In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, what does the following passage mean in Chapter Nine?
I couldn’t get to the house,” he remarked.
“Neither could anybody else.”
“Go on!” He started. “Why, my God! they used to go there by the hundreds.” He took off his glasses and wiped them again, outside and in.
“The poor son-of-a-bitch,” he said.
In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway has been desperately trying to get Gatsby's friends to come to Jay's funeral. Every call, every visit and each request has been met with disinterest. Wolfsheim doesn't want to get "involved." One man that Nick calls tells him that Gatsby got what he deserved. Only Gatsby's father (Mr. Gatz) comes, as does a man Nick refers to as "Owl-eyes"—for though Nick has seen him, they have not spoken and Nick does not know his name.
Nick has felt responsible to have people come to Gatsby's funeral. Gatsby always had so many friends over, so often opened his house to crowds of partygoers. Here at his death, no mourners can be found. Owl-eyes is disbelieving. It is his conversation that puts everything into perspective.
I couldn't get to the house.
This means that he couldn't reach the house first and came straight to the funeral—perhaps he was running late. We can assume that Nick is slightly sarcastic as he responds:
Neither could anybody else.
However, Nick's comment points out that "the others" found it not only impossible to reach the house, but they found it impossible to come to the funeral either.
Owl-eyes is amazed.
"Go on!" He started. "Why, my God! they used to go there by the hundreds."
It is apparent that for all of Gatsby's generous hospitality, none of these people were truly his friends. They came to drink his liquor, eat his food, and be entertained at his expense. Once the money was gone (because Gatsby had died), their true motivations are seen: they only cared about what they could get out of it. Sharing time with Gatsby meant nothing—only his value in what he could do for these freeloaders, social leeches.
Owl-eyes is as shocked, and perhaps also disgusted, as Nick is. It is at this point that he says:
The poor son-of-a-bitch.
For how tragic is it for a man who seems so successful, so generous and so well-liked, that upon his death no one can be bothered to come to his funeral. It says a lot about the parasitic friends Gatsby had, and perhaps too, what an isolated life he had, with no real friends except Nick. For not even Daisy calls, sends a card or attends the funeral—of the man she said she loved. This is perhaps the most tragic part of the story: not just Gatsby's death, but also the apathy of those who filled his life who have no time or inclination now to pay their respects.