What is the climax of The Great Gatsby?

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The climax of a story brings closure to the main source of conflict. So, to find the climax, first determine what the main conflict is and then consider how you know that conflict is resolved. The climax is the point of high action that usually comes just before this and...

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The climax of a story brings closure to the main source of conflict. So, to find the climax, first determine what the main conflict is and then consider how you know that conflict is resolved. The climax is the point of high action that usually comes just before this and is typically situated near the end of the novel or story.

The conflict driving this novel is Gatsby's quest for Daisy's love. Most of the action in the book centers on his pursuit of her, which began long before this book's primary plot line. Gatsby has been acquiring wealth for years in an effort to ultimately be the man he thinks Daisy wants.

Near the end, we find Gatsby sitting outside Daisy's house, not inside it. He is protecting her from afar, still clinging to hope that she will return to him. However, it is clear to readers at this point that Daisy has chosen to remain with Tom. This is how we know that the conflict is over. How did we arrive at that conclusion?

Gatsby and Tom finally confront each other just prior to this scene, both trying to lay claim to Daisy. Gatsby presses Daisy to tell her husband that she loves Gatsby—not Tom. And Daisy finally admits that she loves them both. This takes Gatsby by surprise, and then Tom proceeds to rip apart Daisy's image of Gatsby by attacking his respectability:

"I found out what your 'drug-stores' were." He turned to us and spoke rapidly. "He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That's one of his little stunts."

It's effective, and Daisy begins to visibly retreat from Gatsby:

But with every word she was drawing further and further into herself, so he gave that up and only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, undespairingly, toward that lost voice across the room.

Tom throws one final verbal punch, "allowing" Gatsby to ride home alone with his wife, to show what little concern he has that his wife will chose anyone but her husband.

Of course, Daisy then hits Myrtle on the way home.

This brings the beginnings of closure to Gatsby's dreams, as the reader realizes that Daisy will never be his. This section is, therefore, the climax.

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One could argue that the climax comes in chapter 5, when Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan are reunited in Nick Carraway's living room, a meeting that Gatsby asked Nick to set up unbeknownst to Daisy.

When Daisy realizes what the men have done, she is initially shocked, and all three of them are awkward and embarrassed. Nick leaves the two of them alone. It has been raining, and the sun comes out before he goes back inside. He hears an emotional discussion while he is out of the room, but now there is silence.

When he enters the living room, Nick describes Jay in similarly sunlike terms, as glowing and radiant. The couple has come to some agreement. Even though they are sitting physically separated on the sofa, Nick can tell that in some important way they are now together. They were

looking at each other as if some question had been asked, or was in the air, and every vestige of embarrassment was gone.

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When Gatsby and Daisy finally reunite, it is a climactic (or anticlimactic) moment. After awkward moments and then a more meaningful reconnection, Nick leaves Daisy and Gatsby with the feeling that this dramatic, triumphant moment was also marked by a sense of doubt. 

As I went over to say good-by I saw that the expression of bewilderment had come back into Gatsby’s face, as though a faint doubt had occurred to him as to the quality of his present happiness. 

There are two more dramatic climaxes in terms of the action in the novel. The two climaxes are causally connected so you could incorporate them into one. The first climax occurs when Myrtle is killed by the car which Daisy is driving, and Gatsby is her passenger. 

The other car, the one going toward New York, came to rest a hundred yards beyond, and its driver hurried back to where Myrtle Wilson, her life violently extinguished, knelt in the road and mingled her thick dark blood with the dust. (Chapter 7

The second climax occurs when George Wilson, thinking Gatsby had been responsible for killing his wife, Myrtle, goes to Gatsby's house, kills him, and then kills himself. 

It was after we started with Gatsby toward the house that the gardener saw Wilson’s body a little way off in the grass, and the holocaust was complete. (Chapter 8

To protect Daisy, Gatsby made no attempt to say he was not driving the car. 

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