Chapter 7 brings the conflict between Tom and Gatsby into the open, and their confrontation over Daisy brings to the surface troubling aspects of both characters. Throughout the previous chapters, hints have been accumulating about Gatsby’s criminal activity. Research into the matter confirms Tom’s suspicions, and he wields his knowledge of Gatsby’s illegal activities in front of everyone to disgrace him. Likewise, Tom’s sexism and hypocrisy become clearer and more obtrusive during the course of the confrontation. He has no moral qualms about his own extramarital affairs, but when faced with his wife’s infidelity, he assumes the position of outraged victim.
The importance of time and the past manifests itself in the confrontation between Gatsby and Tom. Gatsby’s obsession with recovering a blissful past compels him to order Daisy to tell Tom that she has never loved him. Gatsby needs to know that she has always loved him, that she has always been emotionally loyal to him. Similarly, pleading with Daisy, Tom invokes their intimate personal history to remind her that she has had feelings for him; by controlling the past, Tom eradicates Gatsby’s vision of the future. That Tom feels secure enough to send Daisy back to East Egg with Gatsby confirms Nick’s observation that Gatsby’s dream is dead.
Gatsby’s decision to take the blame for Daisy demonstrates the deep love he still feels for her and illustrates the basic nobility that defines his character. Disregarding her almost capricious lack of concern for him, Gatsby sacrifices himself for Daisy. The image of a pitiable Gatsby keeping watch outside her house while she and Tom sit comfortably within is an indelible image that both allows the reader to look past Gatsby’s criminality and functions as a moving metaphor for the love Gatsby feels toward Daisy. Nick’s parting from Gatsby at the end of this chapter parallels his first sighting of Gatsby at the end of Chapter 1. In both cases, Gatsby stands alone in the moonlight pining for Daisy. In the earlier instance, he stretches his arms out toward the green light across the water, optimistic about the future. In this instance, he has made it past the green light, onto the lawn of Daisy’s house, but his dream is gone forever.