This week’s reading really picks up the pace, as Daisy and Gatsby meet again and his plan to win her back begins to unfold. First, we see Nick, Daisy, and Gatsby at a very uncomfortable tea, which is the first time Gatsby and Daisy see one another. After a very awkward few minutes, Gatsby proposes that they go see his house, which he has been dying to show off to Daisy. More awkwardness ensues. The next Saturday, Tom and Daisy come to Gatsby’s party. Daisy doesn’t enjoy herself, and Gatsby promptly clears the house of all revelry after the party is over, not to host any more guests except Daisy, who he claims stops by often. Gatsby and Nick then go to the Buchanan’s for lunch, which is uncomfortably hot and unpleasant and marks the first, albeit short, appearance of Daisy’s daughter. In an effort to escape the tension, Daisy suggests that they all go into the city. Once in a hotel room in New York, the tension and heat continue to mount. This week’s reading leaves off right in the middle of the outing, which is obviously headed toward disaster.
This section of the book brings to light much about Gatsby’s past (particularly his decision to change his name to Jay Gatsby when he joins up with Dan Cody, who takes him under his wing and invites him to work aboard his yacht). More importantly, it reveals Gatsby’s monomaniacal nature. He is obsessed with Daisy, with the life he didn’t get to live with her. He thought that he could win her over with his wealth, parties, and extravagance, but Daisy isn’t impressed: “She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand” (p. 114). This quote refers to Gatsby’s party, where Daisy does not enjoy herself or swoon over the festivities like the rest of the guests (if you will recall, last week we discussed the quote on page 45 that reads: “Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby at all, came for the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission.”).
The anticipation that Gatsby feels when showing Daisy his house is nearly palpable. Nick, in his narration, comments that:
He had been full of the idea so long, dreamed it right through to the end, waited with his teeth set, so to speak, at an inconceivable pitch of intensity. Now, in the reaction, he was running down like an overwound clock (p. 97).
Basically, Gatsby has become so enamored with Daisy that his love has extended beyond her, beyond who she is. He is in love with the idea of her, with all that she represents, and this obsession has quite literally taken over his life:
There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams–not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart (p. 101).
Despite the fact that it is easy to characterize Gatsby as a swindler, as a con artist who is out to catch the girl he lost, he is a much more complex character than that. Maybe it’s the romantic in me, but I feel sorry for Gatsby. He himself is disillusioned in the lifestyle that he has created, we can see that in the fact that he doesn’t partake in the revelry that he hosts. But he also believes wholeheartedly that he can use this illusion that he has created to win Daisy back. He seems to be trying to recapture something that he has lost, and that something is his life with Daisy:
‘Can’t repeat the past?’ he cried incredulously. ‘Why of course you can!’ (p. 116).
In addition to having him quite literally exclaim his designs, Fitz illustrates the moment, five years before, that he lost control over his life–the moment he began to live for Daisy rather than himself:
The quiet lights in the houses were humming out into the darkness and there was a stir and bustle among the stars. Out of the corner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalk really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees–he could climb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder.
“His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her (p. 117)
Gatsby knew, in that moment, that to love Daisy would be to lose himself. Still, he is willing to give up “the pap of life” and the “milk of wonder” to be with this girl. For this reason, Gatsby is also a symbol of hope. Despite the fact that Daisy is married, that they have already lost contact with one another, Gatsby simply doesn’t give up on the girl that he loves.