Chapter 7 opens on a blistering hot day in the days before air conditioning. How is the behavior of the characters linked to the weather?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Nick describes the weather as "broiling." Tensions are certainly running high: Tom does not like Gatsby, Gatsby and Daisy are having an affair, and both Nick and Jordan are aware of the affair. Tom even brags to Gatsby about his own affairs (which are repugnant to begin with, but then he puts icing on the cake by boasting about his prowess to the man who's in love with his wife!). Daisy tells Jordan, "But it's so hot . . . and everything's so confused. Let's go to town!" We often say that someone's temper "flares," as if to imply that heat goes along with anger. The rising temperatures in this scene seem to symbolize not only the rising tensions but the rising anger, too. The driveway is "blazing"; the leather upholstery in the cars is "hot"; the heat is "oppressive" as they drive toward town; it "relentless[ly] beat[s]" in the valley of ashes; and the room they rent in NYC is "stifling." It makes people's fuses quite short (another heat-related metaphor for quick tempers), and we see the explosion that takes place in part, perhaps, because of the heat.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Near the beginning of the chapter, Fitzgerald incorporates heat imagery to mirror the explosive situation that Nick is about to witness.  As Nick rides the train, he comments that the

straw seats of the car hovered on the edge of combustion (120).

The image lends itself well to the situation with Gatsby, Daisy, and Tom.  It is just a matter of time before someone "explodes."

Likewise, as Nick, Gatsby, and Tom linger at the Buchanan household, Fitzgerald contrasts Tom's stifling, overheated personality to Gatsby's effortlessly "cool" one.  He is "astounded" when Daisy praises Gatsby right in front of him and immediately suggests going into the city (125).

The heat has made Daisy and Tom irritable with each other, and the change of setting to the confining nature of the hotel room does not help.  In the end, the broiling nature of not only the day but also of the overheated room imitate Tom's rising, uncontrollable temper and drive Gatsby to a confrontation when he otherwise might have remained calm.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial