Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1830
By the beginning of this chapter, Gatsby has stopped throwing his big parties, in part because Daisy doesn’t approve of them and in part because Wolfsheim, his business partner, wants to do a favor for a family of former hotel owners, who come to replace Gatsby’s former servants. Daisy has been coming over almost every afternoon, and Nick isn’t surprised that they haven’t been in touch with him much lately. When Gatsby does finally call, it’s out of the blue and only because Daisy has asked him to invite Nick to lunch at her house the next day. Nick is right to suspect that this will not end well. It’s searingly hot when he arrives at the Buchanans’ house, and Jordan, Tom, and Daisy have been drinking, waiting from him and Gatsby to arrive. When they enter the salon, both Jordan and Daisy say, “We can’t move.” It’s the heat.
In the other room, Tom is yelling at George Wilson, refusing to sell him the car they discussed in Chapter II. Daisy and Jordan have both assumed that it’s Tom’s mistress on the phone, but Nick assures them that it isn’t. This telephone exchange leaves Tom feeling upset and brutish, and he flings open the door of the salon with fury before stalking in and out. In the wake of her husband’s display of irritation, Daisy must soothe Gatsby, telling him she loves him with a kiss before introducing him to her daughter. Nick notes that Gatsby seems surprised by the child’s existence and that he doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge that Daisy and Tom were ever so in love as to produce a child. He doesn’t want to acknowledge that they’re married at all. Once Tom returns, the two lovers don’t know how to carry themselves in order to hide the affair, and Daisy nervously suggests that they go into the City, making the mistake of saying that Gatsby looks cool. “You always look so cool,” she says, meaning that he doesn’t seem to be sweating, meaning that she loves him. It’s this intimate remark that finally clues Tom into what has been happening behind his back. He doesn’t take it well.
Outside, Tom insists on driving Gatsby’s “circus wagon” of a car. This distasteful suggestion is an attempt on Tom’s part to assert dominance, and it’s clear, when he orders Daisy to get into the car, that he’s trying to replace Gatsby in her mind and keep Daisy all to himself. However, Daisy refuses to go with him, and Tom ends up driving Nick and Jordan in Gatsby’s car while Gatsby drives Daisy in Tom’s car. Gatsby’s unfortunate lie about there not being much gas in the car leads Nick to insist upon stopping at Wilson’s garage, where Wilson, looking sick and upset, tells Tom that he’d like to buy his car so he can make a little money off it and move out West with his wife. He’s aware that she’s having an affair but doesn’t yet suspect Tom, and it’s this uncomfortable realization that leads Tom to agree to selling the car. It’s unclear where this would leave Tom and Myrtle. Myrtle herself, watching this exchange from an upstairs window, doesn’t hear what they say, but fixes her eyes jealously on Jordan Baker, whom she mistakes for Tom’s wife. This will lead to trouble.
Once in the City, they aren’t sure what to do. Jordan suggests going to the movies, and Daisy wants to rent five bathrooms and take five baths, but after a long argument the group decides on what may well be the hottest option: renting a single, stifling room and drinking mint juleps in the afternoon heat. This makes all of them cranky, and soon after they arrive Tom harps on Gatsby’s overuse of the term “old sport,” which he finds rather absurd. In fact, he finds almost everything about Gatsby absurd, including his pink suit. Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” starts to play, inspiring Daisy to tell the story of how a man fainted at her wedding, which took place in Louisville in mid-June, when the heat was near unbearable. Following this, Tom questions whether or not Gatsby went to Oxford (he really did, thanks to a special program available to officers after the war), makes a racist comment about miscegenation, and finally confronts the two lovers about the affair. Gatsby tells Tom that Daisy never loved him, which is revealed, in the course of their argument, to not be entirely true. She says he’s revolting, but she did love him at the same time that she loved Gatsby. She does admit that much. Hearing this, Gatsby deflates and is then forced to defend himself against Tom’s accusations that he’s a bootlegger (and worse). He very nearly manages to berate Daisy into staying with him, but Daisy, shaken by the argument and afraid of what she’s done, isn’t sure what to do. She and Gatsby leave in Gatsby’s car, and the afternoon is ruined.
In the final sections of the chapter, Nick relates how, on the long drive back to East Egg, Daisy killed Myrtle in a hit and run. It seems Wilson had been keeping Myrtle locked up in the house, waiting until he could sell Tom’s car and pay for their move West, but Myrtle happened to fight her way out at the exact moment that Gatsby’s car sped past. Myrtle, having seen Tom driving Gatsby’s car, thought it was his and ran out into the street to stop him. Daisy, drunk and a little shaken by what happened at the hotel, swerved and hit her, and together she and Gatsby left the crime scene in the hopes of not getting caught. Soon after, Tom, Nick, and Jordan, driving in Tom’s car, pull up to the scene, not realizing at first that Myrtle has been killed. Once a man in the crowd identifies the car as yellow, not green, and this leads Wilson to accuse Tom of the murder. He tells Wilson and the police that it wasn’t his car, but doesn’t say who it belonged to (it’s unclear why the police don’t ask).
Somehow, Tom, Nick, and Jordan manage to extricate themselves from the crime scene, then drive back to East Egg. Daisy’s already home, and the lights are on at her house. Seeing this, Tom apologizes to Nick, saying he should’ve dropped him in West Egg and offering to call him a cab. Jordan wants him to come inside and get some supper, but Nick refuses, and this more or less ends their relationship. After a moment, Nick begins to walk down the drive to the gate, but runs into Gatsby, who has been waiting on the lawn, watching for a sign or message from Daisy. It turns out she was the one driving when Myrtle was hit, but Gatsby intends to take the fall for her, of course. He’s watching over her now just in case Tom confronts her about the car crash or what happened at the hotel. Unbeknownst to him, she isn’t in her room, as he thinks, but rather sitting in the kitchen, eating cold chicken and discussing her options with Tom. Nick sees this through a window and understands that they are reuniting against Gatsby, but in the end decides not to tell Gatsby about this. He goes home, leaving Gatsby alone in the dark.
Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.” One of the best-known pieces from the suite of incidental music Mendelssohn composed for a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s one of the most popular pieces Mendelssohn composed and is still played at weddings today (typically on an organ). It’s used in this chapter to remind Daisy of her own wedding and reinforce the fact that she and Tom do in fact have a complicated relationship that can’t be so easily set aside for Gatsby.
Trimalchio. One of the many characters in Petronius’ Satyricon, the great Roman satire. Trimalchio appears only in the section called “The Banquet with Trimalchio” and comes across as a crude, arrogant man who was once a slave and clawed his way to the top through dangerous means. Fitzgerald is drawing this comparison to suggest that Gatsby is himself arrogant and unaccustomed to his new social status and also that his character is in some ways a satire of upper class ideals.
Notice how Fitzgerald breaks from the chronological narrative to present a fact-based account not unlike a police report in which he draws on evidence Nick learned from the police’s official inquest to describe the events leading up to the car crash. This jarring shift in tone and break in the timeline of the novel are meant to represent the traumatic break the car crash inflicts on the main characters. This is an example of form meeting function.
Cars. Since the beginning, cars have been a symbol of one’s social status and wealth. In Chapter III, however, the car’s symbolism started to change, taking on dangerous and deadly overtones in the scene where the drunk party guest crashes the car with Owl Eyes in the passenger’s seat. The hit and run in this chapter completes the shift and turns the car into a symbol of death.
Dreams. In this chapter, dreams begin to lose their lustre and become more down-to-earth. Daisy calls her daughter Pammy a “dream,” implying that she’s both a beautiful girl and the real physical manifestation of Daisy’s dream of a happy married life. Daisy wanted to be wealthy and taken care of, just as Gatsby wanted to be wealthy and take care of her, but neither of these dreams are realized as they would hope. In contrast, Jordan Baker, whom Nick describes as “too wise for dreams,” doesn’t have such grand ideas of the future, and this makes her something of an innocuous character, with no threat of her either dying or falling in love within the course of the novel.
Safety. There are many different kinds of safety present in this novel: the financial security that comes from being wealthy; the physical safety of having someone watching out for you; and the deep psychological security that comes of being privileged, well-regarded, and well-loved. Daisy, by the end of this chapter, has all three, having been protected by Gatsby, provided for financially by Tom, and loved by the both of them. This is exactly the kind of security that makes Daisy’s voice a “deathless song.” She’s impervious to death because others are shielding her from it.
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