Notes on Chapter 8 of the Great Gatsby.

Chapter 8:

Tom, Daisy and Jordan have no further role in the narrative beyond that required to tie up loose ends. The novel now focuses on Gatsby as seen through the eyes of Nick. The glamour and overt drama is complete and what now happens, happens in the manner of a Greek Tragedy – told and described but not seen on stage.


Nick’s patchy sleep is disturbed by a fog horn all night, recalling the complex and confusing emotions at play in his head and in the head of Gatsby who has returned home during the night and now has the chance to recount the early life history referred to in Chapter 6. There is nothing left to hide – the illusion that is Jay Gatsby no longer has a purpose and has been destroyed by the sheer force of Tom’s wealth and pedigree.

The house ‘never seemed more enormous’ in its emptiness and all is dusty and musty due to a lack of care. Rather like its owner, it has no purpose to serve any more. When the pair open widows, the light is ‘grey-turning, gold-turning’ and when they step onto the porch Nick notices a shift – Autumn is in the air and the joy and possibility of summer is no longer.

Nick travels to the city –the business city- and all is drudge until Jordan calls with her selfish appraisal of Nick’s behaviour after the accident. The call ends inconclusively and then Nick tries to ring Gatsby –four times to no avail. The line is being ‘kept open’, suggestive of some crisis looming. The telephone is a relatively new invention at this time and like the car, its capacity for trouble seems to outweigh the opportunities it provides in this book.

The journey back through the Ashes provides an opportunity to recount the events of the fateful night which must have been told at the inquest. Wilson seems to mistake the all-seeing eyes of Eckleburg for those of God and perhaps he is right so to do. This America seems to be driven by the worship of money and of profit and seems to be high on hypocrisy. Maybe there is a new God, the god of commercial excess, an unforgiving and selfish deity.

We receive a hint of what is to come in the brief description of Wilson’s wanderings with its suggestion of Tom-as-informer which prepares the way for the final setting of Gatsby’s life.

We are prepared for the swimming pool in Chapter 6 and the new season seems apt as Gatsby moves through ‘yellowing’ trees towards the pool. He carries a mattress as a reminder of better times – it had ‘amused his guests’ earlier in the year. In the final two sections of the chapter there is no direct speech – Fitzgerald places a distance between Nick and the reader as he imagines the feelings and sensations in Gatsby’s mind – the possibility of acceptance of failure, the recognition of the corrosive nature of the single dream and the recognition of reality as being devoid of artifice and romance and not pleasant to behold. The murder is told delicately with no reference to the body, just to the red leaves forming a thin red circle in the water.


Gatsby has been undone by his inability to compromise on his ideal. He describes Daisy as his ‘grail’ and thus his quest becomes a holy action which precludes all others. His early life has been discussed in Chapter 6 at its first telling and we now see clearly that Daisy really was his first brush with the truly beautiful world of the wealthy. His officer’s uniform removes the stigma of his low birth and he has used it unscrupulously to chase women. His pursuit of Daisy begins in this same way yet once he has conquered her (‘took her because he had no real right to touch her hand’) she becomes more to him and he cannot resist her lure any more than a sailor could resist the sirens’ songs.  It is in the description of their last afternoon that a depth of love unimagined in this novel is portrayed. Soft, gentle and mutual. This is what Daisy would reject when wooed by real money. Gatsby is living the ‘real life’ at war whilst Daisy’s world is ‘artificial’ and it will always be so. The past cannot be recaptured. As he describes leaving the city after the war, Nick tells him that ‘you’re worth the whole damn bunch put together’. Gatsby’s smile on hearing this is ‘radiant and ecstatic’. It is as though this first and only compliment has made the pursuit worthwhile. Certainly the Gatsby of that afternoon seems different – he leaves the phone to chance and decides to sample a little of his luxury, such that he always avoided at his own parties. His end must have come as a relief.

Wilson, described as being ‘not enough of him for his wife’ is given a short scene. Heavy on pathos, he explains to Michaelis Myrtle’s infidelity and hints that he has ways of finding out whose car was being driven. His vanishing and subsequent trek across the Eggs in search of Gatsby is not necessary to recount and this sad, lonely man with no friends and a dead wife has no further use for life.

Nick is openly addressing the reader as he directs us through the timeshifts of this chapter. We are taken into his confidence and the lack of direct speech suggests that we are reading his thoughts and interpretations of events which elsewhere in the book may well have been told more directly. It seems curiously detached of him to go to work that morning, yet he has no reason to stay. The Gatsby story is over and his life, in his new decade, needs to move on. Many of his comments are difficult to unpack and seem ambiguous as befits the narrative which relies on obfuscation and half-truths throughout to engage the reader. It is completely right that Nick should be constantly trying to assess his feelings – we are.