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The Great Gatsby Chapter 2. Summary. Tom introduces Nick to his mistress, Myrtle Wilson Myrtle accompanies Tom and Nick into the city, where she buys cosmetics, magazines and a dog.

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summary
Summary
  • Tom introduces Nick to his mistress, Myrtle Wilson
  • Myrtle accompanies Tom and Nick into the city, where she buys cosmetics, magazines and a dog.
  • They go to an apartment in New York, where a small party takes place, involving Myrtle’s sister Catherine, a photographer named McKee and his wife.
slide3

The apartment in new York is kept especially for Tom and Myrtle’s adulterous relationship. Nick gradually gets drunk. Catherine mentions the speculation surrounding Gatsby, specifically that he is a relation of Kaiser Wilhelm, the ruler of Germany during the First World War.

  • Tom breaks Myrtle’s nose, because of her continual repetition of Daisy’s name. Nick leaves with McKee, who, in his drunkenness, takes to his bed and shows Nick his photographs. The chapter ends with Nick in Pennsylvania Station, awaiting the 4a.m. train home.
slide4

This chapter is a sketch of a drinking party, and F. Scott Fitzgerald shows the increasing drunkenness of the company with great skill through understatement. He avoids the large and clumsy gestures suggested by intoxication, but includes a moment where Nick, his reserve broken down under the influence of alcohol. This scene is set against the backdrop of Prohibition in the United States.

  • A National Prohibition Act was passed in the United States in 1919 and remained in force until 1933. It placed severe limitations upon the production and consumption of alcoholic drinks. It is hinted in the novel that Gatsby’s wealth is due, in part at least, to his involvement with bootlegging, the illicit supply of alcohol.
nick carraway
Nick Carraway
  • The sequence of events leading up to and occurring at the party define and contrast the various characters in The Great Gatsby. Nick’s reserved nature and indecisiveness show in the fact that though he feels morally repelled by the inappropriateness and poor taste of the party, he is too fascinated by it to leave. This contradiction suggests the uncertainty that he feels toward the Buchanans, Gatsby, and the East Coast in general.
  • We are given a hint that he is not a fully trustworthy narrator:

“Everything has a dim hazy cast over it”

george wilson
George Wilson
  • Wilson is a lifeless yet handsome man, coloured gray by the ashes in the air.
  • “A blond, spiritless man, anaemic, and faintly handsome.”
  • “walking through her husband as if

he were a ghost”

  • “A white ashen dust veiled his dark

suit”

  • Tom says: “He’s so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive”
myrtle wilson
Myrtle Wilson
  • She is in total contrast to her husband
  • She buys things- ‘Town Tattle’, a magazine,

perfume, a puppy

  • Tom’s relationship with her is physical and material.
  • Myrtle is a “thickish” woman, in the

“middle thirties, and faintly stout, but carried her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can.”

  • Myrtle grows louder and more obnoxious the more she drinks
slide8

The author uses a simple conversation between Myrtle and Tom to show the intelligence level of Myrtle.  When Tom buys the dog for Myrtle and she asks if it is a boy or a girl she is showing everyone that she is not very intelligent.  She is simply a "toy" for Tom.  He is not involved with her because of her mind.  He is strictly using her for his own needs and desires.  It should be a very simple matter to determine the sex of a puppy, but Myrtle doesn't have the presence of mind to simply look at the puppy and find out the sex for her self.  This goes to the characterisation of a woman who is not too bright.

tom buchanan
Tom Buchanan
  • The party emphasises Tom's hypocrisy and lack of restraint: he feels no guilt for betraying Daisy with Myrtle, but he feels compelled to keep Myrtle in her place. Tom appears to be a boorish bully who uses his social status and physical strength to control those around him—he cleverly taunts Wilson while having an affair with his wife, he feels no guilt for his immoral behaviour, and does not hesitate to lash out violently in order to maintain his control over Myrtle. Wilson is a contrast, a handsome and morally upright man who lacks money, privilege, and vitality.
catherine
Catherine
  • Myrtle’s sister
  • A slender, worldly girl of about thirty, with a solid, sticky bob of red hair, and a complexion powdered milky white.
  • When she moved about there was an incessant clicking as innumerable pottery bracelets jingled up and down upon her arms.
the mckees
The McKees
  • Neighbours from downstairs
  • Mr. McKee was a pale, feminine man
  • He was a photographer
  • She was shrill, languid, handsome and horrible.
  • She loudly complained to everyone present about her husband George
jay g atsby
Jay Gatsby
  • Fitzgerald uses the party to continue building a feeling of mystery and excitement around Gatsby, who has yet to make a full appearance in the novel. Here, Gatsby appear as a mysterious subject of gossip. He is extremely well known, but no one seems to have any firm information about him. The ridiculous rumour Catherine spreads shows the extent of the public’s curiosity about him, making him more intriguing to the other characters in the novel and the reader.
  • But yet again, Gatsby is absent.
setting
Setting
  • The valley of the ashes is where New York’s ashes are dumped.
  • The men who live here work at shovelling up the ashes.
  • In this industrial wasteland, which the commuter train passes through, everything is covered with dust, smoke, and ashes.
  • The valley of the ashes is a picture of absolute desolation and poverty.
  • It symbolises moral decay and poverty hidden by the beautiful disguise of the Eggs
  • The unblinking eyes, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, watch over everything that happens in the valley of ashes.
  • Nick describes the ‘valley of the ashes’, as a bleak area between West Egg and New York City, presided over by the huge bespectacled eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleberg, an advertising display put up by an optician. It is here that George Wilson, a car mechanic who runs a garage in this run-down spot.
slide14

The description of the ‘valley of the ashes’ bring to mind the bleak spiritual landscape of the T.S. Eliot’s poem ‘The Wasteland’, published in 1922, the year ‘The Great Gatsby’ is set. ‘The Wasteland’ responds to the horrific violence of the First World War but also to the spread of materialistic, consumer values in modern society.

slide15

Doctor Eckleburg’s advertising board is a realistic detail from the consumer culture of the 1920s. A visual advertisement like this had the added value of being understandable to newly arrived immigrants who had little or no grasp of English.

slide16

The fourth and final setting of the novel, New York City, is in every way the opposite of the valley of ashes—it is loud, tasteless, and glittering. To Nick, New York is all together fascinating and repulsive, thrillingly fast-paced and dazzling to look at but lacking any morals. While Tom is forced to keep his affair with Myrtle a relative secret in the valley of the ashes, in New York he can appear with her in public, even among his acquaintances, without causing a scandal. Even Nick, despite being Daisy’s cousin, seems not to mind that Tom parades his infidelity in public.

party in new york
Party in New York
  • There is a lot of gossip, some of it blatantly untrue: Daisy was not a Catholic
  • There is again a suggestion that there is a class system at work: “that man’s way below you!”
  • The mood is broken by the sentence:

“Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his hand.”

whisky and gossip
Whisky and Gossip
  • “They say Gatsby’s a nephew or a cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm's. That's where all his money comes from.”
  • “Neither of them can stand the person they're married to.”
more whisky and gossip
More Whisky and Gossip
  • Catherine leaned close to me and whispered in my ear: "Neither of them can stand the person they're married to."
  • "When they do get married," continued Catherine, "they're going West to live for a while until it blows over."
  • "She really ought to get away from him," resumed Catherine to me. "They've been living over that garage for eleven years. And tom's the first sweetie she ever had."
the party s over
The Party’s Over
  • Nick describes himself at the party as being

"within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life."

  • The spell of the party, however, is broken around

midnight when Tom and Myrtle argue loudly over

her talking about Daisy.

  • Tom insists that she must not even mention his

wife's name.

  • When Myrtle taunts him by shouting, "Daisy!

Daisy!...I'll say it whenever I want to," Tom answers

by striking her face and breaking her nose.

  • Nick's sense of moral order is repulsed by the

violence, and he leaves in an alcoholic stupor, finally

catching the 4:00 a.m. train back to West Egg.

symbolism
Symbolism
  • The valley of the Ashes symbolises moral decay.
  • The undefined significance of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg’s ugly, bespectacled eyes gazing down from their billboard makes them troubling to the reader: in this chapter, Fitzgerald preserves their mystery, giving them no symbolic value. Inexplicably, the eyes simply “brood on over the solemn dumping ground.” Perhaps the most persuasive reading of the eyes at this point in the novel is that they represent the eyes of God, staring down at the moral decay of the 1920s. The faded paint of the eyes can be seen as symbolising the extent to which humanity has lost its connection to God. This is, however, simply; Nick does not directly explain the symbol in this way, leaving the reader to interpret it.
slide22

Myrtle’s Dog

  • Myrtle decides that she needs a dog. She begs Tom to buy her a puppy because it will make a cute addition to her apartment. After Tom buys the dog, Myrtle thinks nothing of restricting the dog to one room, with only a cardboard box and a soggy dog biscuit. Myrtle's lack of concern towards her dog mirrors her lack of concern towards her husband.
  • Myrtle's shallowness is reinforced and increased in Tom's vicious treatment of her. When Myrtle asks him shyly if the puppy is a "boy or a girl," Tom doesn't mince words: "It's a bitch". Tom's label for Myrtle's dog, "bitch“, summarises the way in which the narrator describes Myrtle, smouldering with wet lips, speaking with a coarse voice, pouring out a warm breath and straining her body at the gas pump with a "panting vitality"
slide23

Myrtle's dog, metaphorically, not only suggests Myrtle, it also suggests all who are displaced in this dark, jazz-age environment, which Nick describes as the "valley of ashes." During her cocktail party, Myrtle's dog is stranded on top of the dining room table: "The little dog was sitting on the table looking with blind eyes through the smoke, and from time to time groaning faintly". Similar to T. J. Eckleburg, whose dim eyes with their "eternal blindness"look over the "grotesque garden" of ashes, Myrtle's dog tries to peer, through Myrtle's hell.

  • Tom clearly belongs in this environment. When he strikes Myrtle across the face, he shows his brutality. After his abuse, Myrtle is left speechless. Her nose is broken and bleeding: she cowers on the couch in retreat. This retreat foreshadows her final, desperate plunge into the road, where she lies killed in a pool of blood. Tom remarks after her death that she has been run over "like you'd run over a dog"
theme vision
Theme - Vision
  • The eyes provide a focal point for the books thematic concern with vision. The board assumes strong significance at the end of the novel, when George Wilson mistakes the eyes for those of an omniscient God. Fitzgerald seems to suggest that consumerism and materialism have taken the place of spiritual values in modern America and have become pervasive.
theme relationship between old and new worlds
Theme – Relationship between Old and New Worlds
  • Nick Carraway is writing his book in the Midwest, the heart of America, and near the end he declares it to be a tale of the west. Fitzgerald wanted ‘The Great Gatsby’ to be a typically American novel. At the same time he felt it necessary to show the complicated relationship of New World ideals to Old World values. The novel is developed by Fitzgerald’s ironic treatment of that relationship.
theme social status
Theme – Social Status
  • The Wilsons live at their place of work. This shows that they have a lower social standing than Nick Carraway, who works in the city but lives in a suburb, some distance from work. The very rich in this novel seem to not work at all, and can live where they choose. F. Scott Fitzgerald emphasises that America, despite claims to democratic equality, is a society divided into a number of social classes based on wealth and property.
  • We see Myrtle buying various items, but should recognise that in turn she is being bought by Tom Buchanan. He buys her gifts, including a dog as a pet, but Tom views his relationship to Myrtle in material terms, as a physical affair rather than an emotional commitment. The relationship stands in direct contrast to Gatsby’s idealistic devotion to Daisy.
quotes
Quotes
  • “This is a valley of ashes - a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight.”
  • “He thinks she goes to see her sister in New York. He's so dumb he doesn't know he's alive.”
slide28

“I married him because I thought he was a gentleman...I thought he knew something about breeding, but he wasn't fit to lick my shoe.”

  • “He borrowed somebody's best suit to get married in, and never told me about it, and the man came after it one day when he was out...I gave it to him and then I lay down and cried...all afternoon.”
  • “I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight, but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild, strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair. Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”