The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby book cover
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Using a critical-thinking lens, explain the meaning of this passage from chapter 5. "Nobody’s coming to tea. It’s too late!" He looked at his watch as if there was some pressing demand on his time elsewhere. "I can’t wait all day." "Don’t be silly; it’s just two minutes to four." He sat down, miserably, as if I had pushed him, and simultaneously there was the sound of a motor turning into my lane. We both jumped up and, a little harrowed myself, I went out into the yard.

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This short passage comes from chapter 5 of the novel. Nick has previously informed Gatsby that he will be inviting Daisy to tea at his house, and he has asked Gatsby what time would suit him. Gatsby affects an air of unconcern, but in this passage, we can see that this was clearly affected. When Gatsby arrives for tea, he is distracted, speaking "hollowly" and unable quite to follow the conversation.
The reader knows, by this time, that Gatsby and Daisy have a significant romantic history. The language of this passage seems to emphasize Gatsby's current feelings about this: he notes before it is even four o'clock that "nobody" is coming to tea. He feels no confidence that Daisy will wish to see him. He also seems to feel that his time is limited: it is "too late," words which could be interpreted as applying to his relationship with Daisy as he sees it as well as to this tea-time meeting.
We also see Gatsby's behavior here as lacking in assertiveness. He allows Nick to direct him, reacting "miserably" and submitting to being ordered around. By the time the car arrives, Gatsby's behavior has seeped into Nick to the extent that both feel "harrowed."
In the context of the novel, this passage is important because it indicates the progression of Gatsby's character, particularly in relation to Daisy. It also serves to show us how affected Nick is becoming by the circumstances in which he now finds himself embroiled.

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