In The Great Gatsby, how is Gatsby's party in West Egg different from the first two parties?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Three parties occur in the novel, two at Gatsby's estate in West Egg and one in the apartment in New York where Tom carries on his affair with Myrtle. The party in Tom and Myrtle's apartment is detailed in Chapter II; Gatsby's parties occur in Chapters III and VI. Gatsby's party in Chapter VI contrasts the two earlier parties, but in different ways:

The party in Tom and Myrtle's apartment takes place in a cramped, crowded, smoky setting among a relatively small group of people; the tone is not festive, and the party ends with Tom's breaking Myrtle's nose after a violent quarrel. In contrast, Gatsby's party in Chapter VI is accomplished on a grand scale, under the stars, with orchestra music, dancing, and fine buffets. It is characterized by beauty and excess. There is confict between characters, but it is not overt or violent.

Gatsby's party in Chapter VI is much like his earlier party, in terms of its setting and festivities, but the tone is much different. The party in Chapter III is full of wild energy, filled with the uninhibited and sometimes bizarre behavior of Gatsby's drunken guests. However, his second party, in Nick's words, had a "peculiar quality of oppressiveness." Nick remembers it most clearly:

There were the same people, or at least the same sort of people, the same profusion of champagne, the same many-colored, many-keyed commotion, but I felt an unpleasantness in the air, a pervading harshness that hadn't been there before.

The difference, Nick surmises, was the presence of Tom Buchanan who had come with Daisy; Tom's contempt for Gatsby had been quite apparent throughout the evening. Also, Nick had seen Gatsby's party this time as Daisy had seen it, and through her eyes, it had taken on a different aspect. No longer beautiful and exciting, Gatsby's party seemed cheap and vulgar. Daisy had been "appalled" and "offended" by what she had witnessed at Gatsby's party.

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The Great Gatsby

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