The Great Gatsby (2013 Film)

The Great Gatsby (2013 Film) Summary and Analysis of Part 4: The Yellow Car


Nick sits in his doctor’s office and reads his writing aloud. As a woman serves Nick breakfast, he tries to think of the right words for a passage. “After Tom and Daisy’s visit, Gatsby’s lights went off one by one,” he says, and we see the lights go off in the Gatsby mansion. Gatsby stopped throwing parties, Nick tells us, but “Daisy visited discreetly.” We see Daisy and Gatsby in bed together as Nick narrates that Gatsby’s fame had now become a threat, as reporters gather outside Gatsby’s gate, and we see a headline about Gatsby’s “mystery woman.” Gatsby and Daisy stand on his dock and Daisy tells him that she doesn’t want to go home. The scene shifts to Gatsby in a robe talking to Nick on the phone, who asks Gatsby about the fact that he fired most of his servants. Now that Daisy visits him regularly, Gatsby worries about gossip, and tells Nick that he needed to downsize while he figures out what he and Daisy are going to do. “These towns are very close together,” he tells Nick, before revealing that all of his servants are people that “Wolfsheim wanted to do something for.” As he tells Nick this, he looks over at one of his assistants, who looks at him gravely before walking away into the shadows. Seeing that the coast is clear, Gatsby tells Nick conspiratorially that Daisy is ready, and that she needs Nick and Jordan to go to lunch with them the following day. Nick sighs, hesitating to agree, as Gatsby tells him that, “Daisy needs you…we need you.”

The scene shifts suddenly to the Buchanan estate the following day, where we see Tom lighting a large cigar. Gatsby, Nick, and Daisy sit at the table. Tom paces around the room and looks out the window, as Gatsby and Daisy make furtive eye contact. When Gatsby points out that his mansion is across the bay, Tom looks curiously across the bay and says, “So you are.” Gatsby stands and tells Tom that he can see the green light on the Buchanan’s dock, and as Tom looks over to examine the green light himself, Gatsby reaches for Daisy’s hand, preparing to tell Tom about their affair, but Daisy pulls her hand away suddenly, standing, anxiously lighting a cigarette, and proposing they all go to town. She tries to light her cigarette, but drops the lighter, which Gatsby picks up and uses to light her cigarette. As Gatsby and Daisy’s intimacy becomes more apparent, Tom becomes agitated, putting out his cigar, and grandly agreeing that they ought to all go to town, get a room at the Plaza together and have a party. Daisy beckons Jordan out of the room and Tom invites Gatsby into town with them.

Outside, Tom suggests that he and Gatsby drive each other’s cars. Gatsby tries to insist that there’s not enough gas in his, but Tom says he can get some, just as Daisy comes out of the house and announces that she will ride with Gatsby. Tom speeds away in Gatsby’s car with Nick and Jordan, and Gatsby and Daisy follow in the other car. As they drive, Tom tells Jordan and Nick that he’s done some research about Gatsby and has found that Gatsby isn’t who he says he is. Tom speeds recklessly down the road and Gatsby struggles to keep up as they swerve around other cars. We then hear Jordan inform Tom that they are almost out of gas. As the car arrives in the Valley of Ashes, the Eckleburg billboard appears, and we see Wilson standing near his garage. Pulling up alongside Wilson’s garage, Tom calls to Wilson, impatiently asking him to fill the tank. Wilson apologizes for his sluggishness, telling Tom that he’s sick and has run into some money trouble. Tom spots Myrtle opening a window on the second floor of the garage, as Wilson tells him that he and Myrtle want to move West. Tom seems distressed, realizing that Myrtle wants to leave town, and we see Myrtle in the window with tears streaming down her face. Nick narrates, “Tom was feeling the hot whips of panic, his mistress and wife, an hour ago so secure, were both slipping from his control.” As Wilson informs Tom that he and Myrtle are moving West whether she wants to or not, Tom sees Gatsby and Daisy’s car approaching. He becomes anxious about keeping up and jumps in the car, paying Wilson quickly and speeding away after Gatsby. Myrtle watches Tom drive away tearfully.

The cars speed over the Queensboro Bridge, and Tom and Gatsby look over at one another aggressively. The scene shifts abruptly to a hotel worker hacking away at a hunk of ice in the hotel room at the Plaza, as a fan buzzes. We see the exterior of the Plaza and hear the chipping of the ice block. In the room, the women languish on armchairs in the heat, and Gatsby sips a cocktail. When Gatsby defends Daisy from Tom’s scolding, calling him “old sport,” Tom stops abruptly and begins to tease Gatsby for his use of the catchphrase. Daisy and the others become uncomfortable, but Tom presses forward, questioning Gatsby about his time at Oxford. “The man in the pink suit went to Oxford,” says Tom sarcastically, which distresses Daisy, and Gatsby stands, agitated. When Tom asks Gatsby more explicitly when he went to Oxford, Gatsby hesitates before telling him that he was there for a few months, an opportunity afforded to officers in the army who fought in the war. “I wanted to get up and slap Gatsby on the back,” narrates Nick, proud of Gatsby for handling the interrogation smoothly. Tom then becomes more direct, asking Gatsby, “what kind of a row are you trying to cause in my house?” Jumping to Gatsby’s defense, Daisy urges Tom to have some self control, which really sets Tom off. He refers to Gatsby as “Mr. Nobody from Nowhere” and accuses him of making love to his wife. Tom then uses this moment as an opportunity to lament the slackening of family institutions and the threat of interracial marriage. “Your wife doesn’t love you!” Gatsby yells, “She never loved you.” Tom is livid, but Gatsby continues, “She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting, but in her heart she never loved anyone but me.”

Jordan and Daisy become worried and want to leave, but Tom and Gatsby continue to argue. While Gatsby insists that in the five years of their marriage, Daisy never loved Tom, Tom laughs and pours himself a drink, insisting that Daisy has loved him and continues to love him. Daisy is silent as Tom tells her he loves her and that while he sometimes goes “on a spree,” he always comes back. “You’re revolting,” sneers Daisy, becoming livid at the memory of a particularly horrible affair that caused them to leave Chicago. She is weeping now, and Gatsby goes to her, insisting that she tell Tom that she never loved him in all the years of their marriage. Daisy whispers that she never loved Tom, but Tom is unconvinced, listing a number of moments of romance between the two of them. It is too much to bear, and Daisy agrees that she did once love Tom, crying as she tells Gatsby that he wants too much from her. “I loved him once, but I loved you too,” she tells Gatsby, grabbing his cheek. As Gatsby asks to speak to Daisy alone, Daisy lights a cigarette and admits that she wouldn’t be able to say she never loved Tom, even alone. “I’m gonna take better care of you,” Tom assures Daisy, but she tells him she is leaving him for Gatsby.

Tom asks Gatsby more about his identity, telling him that he has made investigations into his business, and that he knows that Gatsby works with Meyer Wolfsheim. As Daisy cries, Tom outlines that Gatsby has made all his money selling bootleg alcohol out of drugstores. Tom also makes reference to a bonds stunt that Gatsby and Wolfsheim have engaged in with a reputable banker friend of Tom’s, Walter Chase. Daisy clutches Nick’s hand as Tom turns to Nick and says, “I’m surprised he hasn’t tried to drag you in.” When he realizes that Gatsby has offered to get Nick involved, he grows all the more contemptuous, labeling Gatsby “just a front for Wolfsheim, a gangster.” Gatsby fires back, “The only respectable thing about you is your money, and I have just as much as you. That means we’re equal.” Tom assures him this is not the case, telling Gatsby that Nick, Jordan, Daisy and himself are all quite different from Gatsby, because of their blood. Feeling overwhelmed with anger, Gatsby attacks Tom, screaming at him furiously and nearly punching him. As Gatsby comes out of his spell of rage, he looks remorseful and humiliated. “Gatsby looked, in that moment, as though he had killed a man,” Nick narrates, as Daisy watches the fight fearfully, and Gatsby apologizes, embarrassed. Tom continues to taunt Gatsby, marveling sarcastically at his “fine Oxford manners.”

When Daisy goes to the window, overwhelmed at the violence surrounding her, Gatsby follows her and pleads with her. Daisy is too upset and scared of him now, however, having seen him erupt with such violence, and having heard of his shady business dealings. “Please, Tom, I can’t stand it anymore,” she yells to her husband. Tom ushers her out the door and tells her that she and Gatsby should still drive home together. Realizing that he has lost Daisy’s trust, Gatsby rushes out the door after her, as Tom says, “I think he [Gatsby] realizes this little flirtation is over.” Tom closes the door and takes a sip of his drink, as Jordan and Nick gather their things. When Tom offers Nick a bottle of liquor, Nick turns from the window and says, “I just remembered, today’s my birthday,” and Tom reluctantly wishes him a happy birthday.

As Nick narrates that that was the day he turned 30, we see the Eckleburg billboard, as Daisy and Gatsby drive through the Valley of Ashes in Gatsby’s yellow car. Wilson is yelling at Myrtle, pushing her forehead into the pane of a window and asking her about her affair. She pushes him away from her and runs from the room down the steps of the garage, as he yells her name after her. Gatsby’s yellow car speeds around a corner, which Myrtle spots excitedly. Thinking it’s Tom, she runs out into the street yelling Tom’s name, but she runs directly into the course of Gatsby’s car, which hits her and throws her into the air. We see her body fly in front of the Eckleburg billboard and land, dead on the street, as Gatsby’s car stops up ahead. Gatsby’s car pauses momentarily, but then speeds off. The camera zooms in on the eyes in the Eckleburg billboard, as though it is watching the crime take place. Soon after, Tom Buchanan’s car pulls into the Valley of Ashes and a policeman urges him to slow down at the crime scene. Curious what happened, Tom pulls over to see. Tom, Nick, and Jordan walk up to Wilson’s garage, where they find a group of people mourning Myrtle’s death. Tom sees Wilson grieving, and sees Myrtle’s body covered in a blanket. When he pulls the blanket away, he is distressed to see that it is Myrtle. A policeman tries to ask him to leave, but Tom becomes enraged, looking at Nick with tears in his eyes. An onlooker announces that he saw what happened: a large yellow car hit her and then sped away, didn’t even stop. Tom, Jordan, and Nick look at one another, registering that it was Gatsby’s car. Wilson is distraught, and looks at Tom, saying, “I know what kind of car it was.” Because Tom was driving it earlier, Wilson thinks it was Tom’s car.

The two men struggle, as Tom whispers violently in Wilson’s ear, and sits Wilson down, insisting that the yellow car is not his. A nearby policeman asks Tom what color his car is, and he assures him that it is blue. The policeman looks suspicious, but an onlooker agrees with Tom that his blue car only just arrived, and the policeman nods, leaving the room and accepting Tom’s innocence. Tom hands Wilson a drink, and when Wilson asks who owns the yellow car, Tom gives him Gatsby’s name. “He’s a crook, George,” Tom tells him, as Wilson weeps and says, “Maybe he was the one who was fooling around with Myrtle. Maybe that’s why he killed her.” Seeing a way out, Tom agrees with him and Wilson collapses into his arms, weeping. “Gatsby,” Tom whispers in Wilson’s ear, “Something ought to be done about a fellow like that.” Nick covers Myrtle with the blanket. As Tom drives Jordan and Nick home, he mutters to himself about Gatsby’s cowardly crime.

As they arrive back at the Buchanan estate, Tom offers to call Nick a taxi and invites him inside for dinner while he waits. Nick opts to wait outside, which upsets Tom, who asks, “What is the matter with you?” Jordan implores Nick to come inside, but Nick gets angry, saying he’s “had enough, of everyone.” Miffed, Jordan walks briskly back into the house. As he walks away from the house, Nick hears Gatsby call out to him in the dark: “Hello, old sport.” He finds Gatsby sitting in the dark, and scolds him, telling him that Myrtle is dead. Nick becomes enraged, calling Gatsby a coward. When Gatsby tells him there was no point in stopping, Nick becomes all the more angry. Gatsby misspeaks—“She tried” correcting himself to “I tried”—and it becomes clear that Daisy was driving when they hit Myrtle. They are suddenly interrupted by a servant who comes out the door to see what all the noise is about. As the servant goes back into the house, Nick turns back to Gatsby and says, “It was Daisy.” Gatsby explains that Daisy was nervous after the fight at the Plaza and wanted to drive to “steady” herself. Gatsby then asks Nick to promise not to tell anyone that Daisy was driving. Nick urges Gatsby to return home, but Gatsby tells him that he plans to stay outside the house all night to keep an eye on Daisy. Seeing how delusionally single-minded Gatsby is, Nick agrees to go into the Buchanan house and see if there is a fight breaking out between Tom and Daisy.


While the previous section of the film illuminated the sad undertones of the narrative, the tragic elements of Daisy and Gatsby’s impossible love, this section reveals the violent tensions that threaten to tear them apart. Even though Tom is a careless and unfaithful husband, he hypocritically cannot bear the sight of his wife falling in love with Gatsby, and becomes progressively more angry and frustrated on the day that they all share lunch and drive into town. His rage is all filtered through the social outing, becoming all the more menacing in its repression. Complicating matters is Daisy’s oblique and unspoken communication of her love for Gatsby. While Gatsby wants to explicitly tell Tom that they are in love, Daisy becomes anxious when he goes to do so, standing anxiously and struggling to light a cigarette.

Daisy’s indirect method of communicating her love for Gatsby only seems to makes matters worse. When Gatsby lights her cigarette at lunch, she says, “You always look so cool. Like the man in the advertisements in Times Square. The man in the cool, colored shirts.” While this is a rather unusual thing to say in this moment, as Nick tells us in narration, this is Daisy’s way of publicly telling Gatsby that she loves him. By alluding to Gatsby’s shirts, his immense wealth and cool demeanor, she shows Gatsby that he is her true love. Rather than tell Tom that she does not want to be with him, and that she would rather be with Gatsby, she compliments Gatsby in front of Tom, in a way that reveals her affections. Rather than register this moment as momentous or dramatic, however, she pushes forward glibly, which only seems to infuriate Tom more.

When Tom learns that Myrtle and Wilson are leaving town imminently, he feels his control of the world slipping away even further, and we see the ways that the film conflates love and control. For Tom Buchanan, a privileged heir to an old money fortune, love and commitment are completely about control and power, not affection or mutual understanding, or even trust. Indeed, Tom is behaving in a markedly hypocritical way—while he is dismayed to see his wife in an affair with another man, he has been consistently abandoning her to pursue his own duplicitous desires. Faced with the prospect of losing both of his lovers, Tom becomes panicked and even more brutish. As Nick tells us, Tom’s anxiety comes from the fact that his mistress and his wife are “slipping from his control.” Just as Gatsby views Daisy’s affection as the ultimate symbol of his power and influence, so does Tom, but with an even stronger sense of his own privilege. Where Gatsby is tragic, longing, and determined in his pursuit of Daisy, Tom is hostile, arrogant, and entitled, an unfortunate temperament that is only exacerbated by his waning control.

Yet again, Tom’s brutishness is not only personal and temperamental, but also a reflection of his sociopolitical views. When he accuses Gatsby of sleeping with his wife, he uses it as an opportunity to lament the degradation of family values and the slackening of racial order. He says, “See, nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions. The next thing you know, we’ll throw everything overboard and we’ll have intermarriage between black and white.” Thus we see that Tom’s anxious grasp of his own privilege is not only about his relationship to his wife, but a more abstract relationship to his grasp of the world itself as a political subject. Tom is not only a cuckolded husband, but a privileged and monied white man worried about the future of his privilege. The fact that a man of questionable upbringing like Gatsby is sleeping with his wife is not simply emblematic of his broken marriage, but of the slackening of social mores. For Tom, it embodies the threat of progressive values becoming ubiquitous. Tom’s fear of losing control is connected to both his control of his wife, and his need to be in a dominant position in a broader, social and political sense.

In the end, Tom’s pedigree, his social standing, and his old money win out, and we see Tom explicitly enact the violence of his higher class standing against Gatsby, in order to humiliate him in front of Daisy. While Gatsby believes that money is the only thing that separates different classes of people—that makes them respectable—Tom assures him that class has to do with more than just money. He cruelly tells Gatsby that Nick, Jordan, and Daisy are all different from Gatsby. “We were born different,” Tom assures him, telling him that the difference has to do with blood and birth. Gatsby has invested in his ambitions, has dreamed so grandiosely, precisely because of his belief that anyone can improve themselves and ascend the social ladder. At the Plaza, Tom menacingly dispels this belief, informing Gatsby that no matter how hard he tries, he will never be the same as a Buchanan. Gatsby represents the everyman, the American dreamer who longs to achieve greatness. Tom, contrastingly, represents the elite American, born into privilege and wealth, who never has to worry about his seat at the table. When Tom taunts Gatsby with their difference, he incites Gatsby to enact his own roughness, and Gatsby falls into the trap, erupting in an unceremonious and unrefined anger.