The Great Gatsby | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Chapter 5

Professor Tony Bowers from the College of DuPage explains Chapter 5 in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby.

The Great Gatsby | Chapter 5 | Summary

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Summary

Upon returning home late one evening, Nick Carraway is surprised to find Jay Gatsby nervously waiting for him. It's clear that Gatsby wants to know whether Nick has arranged the tea with Daisy Buchanan, but doesn't want to come right out and ask him. He first invites Nick to Coney Island and then over for a swim, which Nick declines, citing the time. When Nick announces that he will invite Daisy for tea in two days, Gatsby becomes visibly excited and nervous. He offers to find Nick a side job to make more money doing very little work. Nick realizes that Gatsby is offering his friendship and money in exchange for help in reconnecting with Daisy, and he feels offended; he would have preferred that Gatsby felt friendship was enough motivation for Nick to help him. Nevertheless, Nick calls Daisy the next day, invites her to tea, and asks her to not bring Tom.

On the appointed day, Gatsby sends over a gardener to cut Nick's lawn and orders a "greenhouse" of flowers to decorate the interior of Nick's home. Gatsby arrives early, desperately nervous, worried that Daisy will not come. Daisy does arrive, but when Nick shows her into the living room where Gatsby had been waiting, he is gone. He knocks at the front door a few moments later, as if he's just arrived, having snuck out the back.

At first the reunion is awkward. Gatsby nervously breaks Nick's clock and even laments that the meeting was a mistake. Nick decides to leave the pair alone for a short time, and when he returns, Daisy has tears in her eyes and Gatsby is glowing with delight. It appears their love is rekindled. Gatsby invites Nick and Daisy over to his house for a tour. As they walk through the vast mansion, it's clear that every detail has been hand-selected to impress Daisy. She is impressed, breaking into tears when she sees all of Gatsby's fine shirts. Gatsby and Daisy are so overwhelmed to be together again that Nick is able to slip out of the house unnoticed.

Analysis

Gatsby's dream, which he has spent five years working toward, is finally realized when he is reunited with Daisy. The build-up to their meeting is comically awkward, although Nick insists "it wasn't a bit funny." Gatsby, who has been controlled and measured throughout the novel, is suddenly nervous, emotional, and vulnerable. When he knocks on Nick's door after Daisy's arrival, he is "pale as death." Gatsby wants everything to be perfect for Daisy, so he micromanages every detail to ensure it's as beautiful as he's always dreamed, hiring a landscaper to cut Nick's lawn, and sending over a "greenhouse" of flowers. He dresses in white, gold, and silver to ensure Daisy doesn't miss the fact that he's rich now. When they actually meet, however, it's awkward—foreshadowing the fact that reality is never as beautiful as the dream. In a bumbling attempt to appear relaxed, Gatsby breaks Nick's clock, a vivid symbol of his botched attempt to rewind time.

After some time alone, however, it's clear that Gatsby and Daisy's love has been rekindled. Daisy's eyes are filled with tears twice in this short chapter, most notably after she sees Gatsby's fine shirts. Daisy married Tom hastily, attracted to his money, leaving Gatsby because he was too poor. Now he has more money than he knows what to do with, and Daisy's tears suggest a realization that she made a terrible mistake. Had she waited for Gatsby, she could have had love and wealth, but she sold herself short.

Gatsby's vulnerability is also seen when he offers to pay Nick for helping him arrange the meeting. Nick is offended by the offer—he would have helped Gatsby simply because they're friends. The offer suggests that Gatsby has few true friends. Since becoming rich and shedding his past, Gatsby has had to pay for everything, including friendship. His superficiality has caused him to lose touch with reality. The interaction leaves Nick in deep thought, as he questions again just how much of the person known as Gatsby is a facade.

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