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MonkeyNotes-The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald-Free Booknotes Summary
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

CHAPTER V

Notes

In this chapter, Gatsby repeatedly reveals his ignorance of proper social or ethical behavior, betraying his total lack of understanding of how Daisy's aristocratic society and Nick's moral society act. Although he has amassed plenty of wealth, Gatsby has been unable to purchase an ounce of class. This is first revealed in Chapter 5 when he wants to take Nick to Coney Island, a place where true society would never tread. (Appropriately, Gatsby's parties have a Coney Island atmosphere about them.) Next Gatsby wants to "pay off" Nick for setting up the meeting with Daisy by offering him an underworld business deal that could make Nick a handsome sum of money. Then Gatsby comes to Nick's house for tea, improperly dressed in a silver shirt and gold tie (symbolic of his gaudy, ill-gotten wealth); in contrast Nick is dressed conservatively, the image of propriety. Gatsby obviously feels his appearance must be flamboyant, just like his house, his parties, and his car. Daisy may admire Gatsby's material extravagance, but the admiration will be short-lived and at a distance, for Daisy's world is surrounded with tradition and family inheritance.

During the tea with Daisy, Gatsby's behavior borders on the absurd. He stalks about the room, feigns boredom, knocks a clock off the mantel, dashes after Nick into the kitchen while leaving his dream by herself, and moans to Nick about it all being a terrible, terrible mistake. Nick tells him he is acting like a little boy, and, in fact, that is what Gatsby really is. He is a romantic youth who has no idea of the reality behind his dream. With youthful passion, he has idolized Daisy from afar and not realized that she is unworthy of his vision. He also is too immature to realize that money alone cannot "buy" Daisy, and he lacks the tradition or family background to win her permanently. Like the man who originally built Gatsby's mansion, Gatsby puts all his energy into an impossible dream that must eventually be destroyed by reality. Daisy could never live with the vulgar Gatsby as he believes, just as Tom could never live with the vulgar Myrtle. The Buchanans just want diversions and excitement.


The tour through Gatsby's mansion is extremely important to the story. Gatsby has purchased the house in order to be close to Daisy and has dreamed of the day she will enter it. But in the act of possession, Gatsby has become proud of his house, his car, and his parties, not for his own enjoyment, but in anticipation of Daisy's reaction to them. He says to Nick, as they wait for Daisy to freshen up, that his house truly is grand, just as he had earlier praised his Rolls-Royce. When Daisy tours the mansion, however, Gatsby and his belongings are forced to undergo change. He must revalue everything based on Daisy's reaction. His belongings are no longer mere material possessions or symbols of his wealth, purchased to attract Daisy; instead, they are now a part of Daisy, his dream come to reality. Gatsby's clothing takes on particular importance in the chapter. He shows her his rows of suits and piles of shirts, not mere garments to wear, but part of that pure dream, like the green light. But Gatsby gets carried away and begins tossing the shirts one by one into a heap. Daisy, understanding the motivation behind the action, puts her head in the shirts and weeps, while assuring Gatsby they are the most beautiful clothes she has ever seen.

Gatsby's attitude changes drastically and rapidly in the chapter. Initially, he is embarrassed by the meeting with Daisy, feeling that to have planned it was a terrible mistake. After Daisy relaxes and seems to enjoy Gatsby, he is filled with pure joy. After five years, his dream is actually sitting next to him in person and talking to him in that luscious voice. His attitude then turns to a sense of wonder, that Daisy is actually touring his house, responding to his possessions. But Gatsby's attitude ends in bewilderment. He has mixed emotions about having achieved his goal, having visited with Daisy. When he talks about the green light on Daisy's dock, he realizes that it is no longer the symbol of his dream, but only a green light rooted to a real person in a real place. His life has been dedicated to the quest, and now the dream is flesh and blood. He has nothing left to seek, no illusion to pursue. He is now like the other wealthy people in America who find that amassing the fortune is the excitement. When the wealth has been acquired, there is nothing left to do but drift from place to place, like Jordan, Daisy, and Tom.

At the end of the chapter, it is clear that Gatsby does not want to give up the dream, does not want to pull Daisy from the pedestal that he has created for her. Fortunately for him at this point, her voice allows Gatsby to still live in an illusion, for Daisy's voice is thrilling and enchanting, promising much more than the person behind it can offer. Gatsby wants desperately to cling to that illusion. The rest of the book promises to be his efforts towards preserving the dream that has sustained him for so long.

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