Our chapter begins with Nick waxing poetic about the land between West Egg and the city. Nick is hanging out with Tom and Tom says,”Let’s go hang out with my mistress,” because that’s a thing people do.
Tom and Nick go to the Wilsons, George and Myrtle, and hang out for a bit. Tom berates the store and the environment and then while asking George leave the rest of them alone he tells Myrtle to meet them in the city.
She does, hopping on the same train. They go along and they meet up with her and hang out for a bit. Myrtle calls her sister Catherine and the McKees from downstairs and everybody gets hammered drunk.
During the random conversation about dogs and such, Catherine mentions she was at a party hosted by Gatsby. Before Nick can learn too much information, the group begins discussing Tom and Myrtle running away and leaving Daisy. He also learns that Tom has been lying about his reason for staying with Daisy, claiming she is Catholic and can’t have a divorce (which Nick knows is bullhockey, being her cousin and all).
We find in short exchange that Myrtle is very unhappy in her marriage and dreams of running off to Europe with Tom. She talks of Tom as an escape, of leaving. Later they fight because she says Daisy’s name and Tom doesn’t think she has the right to.
Then Tom hits Myrtle and breaks her nose.
Then Nick drunkenly makes his way back to the train and back home.
Where the hell to begin with this chapter, eh kids? Tom’s abstract mistress becomes flesh and blood here, in the end more blood than flesh. Who to start with first?
Clearly Tom Buchanan is an asshole. This is not even up for debate. Just read that summary! Tom puts down George, skips town with his wife, lies to her and everyone about running away, and then beats her when he gets mad she is talking about his wife. I could have titled this entry “He’s just not that into you, Myrtle.” But why does he do this? You could just say the word “man” and be done with it, but that’s oversimplification and dumb. Nick’s a man and he does not do this. So we fall on the question of honor and what that means. Nick went to war, he is attempting to build himself up without lying and at times calls the bulls^%t as he sees it. Tom pretty much just lies and cheats and does what he wants under the guise that he is acting in his nature, which is being a fuckwad.
But what about Myrtle? One could argue that she is deluding herself, or allowing herself to be deceived with Tom’s lies. Yet from her perspective she is seeing only the white knight behavior, a rescuer from her harsh, miserable normal drudgery. The idea that she is going off to Europe with the old world princesses can easily be inferred by her idealistic manner. And why the fuck not? She has done her time with an asshole meek George in the Gas Station, why shouldn’t she have the lion roaring around?
Then there’s the truth potion, evident in the drunken behavior and the behavior of her sister and the neighbors. They exist as talking heads of exposition and as an almost Greek chorus to tell the reader and Nick the lies that Tom has been spreading to Myrtle and themselves. As the group continues drinking more truth becomes real, gets exposed until the explosive climax where Myrtle confronts Tom and he hits her.
The ultimate truth here is that Tom cannot control Daisy, as meek as she appears. She is wealthy all on her own and in a world that would protect her. By venturing out and “obtaining” Myrtle, Tom exerts control in a separate world beyond Daisy. When even this world falls, he lashes out. One could almost pity Tom in his feelings of helplessness until the asshole starts tearing down the lives and physically harming others. So yeah, f&$k Tom.
- If you could draw Tom, would you put horns on him?
- Myrtle at one point talks about getting a dog. Do you have a dog?
- Have you ever felt trapped? Did you lash out? Did you destroy your daddy’s Death Star?
- If each character was a mixed drink, what would they be called? Example: Tom is a “Flaming Asshole,” made from equal parts tequila and pickle juice.