The Great Gatsby

Summary and Analysis of Chapter 7

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Chapter Seven

At this point in the novel, when curiosity about Gatsby has reached a fever pitch, he ceases to throw his Saturday night parties. The only purpose of the parties was to solicit Daisy's attention; now that they are reunited, the parties have lost their purpose.

Nick, surprised that the revelry has stopped, goes over to make certain that Gatsby is all right. He learns that Gatsby has fired all of his former servants and replaced them with a number of disreputable characters who were formerly employed by Meyer Wolfsheim. Daisy has begun visiting him in the afternoons, and Gatsby wants to make certain that she will not be exposed to any of the lurid gossip about his life and his past.

On the hottest day of the summer, Daisy invites Gatsby, Nick, and Jordan to lunch. Daisy has the nanny exhibit her infant daughter, who is dressed in white, to the assembled guests. Gatsby seems almost bewildered by the child. He has been, until this moment, entirely unable to conceive of Daisy as a mother. Tom is full of his usual bluster, remarking that he read that the sun is growing hotter; soon, the earth will fall into it, and that will be the end of the world.

During the luncheon, Tom realizes that Gatsby and his wife are romantically involved. Gatsby stares at Daisy with undisguised passion, and Daisy recklessly remarks, within earshot of Tom, that she loves Gatsby.

Tom, unsettled, goes inside to get a drink, and in his absence Nick remarks that Daisy has an indiscreet voice. When Nick goes on to say that Daisy's voice also has an indescribably seductive quality, Gatsby blurts that her voice is "full of money."

Tom, desperate to pick a fight with Gatsby, forces the entire party to drive into New York. Gatsby and Daisy drive in Tom's car, while Nick, Jordan, and Tom drive in Gatsby's. On the way, Tom furiously tells Nick that Gatsby is no Oxford man. They stop for gas at Wilson's garage. Wilson tells them that he's decided to move his wife out west, since he recently learned that she's been having an affair; he does not yet, however, know who her lover is. Upon leaving the garage, they see Myrtle peering down at the car from her window. She stares at Jordan with an expression of jealous terror, since she assumes that Jordan is Tom's wife.

Feeling that both his wife and mistress are slipping away from him, Tom grows panicked and impatient. To escape from the summer heat, the group takes a suite at the Plaza Hotel. There, Tom finally confronts Gatsby, mocking his use of the phrase "old sport." Tom accuses Gatsby of never having been at Oxford; Gatsby replies that he did, in fact, study there for five months after the end of the war. Tom regards Daisy's affair with the lower-class Gatsby as one of the harbingers of the decline of civilization. Soon, Tom hisses, there will even be intermarriage between the races. Gatsby tells Tom that Daisy doesn't love him, and has never loved him; he informs him that he's "not going to take care of Daisy anymore." Tom calls Gatsby a "common swindler" and reveals that he has made his fortune in bootlegging. Daisy, in her shallowness and snobbery, sides with Tom, and refuses Gatsby when he pleads with her to say that she has never loved her husband. As the confrontation draws to a close, Nick realizes that today is his thirtieth birthday.

In the valley of ashes, Nick, Jordan and Tom find that someone has been struck and killed by an automobile. The young Greek, Michaelis, who runs the coffee house next to Wilson's garage, tells them that the victim was Myrtle Wilson. She ran out into the road during a fight with her husband; there, she was struck by an opulent yellow car. Nick realizes that the fatal car must have been Gatsby's Rolls-Royce. Tom presumes that Gatsby was the driver.

Analysis

The reunion of Gatsby and Daisy is the novel's pivotal event; it sets all the subsequent events into inevitable motion. In Chapter VII, the story of their romance reaches its climax and its tragic conclusion.

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.