Study Guide for The Great Gatsby

By F. Scott Fitzgerald

Chapter 5 (86-102)

When Nick comes home from his date with Jordan, he finds an eerie scene: every light is on in Gatsby's house, yet no one seems to be there.

Two o'clock and the whole corner of the peninsula was blazing with light, which fell unreal on the shrubbery and made thin elongating glints upon the roadside wires. Turning a corner, I saw that it was Gatsby's house, lit from tower to cellar.

At first I thought it was another party, a wild rout that had resolved itself into "hide-and-go-seek." or "sardines-in-the-box." with all the house thrown open to the game. But there wasn't a sound. Only wind in the trees, which blew the wires and made the lights go off and on again as if the house had winked into the darkness. (86)

Another spectacular Fitzgerald symbol. What do you make of it?

In return for setting up the tea party with Daisy, Gatsby offers Nick an inside tip on a way to make a handsome amount of money. Nick refuses. He considers it a tactless offer 'for services rendered'. In retrospect, however, Nick recognizes this moment 'might have been one of the crises of his life.'  Why was Nick in such danger?

"There's another little thing," he said uncertainly, and hesitated.

"Would you rather put it off for a few days?" I asked.

 "Oh, it isn't about that. At least----" He fumbled with a series of beginnings. "Why, I thought--why, look here, old sport, you don't make much money, do you?"

"Not very much."

This seemed to reassure him and he continued more confidently.

"I thought you didn't, if you'll pardon my--You see, I carry on a little business on the side, a sort of side line, you understand. And I thought that if you don't make very much--You're selling bonds, aren't you, old sport?"

"Trying to."

"Well, this would interest you. It wouldn't take up much of your time and you might pick up a nice bit of money. It happens to be a rather confidential sort of thing."

I realize now that under different circumstances that conversation might have been one of the crises of my life. But, because the offer was obviously and tactlessly for a service to be rendered, I had no choice except to cut him off there.

"I've got my hands full," I said. "I'm much obliged but I couldn't take on any more work."

"You wouldn't have to do any business with Wolfshiem." Evidently he thought that I was shying away from the "gonnegtion." mentioned at lunch, but I assured him he was wrong. He waited a moment longer, hoping I'd begin a conversation, but I was too absorbed to be responsive, so he went unwillingly home. (88-89)

Party #4: Tea at Nick Carroway's With Gatsby and Daisy

How does Gatsby behave on the day of his long awaited reunion with Daisy? (89-90)

Why does Gatsby suddenly leave at the moment of Daisy's arrival and then knock at the door and enter again? (91) (How long has it been since they have seen one another?)

When Gatsby and Daisy finally meet, he is so nervous that he can barely speak. (91) He nearly knocks over "a defunct mantelpiece clock". What is the meaning of Fitzgerald's symbol?

Nick ducks out and leaves the two to themselves. Outside in the rain, he looks over Gatsby's mansion. How long did it take Gatsby to make the money to buy it? (93-95)

When Nick returns, Gatsby is glowing and Daisy is in tears of joy. Triumphantly, Gatsby takes Daisy and Nick on a tour of his mansion. Note how Gatsby's emotional mood changes once he has accomplished, he believes, his long quest: (97)

He had passed visibly through two states and was entering upon a third. After his embarrassment and his unreasoning joy he was consumed with wonder at her presence. He had been full of the idea so long, dreamed it right through to the end, waited with his teeth set, so to speak, at an inconceivable pitch of intensity. Now, in the reaction, he was running down like an overwound clock. (97)

At the culminating moment of this episode, Gatsby tosses dozens of his custom-made silk shirts into the air: (97-98)

He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one, before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel, which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher--shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange, and monograms of Indian blue. Suddenly, with a strained sound, Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily.

"They're such beautiful shirts," she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. "It makes me sad because I've never seen such--such beautiful shirts before." (97-98)

Why does Daisy weep? Analyze this Fitzgerald image: how does it perfectly capture the double nature of the moment?

While Klipsinger, the boarder, plays the piano for Gatsby and Daisy, Nick notes an expression of bewilderment on Gatsby's face. What is happening to his dream? (101)

As I went over to say good-by I saw that the expression of bewilderment had come back into Gatsby's face, as though a faint doubt had occurred to him as to the quality of his present happiness. Almost five years! There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams--not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.

As I watched him he adjusted himself a little, visibly. His hand took hold of hers, and as she said something low in his ear he turned toward her with a rush of emotion. I think that voice held him most, with its fluctuating, feverish warmth, because it couldn't be over-dreamed--that voice was a deathless song. (101)

Paragraph: What happens to Gatsby moments after he has achieved his dream? Why is he bewildered?