The Great Gatsby Summary and Analysis

Chapter 5

Buy Study Guide

Chapter Five

One night, Gatsby waylays Nick and nervously asks him if he would like to take a swim in his pool. When Nick demurs, he offers him a trip to Coney Island. Nick, initially baffled by Gatsby's solicitousness, realizes that he is anxiously waiting for Nick to arrange his meeting with Daisy. Nick agrees to do so. Gatsby, almost wild with joy, responds by offering him a job, a "confidential sort of thing," and assures Nick that he will not have to work with Meyer Wolfsheim. Nick is somewhat insulted that Gatsby wishes to reimburse him for his help, and declines Gatsby's offer.

It rains on the day that Gatsby and Daisy are to meet, and Gatsby becomes extremely apprehensive. The meeting takes place at Nick's house and, initially, their conversation is stilted and awkward. They are all inexplicably embarrassed; when Gatsby clumsily knocks over a clock, Nick tells him that he's behaving like a little boy. Nick leaves the couple alone for a few minutes. When he returns, they seem luminously happy, as though they have just concluded an embrace. There are tears of happiness on Daisy's cheeks.

They make their way over to Gatsby's mansion, of which Gatsby proceeds to give them a carefully rehearsed tour. Gatsby shows Daisy newspaper clippings detailing his exploits. She is overwhelmed by them, and by the opulence of his possessions. When he shows her his vast collection of imported shirts, she begins to weep tears of joy. Nick wonders whether Gatsby is disappointed with Daisy; it seems that he has concieved of her as a goddess, and ­ though Daisy is alluring, she cannot possibly live up to so grandiose an ideal.

Gatsby has Ewing Klipspringer, a mysterious man who seems to live at his mansion, play "Ain't We Got Fun" (a popular song of the time) for himself and Daisy:

In the morning, in the evening

Ain't we got fun!

Got no money, but oh, honey

Ain't we got fun!

As Klipspringer plays, Gatsby and Daisy draw closer and closer together. Nick, realizing that his presence has become superfluous, quietly leaves.

Analysis

The exchange between Nick and Gatsby that opens this chapter highlights the uncertainty at the heart of their relationship. Is Gatsby's friendship with Nick merely expedient? Is he merely using him to draw closer to Daisy ­ or is he genuinely fond of Nick?

The question cannot be easily answered: while it becomes clear that Gatsby has great affection for Nick, it is also true that he uses money and power as leverage in all of his personal relationships. Gatsby, in his extreme insecurity about class, cannot believe that anyone would befriend him if he did not possess a mansion and make several million dollars per year. Fitzgerald seems to bitterly affirm this insecurity, given the fact that Gatsby was abandoned by Daisy because of his poverty, and remains ostracized by the East Eggers even after his success. In the world of the novel, only Nick does not make friendships based upon class.

The gross materialism of the East and West Egg areas explains the obsessive care that Gatsby takes in his reunion with Daisy. The afternoon is given over to an ostentatious display of wealth: he shows Daisy his extensive collection of British antiques and takes her on a tour of his wardrobe. Gatsby himself is dressed in gold and silver. His Gothic mansion is described as looking like the citadel of a feudal lord. Nearly everything in the house is imported from England (the scene in which Gatsby shows Daisy his stock of English shirts is one of the most famous in American literature). Fitzgerald implies that Gatsby is attempting to live the life of a European aristocrat in the New World of America. This, Fitzgerald suggests, is a misguided anachronism: America committed itself to progress and equality in abandoning the old aristocracy. To go back to such rigidly defined class distinctions would be retrograde and barbaric. This is reinforced by the fact that the major proponent of such ideas is Tom Buchanan, who is clearly a brute.

This chapter presents Gatsby as a man who cannot help but live in the past: he longs to stop time, as though he and Daisy had never been separated and as though she had never left him to marry Tom. During their meeting, Nick remarks that he is acting like "a little boy." In Daisy's presence, Gatsby loses his usual debonair manner and behaves like any awkward young man in love. Gatsby himself is regressing, as though he were still a shy young soldier in love with a privileged debutante.

Nick describes the restless Gatsby as "running down like an over-wound clock." It is significant that Gatsby, in his nervousness about whether Daisy's feelings toward him have changed, knocks over Nick's clock: this signifies both Gatsby's consuming desire to stop time and his inability to do so.

Daisy, too, ceases to play the part of a world-weary sophisticate upon her reunion with Gatsby. She weeps when he shows her his collection of sumptuous English shirts, and seems genuinely overjoyed at his success. In short, Gatsby transforms her; she becomes almost human. Daisy is more sympathetic in this chapter than she is at any other point in the novel.

The song "Ain't We Got Fun" is significant for a number of reasons. The opening lyrics ("In the morning/ In the evening/ Ain't we got fun") imply a carefree spontaneity that stands in stark contrast to the tightly-controlled quality of the lovers' reunion. This contrast is further sharpened by the words of the next verse, which run: "Got no money/ But oh, honey/ Ain't we got fun!" It is bitterly ironic that Gatsby and Daisy should reunite to the strains of this song, given the fact that she rejected him because of his poverty.