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The Great Gatsby | Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

The relationships between Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, and Tom Buchanan reach a breaking point in Chapter 7. To protect Daisy, Gatsby becomes more reclusive, even firing all of his servants so that there won't be anyone to gossip about her comings and goings. The brewing confrontation between Gatsby and Tom reaches its boiling point at a luncheon at the Buchanan home. Daisy and Gatsby have become bolder in their displays of affection. When Tom takes a phone call in another room, for example, Daisy kisses Gatsby and proclaims her love. Suddenly her toddler daughter, Pammy, appears, led by her nurse. The child is allowed to stay just long enough for Daisy to show her off to the group and is then whisked away so the adults can have lunch on their own. During the meal Gatsby and Daisy gaze lovingly at each other, and Tom can no longer deny that they are having an affair.

Abruptly, Daisy suggests a trip to New York. Tom agrees but demands to drive Gatsby's car with Jordan and Nick, leaving Gatsby to drive Tom's car with Daisy. In the car Tom explodes about the obviousness of Gatsby and Daisy's relationship. On the way, he stops at Wilson's garage for gas. Wilson, who is obviously ill, inquires about when he can buy Tom's old car. He says he needs money because he has just learned his wife is having an affair and he needs to move them away. Tom is aghast—in a short space of time learning he may lose his wife and his mistress. As they drive away Nick notes the hovering eyes of Dr. Eckleburg, and also Myrtle Wilson's eyes jealously peeking out from behind the curtains.

It's oppressively hot in the city, so the party decides to rent a hotel room and drink. As they relax, Tom tries to catch Gatsby in a lie but Gatsby is cool and composed. Realizing he's getting nowhere, Tom finally bursts out, "What kind of row are you trying to cause in my house anyhow?" Aghast, Daisy tries to deny that anything is going on, but Tom is determined, insisting that he won't let "Mr. Nobody" make love to his wife.

Boldly, Gatsby rises and tells Tom that Daisy never loved him—she's loved Gatsby for the past five years, and only married Tom because she was sick of waiting for Gatsby to get rich. At Gatsby's insistence, Daisy robotically agrees that she never loved Tom. Tom seems genuinely hurt by this and presses Daisy to refute her statement. Under Tom's questioning, Daisy admits that of course she loves Tom, and scornfully says that Gatsby asks too much of her: "I can't help what's past." Buoyed, Tom lays into Gatsby, bitterly announcing the unsavory ways he made his fortune, clearly affecting Daisy: "with every word she was drawing further and further into herself." Knowing that he has shattered Daisy's illusion of Gatsby and that he is no longer a threat to their marriage, Tom arrogantly tells Gatsby to drive Daisy home.

Tom drives Nick and Jordan back to East Egg, and as they pass through the valley of ashes, they come upon a terrible sight: fleeing from her home, Myrtle has been killed in a hit-and-run accident. It's obvious that it was Gatsby's car that struck her, and Nick is horrified to learn that it didn't stop after the accident. Back at the Buchanan home, Nick finds Gatsby hiding in the bushes in case Daisy needed his protection from Tom. However, when Nick left them, they were calmly eating dinner at the table. Gatsby admits that Daisy had been driving the car when it killed Myrtle, but that he'll take full blame. Nick leaves, disgusted.

Analysis

Chapter 7 is the turning point in the novel. The tension that has been mounting blows open in the climactic moment when, after a heated fight, Daisy chooses Tom over Gatsby. Gatsby's dream is shattered, and everything he has worked to achieve slips away. Everyone in the hotel room feels the excruciating tension as both men vie for Daisy's commitment. In the end, Gatsby's fantasy cannot trump the reality of the life Daisy and Tom have created, despite its obvious flaws. Daisy's choice is foreshadowed before lunch when her young daughter appears, breaking the romantic moment she and Gatsby shared. While Daisy dotes on her daughter, Gatsby "kept looking at the child in surprise." Although Daisy treats the toddler with what seems like a superficial display of attention, Pammy represents the love Daisy and Tom share, and denying that love is as ludicrous as trying to deny the child's existence. Tom cements this truth in the hotel room when he states, "there's things between Daisy and me that you'll never know." Indeed, Gatsby's money cannot erase Daisy and Tom's shared future in their daughter. Interestingly, Daisy repeatedly calls Pammy "dream," highlighting that her dreams are far different from Gatsby's.

After the hotel room fight, Daisy's intentions in her relationship with Gatsby are revealed. Like everyone else in Gatsby's life, Daisy has been using him—to get back at Tom for his infidelity. Realizing that he might lose Daisy, Tom admits his affairs, and promises "I'm going to take better care of you from now on." This seems to be enough for Daisy, who at the chapter's end, sits calmly eating dinner with her husband, uncaring that she has just killed a woman and broken a man's heart. Gatsby's retelling of the hit-and-run suggests that Daisy intentionally mowed Myrtle down, hinting at Daisy's mindset leaving the hotel: if she can't have fun with Gatsby anymore, then she's going to ensure Tom can't have fun with his mistress, either.

At the end of the chapter, Nick is disgusted by the self-serving behavior of everyone he's met. Nothing, not even a woman's death, can pull them from their spoiled, selfish pettiness. Gatsby gave up everything—his past, his name, his morality—in pursuit of Daisy. He is desperate and would do anything to be welcomed into their elite circle. By refusing to join the Buchanans for dinner, Nick takes a clear moral stance: he is not, and has no desire to be, one of them. The difference between Gatsby and the Buchanans is made clear one final time: while the Buchanans are united in their perverse view that everyone is disposable (Myrtle and Gatsby, for example) and are able to calmly sit and eat dinner together, Gatsby still wants to protect his perfect image of Daisy. Despite her abhorrent crime, he is willing to sacrifice himself for her. In pursuing her, he's given up everything and no longer has anything to lose.

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