Only The Great Gatsby can take a chapter filled with drama and death and somehow make it unfathomably hilarious. For example, here are three actual quotes that I had the pleasure of reading with my very own eyeballs:
“The master’s body! I’m sorry Madame but we can’t furnish it—it’s far too hot to touch…!”
“My underwear kept climbing like a damp snake around my legs.”
“Open the whiskey, Tom. And I’ll make you a mint julep. Then you won’t seem so stupid to yourself.”
Before we get to those, however, Nick has noticed that the summer-long Gatsby party parade is over. Gatsby has also fired all of his servants and replaced them with shady characters who are definitely not criminals, in keeping with his ongoing disguise as Guy Who is Definitely Not a Bootlegger. He tells Nick this is because he wants servants who won’t gossip about his love life with the townspeople, because Daisy comes over quite a lot and they, I don’t know, play Monopoly? Naked? I think this is what couples do when they’re alone together.
It’s incredibly hot outside. Nick mentions this repeatedly. I assume it’s because he wants us to know that Tom Buchanan’s hot bod is very sweaty, but he doesn’t want to be indecent and actually point it out. Anyway, Gatsby invites Nick over to Daisy’s house for lunch. Nick suspects something’s up, because very rarely do people invite you over to other people’s houses, but he’ll get to see Tom’s powerful, sweaty body, so who cares?
There have been some great sentences in this book in addition to the three I outlined above. Remember the world’s mistress twinkling hilariously on Gatsby’s lawn? Remember Gatsby’s “swollen” car of “monstrous length”? All things considered, I think this next one really takes the cake. Nick says, “That anyone should care in this heat whose flushed lips he kissed, whose head made damp the pajama pocket over his heart!” Translation: we’re all so sweaty anyway, we might as well be having sex with anyone and everyone. Who’s with me? Who wants to start this thing? Let’s get out there and do some sex!
He entertains these notions on his way over to Daisy’s house. His gutter mind then hallucinates Daisy’s butler saying, “The master’s body! I’m sorry Madame but we can’t furnish it—it’s far too hot to touch this noon!” I know, I already laid out this quote earlier, but hot damn do I love it. Absolutely stunning. I have no clue what it means, because surrealism is nifty, but let’s just say he’s referring to Tom’s sweaty body and call it a day.
Daisy and Jordan are hanging out together when Nick and Gatsby arrive. They all think Tom’s on the phone with his mistress in the other room, but Nick tells them he’s actually on the phone with his mistress’ husband, George Wilson, who wants to buy Tom’s car. 10 points to Tom for sometimes taking breaks from actively cheating on his wife. Meanwhile, Daisy starts hardcore making out with Gatsby; Jordan quips that “there’s a lady present.” God, I love Jordan. Daisy’s daughter appears, and Gatsby is taken aback, presumably because he’s never seen a child before. He thought they were all just tiny adults.
Daisy shoos the kid away, and Tom comes in with drinks for everyone. Gatsby says the drinks look “cool.” This prompts a really weird and confusing section where both Daisy and Gatsby seem to be using the word “cool” as a euphemism for something they forgot to tell us about. Tom starts talking about the earth falling into the sun or some other Tom-ish nonsense, and then he shows Gatsby the property, as is the Tom Buchanan way. When they return, Daisy tells Gatsby meaningfully that he looks “cool.” In fact, he “always looks so cool.” Presumably, “cool” means “devilishly sexy.” I don’t know what that says about Tom’s cool drinks from earlier. I guess Tom sure knows how to make a drink. Anyway, Tom looks from Gatsby to Daisy as if it’s suddenly dawned on him that they’ve been playing naked Monopoly, and he abruptly announces that they’re all going into town. Daisy had suggested this twice already, but Tom was too busy making sexy drinks.
Good Guy Gatsby offers to drive. However, Tom suggests that he and Daisy take Gatsby’s car while Gatsby drives Nick and Jordan in Tom’s car, making the whole arrangement needlessly complicated for no reason whatsoever. Daisy says she’ll go with Gatsby in Tom’s car; Tom can take Nick and Jordan in the sin wagon. Nobody is happy about this, but they do it anyway. Once they’re in Gatsby’s car, Tom says they may think he’s dumb, but he has this weird other sense that tells him when people are cheating on him, which science has confirmed. That is a real thing that he thought and then decided to say out loud.
They stop and get gas from the ghost of George Wilson. George tells them he’s pretty sure Myrtle is cheating on him, probably with some hot, sweaty stranger with a powerful body, so he’s moving them both across the country. Myrtle watches from the window as Tom gets back into Gatsby’s car and drives off.
Tom handles the impending loss of both his wife and his mistress with grace and maturity, which is to say he herds everyone into a room at the Plaza Hotel, makes more sexy drinks, and then flat-out accuses Gatsby of sleeping with Daisy. Gatsby confirms it. The conversation plays out roughly like this:
TOM: I can’t believe my wife’s cheating on me with a man who has less money than me. GATSBY: You’d better believe it, old sport. She never loved you, and she thinks your face is ugly. DAISY: Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I love you, Gatsby, but I also loved Tom once, and I happen to think his face is perfectly okay. GATSBY: What? No. What? TOM: I’m totally winning this. GATSBY: But I thought you were going to leave him for me! TOM: Don’t listen to him, Daisy. The man’s a con artist. Here, allow me to make some vague allusions to his past criminal activity. DAISY: Gatsby! Is this true? GATSBY: … DAISY: … TOM: … NICK: So this is pretty much the exact opposite of the sex party I thought we were having.
Somewhere in there Tom also mentions that he hates interracial couples. This doesn’t have anything to do with anything, he’s just throwing it out there because he’s terrible. Nick says “whatever courage” Daisy once had, well, it’s all gone now. Tom snidely tells Gatsby and Daisy they can head back to East Egg in Gatsby’s car together and he stops just short of telling them to think about what they’ve done. Nick rounds off the whole catastrophe by remembering that today’s his birthday, which is honestly the most Nick Carraway thing I’ve ever heard.
As they’re driving back, they happen upon a dismal scene in the valley of ashes. There’s been a hit-and-run. It was Myrtle; she ran out in front of the car and was killed instantly. Tom’s devastated. No one’s sure who the mystery murderer could be until an onlooker describes the car. I mean, it’s not like the guy goes to Nick Carraway levels of describing the car’s girth; all he says is that the car was yellow. But even so, Nick, Tom, and Jordan are able to Sherlock it out. The driver was Gatsby.
The trio continues onward to Tom’s house. Nick, who’s shocked and upset, just wants to go home. Jordan tries to get Nick to stay by telling him it’s only half past nine, but this is a little insensitive, even for Nick, the emotionally constipated cyborg. As Nick waits outside for his taxi, he sees Gatsby hanging around in the bushes. Gatsby reluctantly tells him Daisy was driving; she’s the one who accidentally hit Myrtle. Seems Myrtle thought the car was Tom and ran out to meet it. Gatsby hardly seems to care that she’s dead, though. All he cares about is how it will affect Daisy, and Nick hates Gatsby so much in that instant that it doesn’t even occur to him to mention how morally bankrupt the world is. He goes home broken, disillusioned, and one love interest poorer.
Man, this was really intense. I sure hope nothing else happens.
Old sports in this chapter: 12, and two of those were TOM BUCHANAN’S. Old sports overall: 38.
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