What is an analysis/explanation of Jay Gatsby's reunion with Daisy in Chapter 5 of The Great Gatsby?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Gatsby's reunion with Daisy in Chapter Five is depicted through the trope of the death of time. Haunted by time as he has studied his watch in waiting for Daisy's arrival, Gatsby begins to despair of Daisy's coming. Then, awkward and nervous as he would have been as a younger man, Jay Gatsby, upon hearing Daisy's artificial voice, rushes out the other door of Nick's cottage, then comes around to the front as though he has just casually strolled over from across his "blue [suggestive of illusionary] lawn. He knocks with a "light, dignified" tap at Nick's door and enters "with his hands plunged like weights in his coat pockets" and a "tragic glaring" in his eyes.

"For a minute" Nick hears nothing; then, the "artificial note" of Daisy's voice is heard. Nick enters and notices Gatsby in "a strained counterfeit of perfect ease" standing against the mantelpiece where a "defunct...clock" rests. Significantly, Gatsby knocks off the clock, but catches it and replaces it upon the mantel. His action represents symbolically Gatsby's attempt to recapture the past, but because the clock does not work, this effort is really futile.

However, there is a certain return to the past as Daisy's voice loses its artificiality and acquires a "matter-of-fact" tone, and Gatsby informs her that is has been five years since they last met. Still, Gatsby continues to be nervous "like a little boy" as Nick tells him; finally, though, he sits with Daisy on the couch in maudlin sentimentality as he "glows" and Daisy, whose face is tear-stained, speaks,

Her throat, full of aching, grieving beauty, told only of her unexpected joy.

As Gatsby realizes that he has reached that green light of Daisy's dock, Nick observes that it possibly has occurred to him "that the colossal significance of that ight had now vanished forever."  Thus, the mystical quality of Gatsby's long desire is gone and Jay can only display for Daisy his wealth, knowing this is what attracted her to Tom Buchanan.

In his mansion, therefore, he tours Daisy through "Marie Antoinette rooms and Restoration salons," showing her his gilded toilette set [comb and brush]. but, as he does so, Gatsby recognizes moments in which "Daisy tumbled short of his dreams" although he is lured by her voice. Nevertheless, Nick narrates,

No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.

It is a "deathless song" which yet captivates Gatsby and immerses him in his dream of reunion with Daisy. This dream cannot sustain him, though, because in it he has confused materialism with moral and aesthetic values. Thus, the falseness of his values connotes Fitzgerald's fatal vision of America in the Jazz Age.

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