Study Guide for The Great Gatsby

By F. Scott Fitzgerald

Chapter 7 (119-154)

At the outset of this chapter, which portrays the catastrophe that ends Gatsby and Daisy's relationship, Nick declares that "[Gatsby's] career as Trimalchio was over". (Trimalchio was a character from a Roman poem entitled The Satyricon by Petronius (excerpt) who typified the parvenu or newly rich freedman who tries and fails to gain acceptance within Roman noble society by lavishing money on hedonistic banquets.) 

Why is Gatsby's party over?

Party#6: Lunch at Daisy and Tom's (120-127)

What is the weather like on this August afternoon?

Notice how Fitzgerald recalls the details of the earlier dinner at the Buchanan's in this scene: The women, once again, are prostrate from the heat and lying on the couch complaining of boredom, Tom, once again, is arguing with a Wilson on the phone; Daisy's daughter is getting ignored; and Nick is sitting there uneasily bearing witness to it all. Only the presence of Gatsby indicates a change. 

What is Fitzgerald up to?

After lunch, how does Daisy bring into the open for Tom the fact that she and Gatsby are having an affair? Is she trying to break up her marriage or is this payback time for Tom? (125)

While they are waiting in the driveway, Nick wonders about just what is so fascinating about Daisy's 'indiscreet voice', and Gatsby says, "Her voice is full of money," (127) and Tom agrees. What do you make of Gatsby's insight? Has he realized that his hopes are empty, or is he complimenting Daisy?

The Drive to Town (127- 132)

While Tom drives Nick and Jordan in Gatsby's car, stewing over the fact that he now knows that Daisy is cheating on him, he pulls into Wilson's gas station. We discover that Wilson has just found out that Myrtle has been cheating on him, but he does not know with whom. 

How is Wilson behaving differently from Tom? (They are both in similar situations.)
 

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. (130-31)

Nick realizes that Myrtle is watching the scene from her second floor bedroom, beneath the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. For whom has she mistaken Jordan?  (131) 

What is Fitzgerald up to? Is Fate at work? Is the coming catastrophe inevitable? 

The Confrontation in the Suite at the Plaza Hotel (133-142)

Stifling heat, mint juleps, and patter about Blocks Biloxi from Biloxi ensues. Finally, Tom confronts Gatsby about his supposed Oxford background and then openly confronts him about the affair, in his own inimitable fashion:

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." (137)

What is it that Tom finds most offensive about Daisy's infidelity?

Gatsby responds by declaring that Daisy has never loved him throughout their whole marriage. How does Daisy respond? Whom does she really love?

Does Gatsby understand when Daisy tells him:

"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. (140)

Tom then plays his ace: he tells Daisy about how Gatsby has made his money. What is Gatsby's business with Meyer Wolfsheim? How does Daisy take the news? (142)

 
... 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. (142)

The Death of Myrtle (143-153)

How is Myrtle killed? Who runs over her? Why did she run out into the world? Note the description of her dead body:

...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.  (145)

Despite the objections of his editor, Fitzgerald has insisted that this horrifying detail be included in the final draft of the novel. Why?

Two different movie versions of this scene. (2013) (1974

Paragraph: Unpack the meaning of the action's catastrophe. Consider the details: the heat, the reprise of details from earlier in the novel, Gatsby and Tom's confrontation, and the mistaken identities which lead to Myrtle's death. All the strands of the novel come together. Was the action fated to end in this way? How does the scene relate to Fitzgerald's overall intention in the novel?