Le portrait de Mr W.H.


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Oscar Wilde

Chapter 7

Gatsby decides not to have any more parties. They were only designed to get the attention of Daisy, and that has been completed. Plus, he is very preoccupied with spending time with Daisy, so he does not want to take the time for the parties. His servants all find themselves fired, because the thinks it is the best way to avoid having them gossip about the affair. He replaces all of them with people connected to Meyer, and the shadiness of these individuals is obvious to Nick and to the reader. On the hottest summer day, Nick goes to East Egg, to have lunch at Daisy and Tom's house. Jordan and Gatsby have also been invited, and are already there. Daisy's infant daughter is brought into the room, and Gatsby is shocked, thinking how the tiny girl does not even look real. Daisy is not very interested in her child, seeing her almost as an afterthought. They all get through an awkward lunch, but Daisy and Gatsby are having a very difficult time hiding how they feel. He cannot stop staring at her, and she finally says that she is bored and asks him if he wants to go to the city. Tom is convinced that his wife and Gatsby have feelings for one another.

Tom wants a confrontation, so he decides that they should all go to New York. Jordan, Tom, and Nick all go in Gatsby's car, and Gatsby and Daisy take Tom's car. They stop at Wilson's garage to buy fuel, and Tom, Jordan, and Nick discover that Wilson has found out that his wife has been cheating on him. He does not know who his wife's lover is, but he is planning to take his wife and move out to the West. Nick thinks about Wilson and Tom, and how they are in the same position, but he does not say anything. They leave the gas station and go into New York City. It is oppressively hot, and they all get a suite. They decide on the Plaza Hotel. When they are settled into their suite, Tom decides that the time has come to confront Gatsby. He starts mocking him and says that he does not believe that he went to Oxford. Gatsby insists that he did attend the school, but admits that it was only for a few months, and was in a military program after the war.

Tom then asks Gatsby about Daisy, and Gatsby says that Daisy actually loves him. Tom insists that he has a history with Daisy, and that Gatsby does not understand what they have together. He also accuses Gatsby of bootlegging, and getting the wealth that he currently has through illegal activities. Even though Daisy believed that she was still in love with Gatsby earlier in the day, she comes to realize that she still wants to be with her husband. He has more of the things for which she is looking, and she sees that he is getting the better of Gatsby in their argument. Because Tom feels so confident that Daisy will not leave him and that Gatsby does not hold any power over him or Daisy, he sends Gatsby and Daisy back to Long Island in the same car. Everything settles down, and Nick realizes that he is turning thirty that day, and has not done anything to celebrate it.

Tom, Nick, and Jordan head back to Long Island, and on the way they see that there has been an accident in the Valley of Ashes. A person has been hit by a car, and killed. They stop, and find out that Myrtle was the victim. A car was coming back to Long Island from New York City, hit her, paused, and then drove off. Nick starts thinking about it, and decides that Daisy and Gatsby must have been the ones who hit and killed Myrtle. Gatsby's car is yellow and big. It is very recognizable, and Tom thinks that it is likely Wilson will remember the car. He saw it earlier in the afternoon, when they all stopped for gas. He figures that Gatsby would have been the person driving, since it was his car, but none of them know for certain whether it was Gatsby's car that hit Myrtle. They are only going on the speculation that it was him, and they do not have any solid, concrete evidence. Still, they have no reason to assume otherwise, and they have to reason to think that anyone other than Gatsby would have been driving the car at the time of the accident.

When they get back to Tom's house, Nick stays outside. Gatsby is hiding in some bushes. He claims to be there because he is afraid that Tom might try to hurt Daisy because of the accident with Myrtle and the confrontation at the hotel. He also says Daisy was the one who was driving the car when Myrtle was hit, but that he has decided that he is going to take the blame for the accident. Because he is so deeply concerned about Daisy's welfare, he asks Nick to go inside and check to see how she is. When Nick goes in, he sees that Daisy and Tom are having a meal and talking. Their differences have been straightened out, and all appears to be well. Nick goes home, leaving Gatsby alone. There is little else to say, now that Tom's lover is dead and Daisy has made her choice to forego any more time with Gatsby and stay with her husband. While it was necessary to bring the conflict that Gatsby and Tom were having out into the open, both characters have some troubling issues that appear along with that conflict, and that begin to surface more strongly in this chapter.

There have been hints regarding Gatsby's past criminal activities in previous chapters, but now they are brought to light clearly, so that the reader can see what Gatsby has done in the past in order to gain his wealth. Tom does some research into the matter, and it confirms the suspicions that he had regarding how Gatsby came to acquire such wealth so quickly. Because Tom knows that image is so very important in West Egg and its social circles, as well as to people like Daisy, he uses that knowledge right in front of the entire group. That helps to disgrace Gatsby and make him look bad, which was Tom's goal. He believes that Daisy will not want Gatsby wants she knows how he acquired his wealth and what he is really like on the inside.

Tom is deeply outraged by his wife's cheating, although he has no problem with his own extramarital affair. The past becomes very important in this chapter, and finally manifests in the confrontation that Gatsby and Tom have. Gatsby insists that Daisy must tell Tom she has never loved him, so that he can recover the past about which he thinks and dreams. Tom pleads with Daisy to remember the history between the two of them, and he is able to control the past that way – thus wiping out the vision Gatsby had for the future. Tom is so secure that he sends Gatsby and Daisy back to East Egg in the same vehicle. Nick observes that Gatsby's dream has completely died. Clearly, though, Gatsby still loves Daisy. If he did not, he would not have taken the blame for her accident with Myrtle. Regardless of his criminal history, it is apparent that Gatsby really does love Daisy deeply. He is left to pine for Daisy, standing solitarily in the moonlight on her lawn.

Chapter 8

Nick cannot sleep that night because there has been so much taking place. He gets up before the sun comes up, and goes next door to Gatsby's mansion. Gatsby says that he stayed on Daisy's lawn until 4am. Daisy did not come out, and there was so evidence that Tom had hurt her or that they were arguing. Nick wants Gatsby to leave Long Island and just forget Daisy, but Gatsby will not leave her behind and go somewhere else. His love for her is too strong for that. He starts to talk about Louisville in 1917, when he first started courting Daisy. Her vitality and youth drew him to her, and he wanted to have the wealth, popularity, and social position that she had attained. He had never felt close to a woman before, so he started lying about his background so that she would think that he was worthy of her love. Finally, the two made love. Gatsby felt as though they were married at that point, and he asked Daisy to promise to wait for him when he went off to war. She did promise, but then she married Tom. He had a strong social position, and her parents liked him.

The gardener interrupts Gatsby's story. He wants permission to drain the pool. Fall is coming, and the leaves will be falling off the trees soon. He is concerned that the pool drains will be clogged with leaves if he does not take action soon. Gatsby requests that the gardener wait one day, because he wants to swim. He has never even used his pool. Nick is late for work, so he has to leave. As he is headed out, he turns back and shouts out to Gatsby that he (Gatsby) is worthy much more than Tom, Daisy, and their friends. Nick goes to work, but he is having trouble concentrating. Jordan wants to meet him for a date, but he refuses because of everything that has happened. The narrative shifts here, so that the reader is able to see what took place after Myrtle was struck and killed. Nick learns the details from Michaelis, who runs a business next door to Wilson's garage. George Wilson talked to Michaelis all night, telling him all about how he confronted Myrtle about her affair and how she would not be able to hide what she was doing from God. He was watching her.

The next morning, Wilson is overwhelmed by the faded billboard with the eyes on it, and he decides that God demands that he get revenge. He also decides that whoever was driving the car has to be Myrtle's lover. He leaves his garage, and goes to find whoever owns the car that struck her. He hunts down Tom, because he knows Tom will know who was in the car. He saw Tom driving the car at one point during the day of the accident, but Tom showed up at the accident scene later in a different car. George knows Tom could not have been driving when the car hit Myrtle. Eventually, Wilson ends up at Gatsby's house. Gatsby is floating in the pool on an air mattress, studying the sky. Wilson shoots and kills him, and then shoots himself. When Nick gets back to West Egg, he finds Gatsby dead in the pool. He thinks of the man's final thoughts, and how devastated Gatsby must have been that his dream of Daisy was gone. It rendered his life empty and meaningless.

When Gatsby talks to Nick about how he and Daisy met and fell in love, Nick is better able to analyze whether Gatsby really loves her. The main reason Gatsby appears to care so much for her is the aura she gives off. It is one of privilege and great wealth. She has no fears or worries, lives in a perfect house, has closets full of clothing, etc. It is easy to see that Gatsby idolizes Daisy, but he has also put the idea of having wealth up on that same pedestal. With that in mind, it is easy to see that Gatsby has tied wealth and Daisy together in his mind. Nick suggests that Gatsby is surrendering how much visionary, wealth-creating power he actually has by focusing his efforts on Daisy, who is shallow and fickle. By doing things that way, Gatsby reduces his dream to a motivation for gaining material possessions. The object about which he dreams (Daisy) is not really worthy of the power he has to make his dreams come to pass. That ability is what is making him "great" in the sense it is used in the title of the novel, but Gatsby does not see the issue the same way.

Gatsby becomes a symbol of 1920s America. Fitzgerald implies throughout the novel that the country has become empty and even vulgar because there is so much greed and such a deep desire for the pursuit of money and material things. Pursuing happiness, which was the original American dream, has become focused on pursuing wealth and privilege, assuming (incorrectly) that those things are required to make a person happy. The dream of happiness that Gatsby has with Daisy becomes a motivation for not only lavishness and excess but also for criminal activity. The expected end appears to justify the means, at least in Gatsby's eyes. However, it is not accurate to really assume that the dream Gatsby has about a future with Daisy is something that will come to pass. In the same way, many people who set out with the American dream in their hearts find that it, too, is unrealistic.

The reader sees how things are degrading, but Gatsby does not notice. He feels as though his entire world is gone if he does not have Daisy. He wanted to recreate the past, but failed. Then he started talking to Nick about it, still trying to keep it as a living thing to him. Despite what happens when Tom confronts him, he fails to acknowledge the death of his dream about Daisy and their future. Nick knows that Daisy will never leave Tom to be with Gatsby, but Gatsby is insistent that he will hear from Daisy. The weather is tied to the plot, and that shows very strongly in this chapter. It is no coincidence that Tom and Gatsby had their confrontation on the hottest day of the year. Now that Gatsby's dream is over, the weather is cooling and autumn is close at hand. Gatsby holds on. He does not want to give up the idea of Daisy, and so he swims in the pool, as though summer was still available to him.

He will not accept what he cannot control, which is the fact that time is passing. Daisy became a symbol of everything that Gatsby found valuable, but symbols are only in a person's mind. Daisy was beautiful only because Gatsby saw her that way. If he did not love her, she would have only been another rich, bored young woman without a particularly strong sense of loyalty or any moral compass. The same is basically true with George Wilson and the symbol of the eyes on the billboard. They have meaning only because he chooses to see them that way. Fitzgerald does not ascribe them any particular meaning in the book, other than the meaning found in them by some of the characters themselves. What is shown in this chapter is that the world exposes many people's dreams as mere illusions. Dreamers like Wilson and Gatsby are often cast aside, and cruel men like Tom are the ones who generally see success in their personal and professional lives.

Chapter 9

Two years after Gatsby died, Nick addresses some of the events that happened surrounding the funeral. There were gossipers, reporters, journalists, and all kinds of people from the community who showed up at the house when they found out about the murder. There were all kinds of exaggerated stories going around. Many of them were wild and completely untrue. The rumors were worse than the rumors going around when Gatsby was holding all of his lavish parties. Many of the rumors are focused on what kind of relationship Gatsby had to Wilson and to Myrtle. Nick decides the least he can do is hold a big funeral for Gatsby, but most of the people who were "close" to him have either disappeared or they simply do not want to come to the funeral. That includes Tom and Daisy, who pack up and move away from East Egg without leaving any kind of forwarding address behind. Others, like Klipspringer and Meyer Wolfsheim simply say they will not attend.

In the end, Owl Eyes, a few servants, Nick, and Gatsby's father are the only ones in attendance. Klipspringer would not come, but he did ask Nick to send his tennis shoes along, because he had to go to Westport. Nick hung up on him, outraged at how these people used Gatsby and pretended to care about him, but disappeared and did not grieve him in any way. Gatsby's father has come from Minnesota for the funeral of his son. He is still very proud of all his son accomplished, and takes pictures of his house to save and take home with him. He tells Nick all about Gatsby's life when he was very young, including a book he shows Nick that Gatsby used in the past to write self-improvement schedules. He had planned to "go somewhere," even when he was a child. So strong was his goal of attaining wealth and everything that went along with it, that it eventually became his downfall – especially where Daisy was concerned.

Nick is depressed by the lack of values seen in the East, so he decides that he will go back out to the Midwest, instead. He stops seeing Jordan. Suddenly, she claims that she is getting engaged to someone else. Right before he leaves, Nick runs into Tom in New York City. They are both on Fifth Avenue, and Tom wants to shake hands. Nick refuses, but eventually relents. Tom tells Nick that he was the one who told Wilson it was Gatsby's car that struck Myrtle and killed her. He also talks about how he has suffered since having to give up his city apartment, the one he kept for his affair. He thinks Gatsby got what he deserved, and that death was what he had coming to him. Nick decides that both Daisy and Tom are both uncaring and careless people. They are not concerned about who they hurt or what happens to the people around them. They are destructive to things and also to people, and they have so much money that they are not at all worried about facing any kind of consequences for the actions that they take toward the people around them.

Nick thinks about the story that has unfolded, and how it is about the West even though it took place in the East. Daisy, Nick, Tom, and Jordan were all from the West, and Nick feels as though the way they reacted to the lurid, quick-paced lifestyle of the East changed and shaped the way they behaved when it came to themselves and one another. He thinks about how it was in the Midwest, and realizes that the East seems distorted and unpleasant when compared to where he came from. Who would they all have been, if they would have stayed in the Midwest instead of moving to Long Island? Before he goes back to Minnesota, on the last night he will spend in West Egg, Nick walks next door to look at Gatsby's mansion one final time. Someone has written an obscene word on the steps, and Nick erases it. He lies on the beach behind the house and watches the moon rise. As he does so, he begins to think about how things looked there to the first explorers, before there were any houses.

America was an important goal for explorers and those who had big dreams, just like Daisy was an important goal for Gatsby. He thinks, also, of the green light on Daisy's dock and the green land of America, and how Gatsby's dreams (and ultimate failure) so closely resemble so much of what happens in America. Most people are motivated by goals and dreams, but Gatsby was not able to see that his dream was dead. He needed to find a new dream, instead. Finding one that was worth pursuing would have been the best thing he could have done, but he was not able to let go of what he had in the past and what he believed was right for his future, even though it was clear that it was not to be. When Nick lived in the Midwest, he saw it as dreary and not very interesting. However, now that he has experienced the East, he sees that it is only glittering and beautiful on the surface. There is a moral center to the Midwest which is deeply lacking in the East. That realization has much to do with why Nick chooses to go back to the Midwest, instead of remaining in West Egg.

Another significant point in this chapter is the fact that all of the main characters are Westerners who have gone East. Fundamentally, this is backward from the way history has presented America. The West was always the place people went to find possibility and the promise of something new. They headed out, and often they never returned. Those democratic ideals that sent so many people to the West over time were betrayed by Daisy and Tom, because they moved to an area that was focused on a class structure that excluded many people from it, even when they had acquired wealth. It was feudal and aristocratic in nature, which were the very things that people had come to America – and then had headed West – to escape. Gatsby is the only one who really dreams of creating a future for himself that is very different. Still, he is not able to do so. He uses criminal methods that are not honest, he does not have the "old money" connections that would put him into the class to win Daisy's loyalty, and he is mostly putting on an act for himself and others.

While it is not made clear what Gatsby's failure indicates when it comes to the overall goals and dreams of American society, Fitzgerald does cause the reader to question the idea that anything can be accomplished with enough effort. Sometimes, it appears, effort and desire are simply not enough. America has disowned a lot of its past (most notably, through a declaration of independence from European roots), but it is not possible to completely let go of the past. There are always threads of it that follow one around. The divide that separates Gatsby from Daisy is a divide that separates many Americans from their dreams. It is not one that can always be bridged. Nick is strongly rooted to his past, so he is able to make sense of most things in the novel – with the notable exception of Gatsby. While it does not appear that Gatsby is able to escape his past, his desire to do so is valuable.

Overall, the main representation found throughout the whole of The Great Gatsby is Nick and how he struggles to integrate the importance he sees in the past with the freedom from it on which Gatsby is focused. Both are valuable to him, and he can see (as can the reader) how both are valuable to society as a whole. One must honor, understand, and accept the past for what it is. At the same time, one must also avoid letting the past take over one's present and future in such a way that he or she fails to move forward. A lack of control of the future can prompt individuals to hold onto the past and attempt to recreate what they once had. However, the idea that one cannot "go home again" is very important to consider when looking at recreating the past and trying to bring that past into the future. Nick recognizes this, but Gatsby is not able to grasp the idea that the time he spent with Daisy is truly in the past, and he should choose another, more worthy, goal for his future.

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