The Great Gatsby

Gatsby, tom and daisy at Plaza hotel

In the scene at the Plaza hotel, gatsby tells tom that daisy never loved him. Tom questions her and she contradicts what gatsby said. What does this conversation reveal about these 3 characters?

Asked by
Last updated by jill d #170087
Answers 1
Add Yours

Gatsby is profoundly changed by his reunion with Daisy: he ceases to throw his lavish parties and, for the first time, shows concern for his public reputation. In the past, Gatsby has simply ignored the vicious rumors circulating about him; for Daisy's sake, however, he must now exercise some discretion.

Daisy, by contrast, is extremely indiscreet with regard to her romance with Gatsby. Inviting Gatsby to lunch with her husband would be a bold, foolish move under any circumstances. When one takes Tom's snobbery and intense suspiciousness into account, Daisy's decision seems to border on madness. Tom is profoundly insecure, obsessed with both his own inevitable downfall and the downfall of civilization itself. It is important to recognize that, for Tom, they are one and the same. He believes that, as a wealthy white male aristocrat, he is Western civilization's greatest achievement. This odious mindset is borne out by his choice of reading material, which views the end of the world and interracial marriage as being equally catastrophic.

The confrontation between Gatsby and Tom serves to reveal the major flaws and motivations of both characters. For Tom, the affair between Gatsby and Daisy is evidence of the decline of civilization; he seems less disturbed by his wife's infidelity than by the fact that she is involved with a man of an inferior social class. Tom's gross misogyny and hypocrisy assert themselves with a vengeance. He obviously does not regard his affair with the even lower-class Myrtle Wilson in the same apocalyptic light. As Nick remarks, Tom moves "from libertine to prig" when it suits his needs.

Tom uses the fact of Gatsby's criminal activity to humiliate him before Daisy. Tom, for all his crudeness, possesses a subtle knowledge of his wife: he realizes that Daisy's innate snobbery is ultimately identical with his own. She would never desert her aristocratic husband for "a common bootlegger," regardless of the love she felt for the bootlegger in question. Daisy refuses to submit to Gatsby's pleas, and will not say that she has never loved Tom. Gatsby is ultimately unable to recapture his idyllic past; the past, the future, and Daisy herself ultimately belong to Tom.

The distinction between "old" and "new" money is crucial in this chapter. While Gatsby earned his fortune, Daisy is an aristocrat, a woman for whom wealth and privilege were available at birth. As Gatsby himself remarks, even her voice is "full of money." This is what he loves in Daisy's voice, and in Daisy herself: for Gatsby, Daisy represents the wealth and elegance for which he has yearned all his life. Gatsby thus loses Daisy for the same reason that he adores her: her patrician arrogance.

The introduction of Daisy's daughter provides incontestable proof of Gatsby's inability to annul the passage of time. He does not believe in the child's existence until actually confronted with her; even then, he regards her with shock and bewilderment. Daisy, for her part, seems scarcely to regard the girl as real: she coos over her as though she were a doll, and seems to leave her almost entirely in the care of a nanny. The selfish and immature Daisy is essentially a child herself, and is in no position to be a mother.

Daisy remains characteristically passive throughout Chapter VII; she is only a spectator to the argument between Gatsby and Tom. Her weakness is particularly important during this confrontation. Tom and Gatsby fight over who can possess Daisy and provide for her. Gatsby, tellingly, does not say that Daisy is leaving Tom, but that Tom is "not going to take care of her anymore"; both men regard her as being incapable of independent action.

Daisy's carelessness and stupidity eventually lead to the death of Myrtle Wilson, and Gatsby is forced to leave the scene of the accident and to hide the fatal car simply to protect Daisy's fragile nerves. His decision to take responsibility for Myrtle's death reveals that his love for Daisy is unassailable; her cruelty has changed and will change nothing. Gatsby, despite his criminal activities, remains essentially noble: he is willing to sacrifice himself for the woman he loves.