but when he sees the situation is serious, he stops the car and runs over to Myrtle's body.
Tom asks a policeman for details of the accident. When he realizes that witnesses can identify the yellow car that hit Myrtle, he worries that Wilson, who saw him in that car earlier that afternoon, will finger him to the police. Tom grabs Wilson and tells him that the yellow car that hit Myrtle is not Tom's, and that he was only driving it before giving it back to its owner.
As they drive away from the scene, Tom sobs in the car.
Back at his house, Tom invites Nick and Jordan inside. Nick is sickened by the whole thing and turns to go. Jordan also asks Nick to come inside. When he refuses again, she goes in.
As Nick is walking away, he sees Gatsby lurking in the bushes. Nick suddenly sees him as a criminal. As they discuss what happened, Nick realizes that it was actually Daisy who was driving the car, meaning that it was Daisy who killed Myrtle. Gatsby makes it sound like she had to choose between getting into a head-on collision with another car coming the other way on the road or hitting Myrtle, and at the last second chose to hit Myrtle.
Gatsby seems to have no feelings at all about the dead woman, and instead only worries about what Daisy and how she will react. Gatsby says that he will take the blame for driving the car. Gatsby says that he is lurking in the dark to make sure that Daisy is safe from Tom, who he worries might treat her badly when he finds out what happened.
Nick goes back to the house to investigate, and sees Tom and Daisy having an intimate conspiratorial moment together in the kitchen. It's clear that once again Gatsby has fundamentally misunderstood Tom and Daisy's relationship. Nick leaves Gatsby alone.
It’s amazing how immediately suspect and creepy Gatsby becomes once Nick turns on him. Has our narrator been spinning Gatsby’s behavior from the get-go?
Key Chapter 7 Quotes
Then she remembered the heat and sat down guiltily on the couch just as a freshly laundered nurse leading a little girl came into the room.
"Bles-sed pre-cious," she crooned, holding out her arms. "Come to your own mother that loves you."
The child, relinquished by the nurse, rushed across the room and rooted shyly into her mother's dress.
"The Bles-sed pre-cious! Did mother get powder on your old yellowy hair? Stand up now, and say How-de-do."
Gatsby and I in turn leaned down and took the small reluctant hand. Afterward he kept looking at the child with surprise. I don't think he had ever really believed in its existence before. (7.48-52)
This is our first and only chance to see Daisy performing motherhood. And "performing" is the right word, since everything about Daisy's actions here rings a little false and her cutesy sing song a little bit like an act. The presence of the nurse makes it clear that, like many upper-class women of the time, Daisy does not actually do any child rearing.
At the same time, this is the exact moment when Gatsby is delusional dreams start breaking down. The shock and surprise that he experiences when he realizes that Daisy really does have a daughter with Tom show how little he has thought about the fact the Daisy has had a life of her own outside of him for the last five years. The existence of the child is proof of Daisy's separate life, and Gatsby simply cannot handle then she is not exactly as he has pictured her to be.
Finally, here we can see how Pammy is being bred for her life as a future "beautiful little fool", as Daisy put it. As Daisy’s makeup rubs onto Pammy's hair, Daisy prompts her reluctant daughter to be friendly to two strange men.
"What'll we do with ourselves this afternoon," cried Daisy, "and the day after that, and the next thirty years?"
"Don't be morbid," Jordan said. "Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."(7.74-75)
Comparing and contrasting Daisy and Jordan) is one of the most common assignments that you will get when studying this novel. This very famous quotation is a great place to start.
Daisy's attempt at a joke reveals her fundamental boredom and restlessness. Despite the fact that she has social standing, wealth, and whatever material possessions she could want, she is not happy in her endlessly monotonous and repetitive life. This existential ennui goes a long way to helping explain why she seizes on Gatsby as an escape from routine.
On the other hand, Jordan is a pragmatic and realistic person, who grabs opportunities and who sees possibilities and even repetitive cyclical moments of change. For example here, although fall and winter are most often linked to sleep and death, whereas it is spring that is usually seen as the season of rebirth, for Jordan any change brings with it the chance for reinvention and new beginnings.
"She's got an indiscreet voice," I remarked. "It's full of——"
"Her voice is full of money," he said suddenly.
That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money—that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it. . . . High in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl. . . . (7.103-106)
Here we are getting to the root of what it is really that attracts Gatsby so much to Daisy.
Nick notes that the way Daisy speaks to Gatsby is enough to reveal their relationship to Tom. Once again we see the powerful attraction of Daisy's voice. For Nick, this voice is full of "indiscretion," an interesting word that at the same time brings to mind the revelation of secrets and the disclosure of illicit sexual activity. Nick has used this word in this connotation before—when describing Myrtle in Chapter 2 he uses the word "discreet" several times to explain the precautions she takes to hide her affair with Tom.
But for Gatsby, Daisy's voice does not hold this sexy allure, as much as it does the promise of wealth, which has been his overriding ambition and goal for most of his life. To him, her voice marks her as a prize to be collected. This impression is further underscored by the fairy tale imagery that follows the connection of Daisy's voice to money. Much like princesses who is the end of fairy tales are given as a reward to plucky heroes, so too Daisy is Gatsby's winnings, an indication that he has succeeded.
"You think I'm pretty dumb, don't you?" he suggested. "Perhaps I am, but I have a—almost a second sight, sometimes, that tells me what to do. Maybe you don't believe that, but science——" (7.123)
Nick never sees Tom as anything other than a villain; however, it is interesting that only Tom immediately sees Gatsby for the fraud that he turns out to be. Almost from the get-go, Tom calls it that Gatsby's money comes from bootlegging or some other criminal activity. It is almost as though Tom's life of lies gives him special insight into detecting the lies of others.
The relentless beating heat was beginning to confuse me and I had a bad moment there before I realized that so far his suspicions hadn't alighted on Tom. He had discovered that Myrtle had some sort of life apart from him in another world and the shock had made him physically sick. I stared at him and then at Tom, who had made a parallel discovery less than an hour before—and it occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well. Wilson was so sick that he looked guilty, unforgivably guilty—as if he had just got some poor girl with child. (7.160)
You will also often be asked to compare Tom and Wilson, two characters who share some plot details in common.This passage, which explicitly contrasts these two men's reactions to finding out their wives are having affairs, is a great place to start.
- Tom’s response to Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship is to immediately do everything to display his power. He forces a trip to Manhattan, demands that Gatsby explain himself, systematically dismantles the careful image and mythology that Gatsby has created, and finally makes Gatsby drive Daisy home to demonstrate how little he has to fear from them being alone together.
- Wilson also tries to display power. But he is so unused to wielding it that his best effort is to lock Myrtle up and then to listen to her emasculating insults and provocations. Moreover, rather than relaxing under this power trip, Wilson becomes physically ill, feeling guilty both about his part in driving his wife away and about manhandling her into submission.
- Finally, it is interesting that Nick renders these reactions as health-related. Whose response does Nick view as "sick" and whose as "well"? It is tempting to connect Wilson’s bodily response to the word "sick," but the ambiguity is purposeful. Is it sicker in this situation to take a power-hungry delight in eviscerating a rival, Tom-style, or to be overcome on a psychosomatic level, like Wilson?
"Self control!" repeated Tom incredulously. "I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that's the idea you can count me out. . . . Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions and next they'll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white."
Flushed with his impassioned gibberish he saw himself standing alone on the last barrier of civilization.
"We're all white here," murmured Jordan.
"I know I'm not very popular. I don't give big parties. I suppose you've got to make your house into a pigsty in order to have any friends—in the modern world."
Angry as I was, as we all were, I was tempted to laugh whenever he opened his mouth. The transition from libertine to prig was so complete. (7.229-233)
Nick is happy whenever he gets to demonstrate how undereducated and dumb Tom actually is. Here, Tom’s anger at Daisy and Gatsby is somehow transformed into a self-pitying and faux righteous rant about miscegenation, loose morals, and the decay of stalwart institutions. We see the connection between Jordan and Nick when both of them puncture Tom’s pompous balloon: Jordan points out that race isn’t really at issue at the moment, and Nick laughs at the hypocrisy of a womanizer like Tom suddenly lamenting his wife’s lack of prim propriety.
"She never loved you, do you hear?" he cried. "She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart she never loved any one except me!" (7.241)
Gatsby throws caution to the wind and reveals the story that he has been telling himself about Daisy all this time. In his mind, Daisy has been pining for him as much as he has been longing for her, and he has been able to explain her marriage to himself simply by eliding any notion that she might have her own hopes, dreams, ambitions, and motivations. Gatsby has been propelled for the last five years by the idea that he has access to what is in Daisy's heart. However, we can see that a dream built on this kind of shifting sand is at best wishful thinking and at worst willful self-delusion.
"Daisy, that's all over now," he said earnestly. "It doesn't matter any more. Just tell him the truth—that you never loved him—and it's all wiped out forever." ...
She hesitated. Her eyes fell on Jordan and me with a sort of appeal, as though she realized at last what she was doing—and as though she had never, all along, intended doing anything at all. But it was done now. It was too late….
"Oh, you want too much!" she cried to Gatsby. "I love you now—isn't that enough? I can't help what's past." She began to sob helplessly. "I did love him once—but I loved you too."
Gatsby's eyes opened and closed.
"You loved me too?" he repeated. (7.254-266)
Gatsby wants nothing less than that Daisy erase the last five years of her life. He is unwilling to accept the idea that Daisy has had feelings for someone other than him, that she has had a history that does not involve him, and that she has not spent every single second of every day wondering when he would come back into her life. His absolutism is a form of emotional blackmail.
For all Daisy's evident weaknesses, it is a testament to her psychological strength that she is simply unwilling to recreate herself, her memories, and her emotions in Gatsby's image. She could easily at this point say that she has never loved Tom, but this would not be true, and she does not want to give up her independence of mind. Unlike Gatsby, who against all evidence to the contrary believes that you can repeat the past, Daisy wants to know that there is a future. She wants Gatsby to be the solution to her worries about each successive future day, rather than an imprecation about the choices she has made to get to this point.
At the same time, it's key to note Nick’s realization that Daisy "had never intended on doing anything at all." Daisy has never planned to leave Tom. We've known this ever since the first time we saw them at the end of Chapter 1, when he realized that they were cemented together in their dysfunction.
It passed, and he began to talk excitedly to Daisy, denying everything, defending his name against accusations that had not been made. But with every word she was drawing further and further into herself, so he gave that up and only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, undespairingly, toward that lost voice across the room. (7.292)
The appearance of Daisy's daughter and Daisy’s declaration that at some point in her life she loved Tom have both helped to crush Gatsby's obsession with his dream. In just the same way, Tom's explanations about who Gatsby really is and what is behind his facade have broken Daisy's infatuation. Take note of the language here—as Daisy is withdrawing from Gatsby, we come back to the image of Gatsby with his arms outstretched, trying to grab something that is just out of reach. In this case it's not just Daisy herself, but also his dream of being with her inside his perfect memory.
"Beat me!" he heard her cry. "Throw me down and beat me, you dirty little coward!" (7.314)
However, before we draw whatever conclusions we can about Myrtle from this exclamation, it’s worthwhile to think about the context of this remark.
- First, we are getting this speech third-hand. This is Nick telling us what Michaelis described overhearing, so Myrtle’s words have gone through a double male filter.
- Second, Myrtle’s words stand in isolation. We have no idea what Wilson has been saying to her to provoke this attack. What we do know is that however "powerless" Wilson might be, he still has power enough to imprison his wife in their house and to unilaterally uproot and move her several states away against her will. Neither Nick nor Michaelis remarks on whether either of these exercises of unilateral power over Myrtle is appropriate or fair—it is simply expected that this is what a husband can do to a wife.
So what do we make of the fact that Myrtle was trying to verbally emasculate her husband? Maybe yelling at him is her only recourse in a life where she has no actual ability to control her life or bodily integrity.
The "death car" as the newspapers called it, didn't stop; it came out of the gathering darkness, wavered tragically for a moment and then disappeared around the next bend. Michaelis wasn't even sure of its color—he told the first policeman that it was light green. The other car, the one going toward New York, came to rest a hundred yards beyond, and its driver hurried back to where Myrtle Wilson, her life violently extinguished, knelt in the road and mingled her thick, dark blood with the dust.
Michaelis and this man reached her first but when they had torn open her shirtwaist still damp with perspiration, they saw that her left breast was swinging loose like a flap and there was no need to listen for the heart beneath. The mouth was wide open and ripped at the corners as though she had choked a little in giving up the tremendous vitality she had stored so long. (7.316-317)
The stark contrast here between the oddly ghostly nature of the car that hits Myrtle and the visceral, gruesome, explicit imagery of what happens to her body after it is hit is very striking. The car almost doesn’t seem real—it comes out of the darkness like an avenging spirit and disappears, Michaelis cannot tell what color it is. Meanwhile, Myrtle’s corpse is described in detail and is palpably physical and present.
This treatment of Myrtle’s body might be one place to go when you are asked to compare Daisy and Myrtle in class. Daisy’s body is never even described, beyond a gentle indication that she prefers white dresses that are flouncy and loose. On the other hand, every time that we see Myrtle in the novel, her body is physically assaulted or appropriated. Tom initially picks her up by pressing his body inappropriately into hers on the train station platform. Before her party, Tom has sex with her while Nick (a man who is a stranger to Myrtle) waits in the next room, and then Tom ends the night by punching her in the face. Finally, she is restrained by her husband inside her house and then run over.
Daisy and Tom were sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table with a plate of cold fried chicken between them and two bottles of ale. He was talking intently across the table at her and in his earnestness his hand had fallen upon and covered her own. Once in a while she looked up at him and nodded in agreement.
They weren't happy, and neither of them had touched the chicken or the ale—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. (7.409-410)
And so, the promise that Daisy and Tom are a dysfunctional couple that somehow makes it work (Nick saw this at the end of Chapter 1) is fulfilled. For careful readers of the novel, this conclusion should have been clear from the get-go. Daisy complains about Tom, and Tom serially cheats on Daisy, but at the end of the day, they are unwilling to forgo the privileges their life entitles them to.
This moment of truth has stripped Daisy and Tom down to the basics. They are in the least showy room of their mansion, sitting with simple and unpretentious food, and they have been stripped of their veneer. Their honesty makes what they are doing—conspiring to get away with murder, basically—completely transparent. And it is the fact that they can tolerate this level of honesty in each other besides each being kind of a terrible person that keeps them together.
Compare their readiness to forgive each other anything—even murder!—with Gatsby’s insistence that it’s his way or no way.
The image of Tom and Daisy holding hands, while discussing how to flee after Daisy kills Myrtle, is the crux of their relationship. They are willing to forgive each other everything. Are they secretly the most romantic couple in the book?
The Great Gatsby Chapter 7 Analysis
It's no surprise that this very long, emotional, and shocking chapter is laced through with the themes of The Great Gatsby. Let's take a look.
Morality and Ethics. In this chapter, suspicion of crime is everywhere:
- Gatsby’s new butler has a "villainous" (7.2) face
- a woman worries that Nick is out to steal her purse on the train
- Gatsby lurks around outside the Buchanans’ mansion like "he was going to rob the house in a moment" (7.384)
- Daisy and Tom sit and conspire together at the kitchen table
This air of the illegal heightens the actual crimes that take place or are revealed in the chapter:
- Gatsby is a bootlegger (or worse)
- Daisy kills Myrtle
- Gatsby hides the car with its evidence of the accident
- Daisy and Tom decide to get away with murder
This descent into the dark side of the Wild East (contrasted with Nick's version of the calm and strictly above-board Middle West) reveals the novel’s perspective on the excesses of the time period. It is interesting that the vast majority of the crime or near crime that is described is theft—the taking of someone else’s property. The same desires that spur the ambitious to come to Manhattan to try to make something of themselves also incite those who are willing to do the kind of corner-cutting that results in criminality. Only Daisy, who is already so established that theft is unnecessary to her, takes crime to the next level.
Love, Desire, Relationships. Just as crime is everywhere, so too is illicit sexuality. However, the heat and tension seem to reverse the behavioral tendencies of the characters we have come to know over the course of six chapters.
- The usually reserved Nick wonders about his train conductor and "whose flushed lips he kissed, whose head made damp the pajama pocket over his heart" (7.23). He also makes a dirty joke about the Buchanans’ butler having to yell over the phone that he simply cannot send Tom’s body to Myrtle in this heat.
- The usually passive Daisy kisses Gatsby on the mouth in front of Nick and Jordan in a display of rebellion. Later she calls Tom out on his euphemistic description of the times he cheated on her right after their honeymoon as a "spree" (7.252), a word that just means "fun good time."
- On the other hand, the womanizing Tom primly and hypocritically rants about the downfall of morality and the possibility that people of different races will be allowed to intermarry.
- Similarly, the normally weak and ineffectual Wilson overpowers his wife enough to lock her up when he finds out about the affair she’s been having. He also feels as bad about the situation as if he had gotten a woman pregnant by accident.
- Everyone’s desire for someone who is not their spouse is underscored by the way that an ongoing wedding is continuously described as deeply unappealing throughout the chapter. Eventually, the wedding music pops up in the middle of the climactic argument like this: "From the ballroom beneath, muffled and suffocating chords were drifting up on hot waves of air" (7.261). Married life is suffocating, and these characters spend significant energies trying to break free.
Motifs: Weather. The overwhelming heat of the day plays a vital role in creating an atmosphere of stifled, sweaty, uncomfortable breathlessness. Each scene’s overwhelming tension and awkwardness are further heightened by the physical discomfort that everyone is experiencing (it’s also key to remember that being hot and slightly dehydrated elevates the level of intoxication that a person feels, these characters pour back whiskey after whiskey). The hot mugginess ratchets up anger and resentment, and also seems to elevate the recklessness with which people are willing to expose and pursue their sexual desires. So crucial is this atmospheric element, that every movie adaptation of this novel makes sure that the actors are covered in sweat during these scenes, making it almost as uncomfortable to watch them as it is to imagine making it through that day. Here’s a quick clip that shows you what I mean.
Mutability of Identity. It is fitting that just as lots of wool is removed from lots of eyes, as Gatsby is source of wealth is revealed, and as Daisy is shown not to be the fairytale figment of Gatsby’s imagination, the idea of façades, false impressions, and mistaken identity is front and center.
- First, on this blisteringly hot day, Daisy is entranced by Gatsby’s projecting an image of looking "so cool" and resembling "the advertisement of the man" (7.81-83). Gatsby’s glossy appearance is perfect but also clearly shallow and fake, like an ad.
- Later, Myrtle seethes with jealousy when she sees Tom driving next to Jordan, and assumes that Jordan is Daisy. This case of mistaken identity contributes to her death, as she assumes that Tom would be driving the same car back from the city that he took there.
- Third, Daisy and Jordan remember a man named Biloxi who talked his way into Daisy and Tom’s wedding, and then talked his way into staying at Jordan’s house for three weeks as he recuperated from a fainting spell. Their memories make clear that his entire story about himself was a sham—a sham that worked, until it didn’t, like the façades of the main characters in the story.
- Fourth, Wilson briefly assumes that Michaelis is Myrtle’s lover. His failure to understand who it is that is a really having an affair with his wife leads to the novel’s second murder.
The Treatment of Women. Also key this chapter are women characters.
First, there is the pairing of Daisy and Jordan, whose outlooks on life are confirmed to be diametrically opposed.
- Daisy is rich, overindulged, and endlessly bored with her monotonously luxurious life. She grabs on to the romance with Gatsby is a possible escape, but is soon confronted with the reality of the perfect, idealized being that he would like her to be. Daisy realizes that she prefers the safe boredom and casual betrayal of Tom to the unrealistic expectations—and thus inevitable disappointment—of being with Gatsby. Her fundamental cowardice is a better fit for Tom, as we find out after the car accident when she kills Myrtle. It’s Tom who offers her complicity, understanding, and a return to stability.
- On the other hand, Jordan is a pragmatist who sees opportunity and possibility everywhere. This makes her attractive to Nick, who likes that she is self-contained, calm, cynical, and unlikely to be overly emotional. However, this approach to life means that Jordan is basically amoral, as revealed in this chapter by her almost complete lack of reaction to Myrtle’s death, and her assumption that life at the Buchanan house will go on as normal. For Nick, who clings to his sense of himself as a deeply decent human being, this is a dealbreaker.
Next, we have the comparison between Daisy and Myrtle, two women whose marriages dissatisfy them enough that they seek out other lovers. There are many ways to compare them, but in this chapter in particular what seems important is whether each woman is able to maintain coherence and integrity.
- What Gatsby wants from Daisy is a complete erasure of her mind, history, and emotions, so that she will match his weirdly flat and idealized notion of her. By demanding that she renounce ever having had feelings for Tom, Gatsby wants to deny her fundamental sense of self-knowledge. Daisy refuses to compromise herself in this way and so is able to maintain psychological integrity.
- On the other hand, Myrtle, whose physicality has always been her most defining feature, ends up losing even the most basic integrity—bodily integrity—as her body is not only ripped open when she is hit by a car, but this mutilation is witnessed by many people and then also graphically described.
- Jordan’s cool aloofness prevents her from being trapped in the same way that Myrtle and Daisy are. Despite even her admission later that breaking up with Nick hurt her feelings, we certainly get the sense that Jordan could take him or leave him. She retains a lot of power in their relationship. For example, when Nick suddenly freaks out about turning 30, she shows him how to be "too wise ever to carry well-forgotten dreams from age to age" (7.308) and by putting her hand over his with "reassuring pressure" (7.308).
- Neither of the other two women is ever on top even in this very mild way. For example, Tom, who is used to putting his hands on people as a way of showing his power over them (in this chapter he does it to the policeman, and then to Wilson), puts his hand over Daisy’s at the end of the chapter to indicate that she is back within his circle of control. But at least Daisy’s escape attempt led her to Gatsby’s presumably gentlemanly treatment.
- The same can’t be said for Myrtle, who goes from bad to worse, as she escapes her marriage to have an affair with Tom, who feels free to beat her, and then is forced to return to her husband, who feels free to imprison and forcibly remove her from her home.
Death and Failure. Death comes in many forms, both metaphorical and horribly real. Of course, the primary death in this chapter is that of Myrtle, gruesomely killed by Daisy. But this is also the chapter where dreams come to die. Gatsby’s fantasy of Daisy undergoes a slow demise when he meets her daughter, and when he learns that she is simply unwilling to renounce her entire history with Tom for Gatsby’s sake. Similarly, any romantic ideas Daisy may have had about Gatsby vanish when she learns that he is a criminal.
New York’s Plaza Hotel, famous for being the place where Eloise lives in those kids books, and for being the setting for this novel’s scene of confrontation.
Crucial Character Beats
- Gatsby stops throwing parties at his house and instead carries on an affair with Daisy. Nick, Gatsby, Daisy, Jordan, and Tom have lunch together and decide to go to Manhattan for the day to escape the heat.
- Both Tom and Wilson realize that their wives are having affairs; however, only Tom knows who Daisy's affair is with. Wilson decides to take Myrtle to live somewhere else.
- Nick, Gatsby, Daisy, Jordan, and Tom end up in a suite at the Plaza Hotel where everything comes tumbling into the open. Gatsby and Daisy admit that they've been having an affair, Gatsby demands that Daisy tell Tom that she has never loved him. Daisy cannot do this, and Gatsby's dreams are dashed.
- Gatsby and Daisy drive home together. On the way, with Daisy driving the car, they hit and kill Myrtle, who is trying to escape being imprisoned in her house by Wilson.
- Gatsby decides to take the blame for the accident, but doesn’t quite realize that it is all over between him and Daisy.
- Daisy and Tom have an intimate moment together as they figure out what they are going to do next.
Compare the novel’s four trips into Manhattan: Nick at Myrtle’s party in Chapter 2, Nick’s description of what it’s like to be a single guy around town at the end of Chapter 3, Nick at lunch with Gatsby in Chapter 4, and insanity at the Plaza in this chapter. Does Manhattan affect the way the characters behave? Does it make them more or less likely to act out to be there? Do they feel comfortable there?
What are some of the overall themes in Gatsby? We dig into money and materialism, the American Dream, and more in our article on the most important Great Gatsby themes.
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Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.