Look again at chapter 8. Then, respond to the tasks.
- What do we learn about Wilson in this chapter?
- How does Fitzgerald tell the story in this chapter?
- Some critics see “The Great Gatsby” as a novel shaped by time and place and, therefore, extremely modern. What do you think?
- What do we learn about Wilson in this chapter?
First, the reader learns more information about Wilson’s character and how the death of Myrtle had affected him, showing his love for her, while “George Wilson rocked himself back and forth on the couch inside.” This suggests how deeply distressed he is; he is mourning her and trying to understand what has happened. Also, Wilson “flinched and began to cry,” which suggests his deep grieving. We can also infer that Wilson loves his wife dearly, as he is the only character in the novel who grieves over Myrtle.
Secondly, Wilson starts to behave erratically as he is in deep shock; he mutters to himself and at last spoke and says that he took Myrtle to the window just before she died and told her how “God knows what you’ve been doing, everything you’ve been doing. You may fool me, but you can’t fool God”. This infers that he strongly suspects that his wife was having an affair. The “dog-leash” and the broken nose that she had the previous month are evidence of the affair. Also, Wilson’s erratic behaviour could result from his grieving and state of shock, but it is also unpredictable: as he is obviously planning to face Myrtle’s killer. His erratic behaviour is evident when he repeatedly mentions the “yellow car.” This shows that Wilson is obsessed with finding out who killed his wife.
Thirdly, we can infer that Wilson believes that his wife was murdered rather than killed accidentally, “it was an accident, George.” However, he doesn’t believe this, so he sets out to find the owner of the “yellow card,” resulting in Gatsby’s and his own death. This shows that he is not in the right frame of mind as he also kills himself, showing his erratic behaviour and deep shock. Overall, Wilson is a loving husband, and he obviously cared a lot about Myrtle; we do not see this in earlier chapters, but when he seeks vengeance for the killer of his wife, the readers automatically realize that he is distraught that his wife has died and Wilson does something about it. In the end, Wilson shoots Gatsby, murdering him, then kills himself. His actions corroborate Wilson’s erratic behaviour at the end. He appears to be demented and bewildered; this is suggested by him “acting sort of crazy.”
How does Fitzgerald tell the story in this chapter? In chapter eight of “The Great Gatsby,” Fitzgerald tells the reader about Gatsby and Daisy’s early days. The chapter is significant as it is near the novel’s ending and climaxes the story as Gatsby dies. Chapter eight contains suspension, and Fitzgerald uses this chapter to tell the reader about Gatsby’s last hours, hence moving the plot forward. Also, Fitzgerald waits until the eighth chapter to tell the reader about what actually happened in Gatsby’s past.
Firstly, in chapter eight, Fitzgerald uses two types of narrative voices. Fitzgerald uses the narrative voice to tell us about Gatsby’s last hours and tell the readers about Gatsby and Daisy’s past. He does this by manipulating the narrative voice throughout chapter eight. Nick is the first-person narrator throughout the novel, and in this chapter, he retold Gatsby’s own story. Nick’s narrative voice is used, but Gatsby’s point of view is mainly told. For example, Nick starts to tell Gatsby’s story and starts by saying, “It was the night that he [Gatsby] told me the strange story of his youth with Dan Cody – told it to me because ‘Jay Gatsby’ had broken up like glass against Tom’s hard malice, and the long secret extravaganza was played out.”
Also, some snippets come directly from Gatsby without the narrator’s intervention when dialogue is used between Gatsby and Nick. For example, Gatsby says, “I can describe to you how surprised I was to find out I love her, old sport. I even hoped for a while that she’d throw me over, but she didn’t because she was in love with me too.” Fitzgerald uses this style so that the readers can get more than one point of view. Also, Gatsby’s point of view is vital as he retells the story with his personal feelings and experience, which is needed to know exactly what happened. Fitzgerald lets Gatsby tell Nick what had happened between him and Daisy. Still, we as a readerreadersat Gatsby is a mistrustful character. He lied about what his youth was really like in the previous chapters, so the readers believe Gatsby.
However, Nick is moved by Gatsby’s story and is sincerely worried about Gatsby – “I didn’t want to go to the city… I didn’t want to leave Gatsby”. This shows the concern that Nick has for Gatsby, and through this, we as a reader share the same concern. Alternatively, to structure this chapter effectively, Fitzgerald uses time frames linked to the narrative voices. Nick starts by continuing the story and telling the reader about Gatsby’s last hours, this moves the plot forward, but it also moves it backwards. This links to what happened at the garage the night before. Nick says, “Now I want to go back a little and tell what happened at the garage after we left there the night before.” Nick goes onto telling the reader about Wilson and how he is coping with the death of his wife, Myrtle Wilson.
Wilson slowly works out what happened and who murdered Myrtle. Fitzgerald tells the story in this way because he creates suspense for the readers, and the plot is thickening as Nick goes further and further into the story. The chapter starts with Nick telling the readers about Gatsby’s last hours but leads up to the death of Gatsby and Wilson. Additionally, Fitzgerald builds up Nick’s narrative to its climax at the end of the chapter, the death of Gatsby and Wilson. Nick ends the chapter by saying, “the holocaust was complete.” As the chapter progresses, the pace slows down as we get closer to the climax; time references are made. Also, when Nick explains Gatsby’s past, Fitzgerald is effectively delaying the climax. He wants to leave the reader in suspense as they will not know what will happen at the end of the chapter.
Another technique used by Fitzgerald is that of contrast and juxtaposition. The beginning of this chapter recounts Gatsby’s initial courting of Daisy and provides Nick with an opportunity to analyze Gatsby’s love for her. The chapter starts at Gatsby’s house, which “had never seemed so enormous to me [Nick] as it did that night when we hunted through the great rooms for cigarettes.” This gives the reader a visual image of Gatsby’s house and recalls our minds to a previous chapter where Gatsby’s house was described as a “colossal mansion.” Nick then goes on to tell the reader of the story of Gatsby and Daisy, and begins to describe her house, through Gatsby’s point of view, “…he had never been in such a beautiful house”, and “there was a ripe mystery about it, a hint of bedrooms upstairs more beautiful and cool than other bedrooms…”.
This gives a contrast in Gatsby’s house and Daisy’s house, as Gatsby’s house was now filled with an “inexplicable amount of dust everywhere, and the rooms were musty, as though they hadn’t been aired for many days.” The language which Fitzgerald uses to describe Daisy’s house is full of the motifs of colour and light. Fitzgerald writes how the house was full “of gay and radiant activities taking place through its corridors, and of romances that were not musty and laid away already in lavender but fresh and breathing…” This use of imagery provokes pictures of youth and romance in the reader’s mind. Indeed, the “air of breathless intensity” reinforces the idea of youth and what Gatsby felt when he thought of Daisy. In complete contrast to this is where the reader meets in the second half of the chapter, George Wilson’s garage, where Fitzgerald uses the motif of darkness. This juxtaposition with the two settings allows the reader to learn about the two completely contrasting sides of New York.
In this chapter, Fitzgerald’s other motif is that of Dr. Eckleburg’s eyes, the green light, and the yellow car, which becomes extremely significant in the novel. The initial description of Gatsby’s “yellow car” in chapter four uses the imagery to make the reader imagine this car in their mind. Yellow is also a symbol of corruption. Gatsby’s car is the car that killed Myrtle and is described as “a yellow car. A big yellow car” and again further on in the chapter, “It was a yellow car.” Also, Fitzgerald uses the “green light” to associate with Gatsby’s hopes and goals. At the end of the dock in front of Tom and Daisy’s home is a blinking green light. Gatsby spends a significant amount of time focusing on the green light. The light represents Daisy as he remembers, or the Daisy he wants to remember.
Even if his memories of Daisy are ones from the past or completely made up, to Gatsby, the light is the perfect Daisy. However, in this chapter, Gatsby’s hopes are shattered, he said wanly, “I waited, and about four o’clock she came to the window and stood there for a minute and then turned out the light. Fitzgerald uses various language techniques in chapter eight, such as poetic language in Gatsby’s description of his love for Daisy, to create imagery for the reader. “She was the first “nice” girl he had ever known… He found her excitingly desirable”. Fitzgerald uses effective language to emphasize the love that Gatsby has for Daisy. He also creates a contrast between the emotive language used by Wilson and the detached language used by Gatsby (at the beginning) about the accident.
Furthermore, at the end of the chapter, Fitzgerald uses sparse language when writing about the death of Wilson and Gatsby; this is a huge contrast to the detail Nick gives us when talking about his opulent parties. “…One of Wolfsheim’s protï¿½gï¿½s – heard the shots” and the “holocaust was complete” was the only description given about the death of Wilson and Gatsby. In conclusion, Fitzgerald uses various interesting devices to tell the exciting and vibrant story in chapter eight.