Notes on Chapter 9 of The Great Gatsby

Chapter 9

In the final chapter, the last rites are read over the fantastic life of Jay Gatsby – artificial, noble and a perpetual outsider.

Nick tells the story from the perspective of 1924, the time of writing and two years after the events. Certainly nobody wishes to be associated with the dead man – Daisy sends no flowers, Wolfshiem proves impossible to pin down, though he professes sadness and nobody appears at the funeral aprt from Owl-eyes, the one-time guest, and Henry C. Gatz, his father.

The opportunity for truths to emerge at the inquest is not taken and Myrtle’s sister Catherine is so convincing at creating a false history for Mytle that she seems to convince herself. The urgent phone call suggests that not only Gatsby but his business is coming to an abrupt end.

Into this scene is introduced Gatsby’s father and the last pieces of the reality behind the facade are put in place. Gatsby was ambitious for improvement when young and sought to get on by hard work, energy and study – the embodiment of a purer American Dream. A boy who read cowboy novels and dreamed of a better future. To Mr Gatz, his apparent success was inevitable and the house is proof of this fact.

After a funeral which no one attends, Nick is left truly alone. He bumps into Tom in the city and cannot bring himself to break the chivalric code by telling him that he knows Daisy was driving the car before neatly tying up his romance with Jordan, though not before he has been accused of dishonesty. Recalling her comment about careless drivers only being in danger when they meet other careless drivers, Jordan states that she has thought Nick to be ‘honest, straightforward’. His reply that he is five years too old to lie to himself and call it honour’ is typically enigmatic but suggests an awareness of the ambiguity of the path he has trodden throughout the book.

For Nick has never lost his Mid-Western heart and cannot suppress it enough to allow himself to exist in the East. All the others can do so – Daisy, Tom and Jordan seem to have reinvented themselves to suit the new world of the East – money and profit, together with breeding, counting for all. He sees himself as unadaptable and though he recognises the deficiencies of the East, he longs to return, as he did when a child. His vision after El Greco portrays the East harshly – a land of excess and selfishness with no one seeking to know anyone beyond the superficial and a world in which women, even a ‘white’ women is never more than an object to be disposed of as a man sees fit.

Before he leaves he returns to Gatsby’s and in a last act of loyalty erases the crude slogan on the steps, returning them to their white state – a state of purity, already removed from the events of the summer. His thoughts return to the original settlers, as at the beginning of the novel, and he muses on the reaction of those original settlers when faced by the pristine vastness of the new continent. The original settlers were seeking landfall to better enact God’s commandments – what a disappointment 20th century America must be to them is the message here. The hopes for the future are doomed to become the regrets of the past. As the hopes become increasingly ambitious, so the fall is the greater.