The Great Gatsby Chapter Eight
Summary l Nick has a sleepless night. He visits Gatsby, who tells him about the past, and the nature of his love for Daisy. l George Wilson, desperate in his grief, kills Gatsby and then shoots himself.
The Attraction to Daisy Gatsby is desperate to talk about how the love affair between himself and Daisy came about. By talking about her, Gatsby seems to wish to prolong the Dream, even though he should know by now it is lost.
Nick and Gatsby l Why do you think Nick says the following and what does it tell you about his feelings towards Gatsby? : “They’re a rotten crowd…you’re worth the whole damn bunch put together. ” “I’ve always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him. . . ”
Nick and Gatsby l Nick sees Gatsby as a man of vision and ideals. He is someone to be admired above the trivial selfishness of others. l Nick observes that in his disillusionment Gatsby ‘must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream’. There is a verbal echo here of Nick’s earlier remark that after the war the Midwest was no longer for him ’the warm centre of the world’. l There is a shared experience of displacement (not belonging), which draws the men together.
Gatsby’s Epiphany and Death In order to truly fulfil the role of tragic hero, Gatsby needed to have an epiphany – a moment of total clarity in which he finds enlightenment and accepts his flaw.
Gatsby’s Epiphany and Death l In his time in the pool, Gatsby is ‘cleansed; of the sins of materialism and has a moment of true realisation. He waits for Daisy’s telephone call until 4 o’clock, the time of his death. l He clings to the very last to the idea that Daisy will somehow want him but Nick believes that Gatsby finally realised the truth at the bitter end before his death.
The Attraction to Daisy l In Gatsby’s narrative, at least we begin to understand his obsession for her. She represents wealth and privilege and we know that Gatsby has long idolized materialism. Daisy, is for Gatsby the physical embodiment of this. Her voice represents the spiritual side of materialism, the very essence of his dream. However, by investing such enormous power in Daisy, Gatsby’s dream is reduced to a mere motivation for material gain.
The Attraction to Daisy l The first thing that attracted Gatsby was Daisy’s wealth – her house in particular (‘there was a ripe mystery about it’). This removes the idea that he was attracted to Daisy in herself. He was – and still is – attracted to the ‘money’ in her. l He liked the fact that she had been enjoyed by other men when he first met her – ‘It increased her value in his eyes’. Note his early tendency to treat her like an object. He conceives of her as almost a piece of property. Do we admire this quality in him? l Gatsby never intended to fall in love with Daisy. He had initially intended to ‘take what he could and go’. His intentions at the start were not noble.
The Attraction to Daisy l He was a ‘penniless man without a past’ when he first met her. In the course of the novel, we find that not matter how well Gatsby can fix the first fault, he cannot fix the second. The affair was doomed from the beginning. l Gatsby was clearly guilty of DUPLICITY in his initial affair with Daisy: He had certainly taken her under false pretences… he had deliberately given Daisy a false sense of security he let her believe that he was a person from the same social strata as herself – that he was fully able to take care of her. Can we really blame Daisy for the breakdown of the affair?
Gatsby l The idea of the pursuit of Daisy is not really the pursuit of an ordinary woman, but a DREAM – the American Dream of prosperity and self-improvement. By seeking out Daisy, Gatsby seeks out a spiritual dream. By pursuing the ‘spiritual’ beauty of what Daisy represents by having the idealism to dedicate himself to something that is beyond him, Gatsby renews our faith in human nature. He reminds us of our capacity to hope.
Nick and Gatsby Nick notes: “Gatsby was overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor. ” This is an extremely important quotation which highlights not only the unfairness of the class system in America but also the limitations that even enormous wealth can bring. This is directly linked to the main theme of the novel. Look at the use of the word “imprisons” – isn’t it ironic that it is the wealthy, rather than the poor who are not free. Again there is a suggestion that the “hot struggles of the poor” is an almost noble pursuit, something empowering, perhaps because it mirrors the early exhausting and back-breaking work of the original pioneers.
Pathetic Fallacy l The heat (remember chapter 7) – just like Daisy’s passion for Gatsby – has cooled. The fire in Gatsby’s life has been extinguished and Autumn is inexorably approaching. Gatsby’s insistence on swimming in the pool is an overt attempt to turn back time. His downfall comes as a direct result from his stark refusal to accept what he cannot – the passage of time.
The Eyes of Doctor T J Eckleburg l In Wilson’s confused grief, the eyes briefly, and disturbingly, represent the eyes of God, goading him to tale revenge for Myrtle’s death – ‘God sees everything’. Of course if materialism is the new religion, the advertising billboard does by extension symbolise God. The eyes are ambiguous, but ultimately they look down on a world devoid of meaning, value and beauty – a world where dreams are exposed as illusions, and cruel, undeserving men triumph at the expense of dreamers like Wilson and Gatsby.
Gatsby’s Epiphany and Death Gatsby’s epiphany is deliberately ambiguous, but Nick at least provides this vicariously when he says that Gatsby must have realized what a grotesque thing a rose is: Perhaps he no longer cared… he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world… he must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely cut grass. Nick suggests that roses aren’t inherently beautiful, and that people choose to view them that way. Daisy is grotesque in the same way – it is only because Gatsby has invested her with beauty and meaning by making her the object of his dream. It is Gatsby then who has increased Daisy’s value and importance – without him she would merely be yet another bored, idle, rich young women with no moral strength.
Gatsby’s Epiphany and Death Gatsby realises that his dream has been corrupt and full of horror. He realises he has been living in: A new world, material without being real , where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about… like that ashen, fantastic figure gliding towards him through the amorphous trees. As Wilson the ghost glides towards him, he sees the reality of the world of the ashes to which Wilson belongs. The ‘new world’ Gatsby has craved is a valley of ashes, unreal and full of pain. In the moments before his death, Nick imagines that Gatsby has realised the emptiness of his dream: the hollowness of Daisy and the horror of the material world.
Central Tragedy l The central tragedy of the book is that the best characters – the ones born into poverty and who love idealistically – are cut down by the relentless oppression and selfishness of the rich.
Pick an essay question to attempt over the holidays. l Choose a novel or short story in which a central character’s failure to understand the reality of his or her situation is an important feature of the text. Explain how the writer makes you aware of this failure and show it is important to your appreciation of the text as a whole. l Choose a novel, set in a time different from your own, with a theme relevant to the world today. Show you are lead to an appreciation of theme’s continuing relevance, despite its setting in time. l Choose a novel or short story which you feel has a particularly well-chosen title. Explain why you think the title helps you to appreciate the central idea(s) of the text. l Choose a novel in which a key incident involves rejection or disappointment or loss. Describe briefly the key incident and assess its significance to the text as a whole. Remember to create strong topic sentences, and analyse your quotes in terms of setting, characterization, symbolism and techniques used. Key incidents- the argument ( Daisy finding out about Gatsby’s bootlegging), Myrtle’s death, Gatsby and Daisy meeting… Themes- Illusion vs reality, The American Dream, Love, Greed… ‘The Great Gatsby’- was he great? Show name- all theatre?