In chapter 7 of The Great Gatsby, why does Fitzgerald emphasize the heat?
Fitzgerald uses the weather to deepen the mood throughout the novel; the unsettled, rainy and misty day that marks Daisy and Gatsby's reunion and the sodden, unrelenting rain on the day of Gatsby's mostly unattended funeral are two strong examples.
In chapter seven, Fitzgerald uses heat to help readers feel the ratcheting up of the tension that will ultimately explode in the showdown between Gatsby and Tom in the hotel room. Nick seems almost delirious from the effect of the heat; when he arrives at the Buchanan's house that afternoon, he imagines hearing their butler say into the telephone:
"The master's body! I'm sorry, madame, but we can't furnish it—it's far too hot to touch this noon!"
But as Nick enters, he notes that the "room, shadowed well with awnings, was dark and cool." Daisy and Jordan are dressed in white, enjoying the "singing breezes of the fan." Nick has just come from the intense heat of the commuter train where he noticed a woman perspiring and imagined the "straw seats of the car" hovering "on the edge of combustion." The comfort and ease that the rich, Daisy and Jordan, enjoy contrasts with what the less-moneyed have to endure. In chapter eight, Nick will describe Gatsby's idealization of Daisy as "gleaming life silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor."
In chapter seven, then, the Buchanans are forced to temporarily endure the metaphorical heat that comes with their tampering with the lives of others—like Gatsby and the Wilsons. Ultimately, however, they can retreat into their cool lives, unscathed by the events of the hottest day of the year.
The heat is also used to present contradictions. The love that Gatsby is offering Daisy is a love of feeling and passion. Gatsby is a character who feels deeply, as does Nick. However, Daisy chooses a life with Tom that is lacking in active emotion. It is cold, unfeeling, and uninspiring. The descriptions of Daisy and Jordan in this chapter are that they appear 'cool'. At the end of the novel, Daisy and Tom are enjoying cold fried chicken and bottles of ale. These contrasting visions help to reinforce Fitzgerald's portrayal of the wealthy class. He shows them to be without morals and without compassion. That is why the 'cool' images are associated with that group.
The conditions of the heat and the effect on the train passengers are meant to foreshadow the coming events in the hotel room. Typically, intense heat causes emotions, such as anger and passion, to boil over. The passengers on the train have varying emotional reactions to the heat. Some are irritable, while one woman seems stunned and helpless. This foreshadows Tom and Gatsby's showdown, as well as Daisy's reaction to it.
The unbearable heat on the train causes tempers to flair and passions to rise, and this will be true later in the day, as well. Heat is often used to symbolize intense emotion, such as passion.