Chapter II

About half-way between West Egg and New York the motor road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile, so as to shrink away from a cer­tain desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes—a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the pow­dery air. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight.

But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic—their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his prac­tice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down him­self into eternal blindness, or forgot them and moved away. But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground.

The valley of ashes is bounded on one side by a small foul river, and, when the drawbridge is up to let barges through, the passengers on waiting trains can stare at the dismal scene for as long as half an hour. There is always a halt there of at least a minute, and it was because of this that I first met Tom Buchanan’s mistress.

The fact that he had one was insisted upon wherever he was known. His acquaintances resented the fact that he turned up in popular restaurants with her and, leav­ing her at a table, sauntered about, chatting with whomsoever he knew. Though I was curious to see her, I had no desire to meet her—but I did. I went up to New York with Tom on the train one afternoon, and when we stopped by the ashheaps he jumped to his feet and, taking hold of my elbow, literally forced me from the car.

“We’re getting off,” he insisted. “I want you to meet my girl.”

I think he’d tanked up a good deal at luncheon, and his determination to have my company bordered on violence. The supercilious assumption was that on Sun­day afternoon I had nothing better to do.

I followed him over a low whitewashed railroad fence, and we walked back a hundred yards along the road under Doctor Eckleburg’s persistent stare. The only building in sight was a small block of yellow brick sitting on the edge of the waste land, a sort of compact Main Street ministering to it, and contiguous to abso­lutely nothing. One of the three shops it contained was for rent and another was an all-night restaurant, ap­proached by a trail of ashes; the third was a garage­—Repairs. GEORGE B. WILSON. Cars bought and sold.­—and I followed Tom inside.

The interior was unprosperous and bare; the only car visible was the dust-covered wreck of a Ford which crouched in a dim corner. It had occurred to me that this shadow of a garage must be a blind, and that sumptuous and romantic apartments were concealed over­head, when the proprietor himself appeared in the door of an office, wiping his hands on a piece of waste. He was a blond, spiritless man, anæmic, and faintly hand­some. When he saw us a damp gleam of hope sprang into his light blue eyes.

“Hello, Wilson, old man,” said Tom, slapping him jovially on the shoulder. “How’s business?”

“I can’t complain,” answered Wilson unconvincingly. “When are you going to sell me that car?”

“Next week; I’ve got my man working on it now.”

“Works pretty slow, don’t he?”

“No, he doesn’t,” said Tom coldly. “And if you feel that way about it, maybe I’d better sell it somewhere else after all.”

“I don’t mean that,” explained Wilson quickly. “I just meant——”

His voice faded off and Tom glanced impatiently around the garage. Then I heard footsteps on a stairs, and in a moment the thickish figure of a woman blocked out the light from the office door. She was in the middle thirties, and faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can. Her face, above a spotted dress of dark blue crêpe-de-chine, contained no facet or gleam of beauty, but there was an immediately perceptible vitality about her as if the nerves of her body were continually smouldering. She smiled slowly and, walking through her husband as if he were a ghost, shook hands with Tom, looking him flush in the eye. Then she wet her lips, and without turning around spoke to her husband in a soft, coarse voice:

“Get some chairs, why don’t you, so somebody can sit down.”

“Oh, sure,” agreed Wilson hurriedly, and went toward the little office, mingling immediately with the cement color of the walls. A white ashen dust veiled his dark suit and his pale hair as it veiled everything in the vi­cinity—except his wife, who moved close to Tom.

“I want to see you,” said Tom intently. “Get on the next train.”

“All right.”

“I’ll meet you by the newsstand on the lower level.”

She nodded and moved away from him just as George Wilson emerged with two chairs from his office door.

We waited for her down the road and out of sight. It was a few days before the Fourth of July, and a gray, scrawny Italian child was setting torpedoes in a row along the railroad track.

“Terrible place, isn’t it,” said Tom, exchanging a frown with Doctor Eckleburg.


“It does her good to get away.”

“Doesn’t her husband object?”

“Wilson? He thinks she goes to see her sister in New York. He’s so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive.”

So Tom Buchanan and his girl and I went up together to New York—or not quite together, for Mrs. Wilson sat discreetly in another car. Tom deferred that much to the sensibilities of those East Eggers who might be on the train.

She had changed her dress to a brown figured muslin, which stretched tight over her rather wide hips as Tom helped her to the platform in New York. At the news­stand she bought a copy of Town Tattle and a moving­-picture magazine, and in the station drug-store some cold cream and a small flask of perfume. Upstairs, in the solemn echoing drive she let four taxicabs drive away before she selected a new one, lavender-colored with gray upholstery, and in this we slid out from the mass of the station into the glowing sunshine. But im­mediately she turned sharply from the window and, leaning forward, tapped on the front glass.

“I want to get one of those dogs,” she said earnestly. “I want to get one for the apartment. They’re nice to have—a dog.”

We backed up to a gray old man who bore an absurd resemblance to John D. Rockefeller. In a basket swung from his neck cowered a dozen very recent puppies of an indeterminate breed.

“What kind are they?” asked Mrs. Wilson eagerly, as he came to the taxi window.

“All kinds. What kind do you want, lady?”

“I’d like to get one of those police dogs; I don’t sup­pose you got that kind?”

The man peered doubtfully into the basket, plunged in his hand and drew one up, wriggling, by the back of the neck.

“That’s no police dog,” said Tom.

“No, it’s not exactly a police dog,” said the man with disappointment in his voice. “It’s more of an Airedale.” He passed his hand over the brown washrag of a back. “Look at that coat. Some coat. That’s a dog that’ll never bother you with catching cold.”

“I think it’s cute,” said Mrs. Wilson enthusiastically. “How much is it?”

“That dog?” He looked at it admiringly. “That dog will cost you ten dollars.”

The Airedale—undoubtedly there was an Airedale concerned in it somewhere, though its feet were star­tlingly white—changed hands and settled down into Mrs. Wilson’s lap, where she fondled the weatherproof coat with rapture.

“Is it a boy or a girl?” she asked delicately.

“That dog? That dog’s a boy.”

“It’s a bitch,” said Tom decisively. “Here’s your money. Go and buy ten more dogs with it.”

We drove over to Fifth Avenue, so warm and soft, al­most pastoral, on the summer Sunday afternoon that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a great flock of white sheep turn the corner.

“Hold on,” I said, “I have to leave you here.”

“No, you don’t,” interposed Tom quickly. “Myrtle’ll be hurt if you don’t come up to the apartment. Won’t you, Myrtle?”

“Come on,” she urged. “I’ll telephone my sister Cath­erine. She’s said to be very beautiful by people who ought to know.”

“Well, I’d like to, but——”

We went on, cutting back again over the Park toward the West Hundreds. At 158th Street the cab stopped at one slice in a long white cake of apartment-houses. Throwing a regal homecoming glance around the neigh­borhood, Mrs. Wilson gathered up her dog and her other purchases, and went haughtily in.

“I’m going to have the McKees come up,” she an­nounced as we rose in the elevator. “And, of course, I got to call up my sister, too.”

The apartment was on the top floor—a small living­-room, a small dining-room, a small bedroom, and a bath. The living-room was crowded to the doors with a set of tapestried furniture entirely too large for it, so that to move about was to stumble continually over scenes of ladies swinging in the gardens of Versailles. The only picture was an over-enlarged photograph, apparently a hen sitting on a blurred rock. Looked at from a distance, however, the hen resolved itself into a bonnet, and the countenance of a stout old lady beamed down into the room. Several old copies of Town Tattle lay on the table together with a copy of “Simon Called Peter,” and some of the small scandal magazines of Broadway. Mrs. Wilson was first concerned with the dog. A reluctant elevator­ boy went for a box full of straw and some milk, to which he added on his own initiative a tin of large, hard dog­-biscuits—one of which decomposed apathetically in the saucer of milk all afternoon. Meanwhile Tom brought out a bottle of whiskey from a locked bureau door.

I have been drunk just twice in my life, and the sec­ond time was that afternoon; so everything that hap­pened has a dim, hazy cast over it, although until after eight o’clock the apartment was full of cheerful sun. Sitting on Tom’s lap Mrs. Wilson called up several peo­ple on the telephone; then there were no cigarettes, and I went out to buy some at the drug-store on the corner. When I came back they had disappeared, so I sat down discreetly in the living-room and read a chapter of “Simon Called Peter”—either it was terrible stuff or the whiskey distorted things, because it didn’t make any sense to me.

Just as Tom and Myrtle (after the first drink Mrs. Wilson and I called each other by our first names) re­appeared, company commenced to arrive at the apart­ment-door.

The sister, Catherine, was a slender, worldly girl of about thirty, with a solid, sticky bob of red hair, and a complexion powdered milky white. Her eyebrows had been plucked and then drawn on again at a more rakish angle, but the efforts of nature toward the restoration of the old alignment gave a blurred air to her face. When she moved about there was an incessant clicking as in­numerable pottery bracelets jingled up and down upon her arms. She came in with such a proprietary haste and looked around so possessively at the furniture that I wondered if she lived here. But when I asked her she laughed immoderately, repeated my question aloud, and told me she lived with a girl friend at a hotel.

Mr. McKee was a pale, feminine man from the flat below. He had just shaved, for there was a white spot of lather on his cheekbone, and he was most respectful in his greeting to everyone in the room. He informed me that he was in the “artistic game,” and I gathered later that he was a photographer and had made the dim enlargement of Mrs. Wilson’s mother which hovered like an ectoplasm on the wall. His wife was shrill, lan­guid, handsome, and horrible. She told me with pride that her husband had photographed her a hundred and twenty-seven times since they had been married.

Mrs. Wilson had changed her costume some time be­fore, and was now attired in an elaborate afternoon dress of cream-colored chiffon, which gave out a con­tinual rustle as she swept about the room. With the influence of the dress her personality had also under­gone a change. The intense vitality that had been so remarkable in the garage was converted into impressive hauteur. Her laughter, her gestures, her assertions be­came more violently affected moment by moment, and as she expanded the room grew smaller around her, until she seemed to be revolving on a noisy, creaking pivot through the smoky air.

“My dear,” she told her sister in a high, mincing shout, “most of these fellas will cheat you every time. All they think of is money. I had a woman up here last week to look at my feet, and when she gave me the bill you’d of thought she had my appendicitus out.”

“What was the name of the woman?” asked Mrs. Mc­Kee.

“Mrs. Eberhardt. She goes around looking at people’s feet in their own homes.”

“I like your dress,” remarked Mrs. McKee, “I think it’s adorable.”

Mrs. Wilson rejected the compliment by raising her eyebrow in disdain.

“It’s just a crazy old thing,” she said. “I just slip it on sometimes when I don’t care what I look like.”

“But it looks wonderful on you, if you know what I mean,” pursued Mrs. McKee. “If Chester could only get you in that pose I think he could make something of it.”

We all looked in silence at Mrs. Wilson, who removed a strand of hair from over her eyes and looked back at us with a brilliant smile. Mr. McKee regarded her in­tently with his head on one side, and then moved his hand back and forth slowly in front of his face.

“I should change the light,” he said after a moment. “I’d like to bring out the modelling of the features. And I’d try to get hold of all the back hair.”

“I wouldn’t think of changing the light,” cried Mrs. McKee. “I think it’s——”

Her husband said “Sh!” and we all looked at the sub­ject again, whereupon Tom Buchanan yawned audibly and got to his feet.

“You McKees have something to drink,” he said. “Get some more ice and mineral water, Myrtle, before everybody goes to sleep.”

“I told that boy about the ice.” Myrtle raised her eye­brows in despair at the shiftlessness of the lower orders. “These people! You have to keep after them all the time.”

She looked at me and laughed pointlessly. Then she flounced over to the dog, kissed it with ecstasy, and swept into the kitchen, implying that a dozen chefs awaited her orders there.

“I’ve done some nice things out on Long Island,” asserted Mr. McKee.

Tom looked at him blankly.

“Two of them we have framed downstairs.”

“Two what?” demanded Tom.

“Two studies. One of them I call ‘Montauk Point­—The Gulls,’ and the other I call ‘Montauk Point—The Sea.’”

The sister Catherine sat down beside me on the couch.

“Do you live down on Long Island, too?” she in­quired.

“I live at West Egg.”

“Really? I was down there at a party about a month ago. At a man named Gatsby’s. Do you know him?”

“I live next door to him.”

“Well, they say he’s a nephew or a cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm’s. That’s where all his money comes from.”


She nodded.

“I’m scared of him. I’d hate to have him get anything on me.”

This absorbing information about my neighbor was interrupted by Mrs. McKee’s pointing suddenly at Catherine:

“Chester, I think you could do something with her,” she broke out, but Mr. McKee only nodded in a bored way, and turned his attention to Tom.

“I’d like to do more work on Long Island, if I could get the entry. All I ask is that they should give me a start.”

“Ask Myrtle,” said Tom, breaking into a short shout of laughter as Mrs. Wilson entered with a tray. “She’ll give you a letter of introduction, won’t you, Myrtle?”

“Do what?” she asked, startled.

“You’ll give McKee a letter of introduction to your husband, so he can do some studies of him.” His lips moved silently for a moment as he invented. “‘George B. Wilson at the Gasoline Pump,’ or something like that.”

Catherine leaned close to me and whispered in my ear:

“Neither of them can stand the person they’re mar­ried to.”

“Can’t they?”

“Can’t stand them.” She looked at Myrtle and then at Tom. “What I say is, why go on living with them if they can’t stand them? If I was them I’d get a divorce and get married to each other right away.”

“Doesn’t she like Wilson either?”

The answer to this was unexpected. It came from Myrtle, who had overheard the question, and it was violent and obscene.

“You see?” cried Catherine triumphantly. She lowered her voice again. “It’s really his wife that’s keeping them apart. She’s a Catholic, and they don’t believe in divorce.

Daisy was not a Catholic, and I was a little shocked at the elaborateness of the lie.

“When they do get married,” continued Catherine, “they’re going West to live for a while until it blows over.”

“It’d be more discreet to go to Europe.”

“Oh, do you like Europe?” she exclaimed surprisingly. “I just got back from Monte Carlo.”


“Just last year. I went over there with another girl.”

“Stay long?”

“No, we just went to Monte Carlo and back. We went by way of Marseilles. We had over twelve hundred dol­lars when we started, but we got gypped out of it all in two days in the private rooms. We had an awful time getting back, I can tell you. God, how I hated that town!”

The late afternoon sky bloomed in the window for a moment like the blue honey of the Mediterranean—then the shrill voice of Mrs. McKee called me back into the room.

“I almost made a mistake, too,” she declared vigor­ously. “I almost married a little kyke who’d been after me for years. I knew he was below me. Everybody kept saying to me: ‘Lucille, that man’s way below you!’ But if I hadn’t met Chester, he’d of got me sure.”

“Yes, but listen,” said Myrtle Wilson, nodding her head up and down. “At least you didn’t marry him.”

“I know I didn’t.”

“Well, I married him,” said Myrtle, ambiguously. “And that’s the difference between your case and mine.” 

“Why did you, Myrtle?” demanded Catherine. “No­body forced you to.”

Myrtle considered.

“I married him because I thought he was a gentle­man,” she said finally. “I thought he knew something about breeding, but he wasn’t fit to lick my shoe.”

“You were crazy about him for a while,” said Cath­erine.

“Crazy about him!” cried Myrtle incredulously. “Who said I was crazy about him? I never was any more crazy about him than I was about that man there.”

She pointed suddenly at me, and everyone looked at me accusingly. I tried to show by my expression that I had played no part in her past.

“The only crazy I was was when I married him. I knew right away I made a mistake. He borrowed some­body’s best suit to get married in, and never even told me about it, and the man came after it one day when he was out.” She looked around to see who was listening. “‘Oh, is that your suit?’ I said. ‘This is the first I ever heard about it.’ But I gave it to him and then I lay down and cried to beat the band all afternoon.”

“She really ought to get away from him,” resumed Catherine to me. “They’ve been living over that garage for eleven years. And Tom’s the first sweetie she ever had.”

The bottle of whiskey—a second one—was now in constant demand by all present, excepting Catherine, who “felt just as good on nothing at all.” Tom rang for the janitor and sent him for some celebrated sand­wiches which were a complete supper in themselves. I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the Park through the soft twilight, but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild, strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair. Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and with­out, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the in­exhaustible variety of life.

Myrtle pulled her chair close to mine, and suddenly her warm breath poured over me the story of her first meeting with Tom.

“It was on the two little seats facing each other that are always the last ones left on the train. I was going up to New York to see my sister and spend the night. He had on a dress suit and patent leather shoes, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off him, but every time he looked at me I had to pretend to be looking at the advertisement over his head. When we came into the station he was next to me, and his white shirt-front pressed against my arm, and so I told him I’d have to call a policeman, but he knew I lied. I was so excited that when I got into a taxi with him I didn’t hardly know I wasn’t getting into a subway train. All I kept thinking about, over and over, was ‘You can’t live forever, you can’t live forever.’”

She turned to Mrs. McKee and the room rang full of her artificial laughter.

“My dear,” she cried, “I’m going to give you this dress as soon as I’m through with it. I’ve got to get an­other one tomorrow. I’m going to make a list of all the things I’ve got to get. A massage and a wave, and a collar for the dog, and one of those cute little ash-trays where you touch a spring, and a wreath with a black silk bow for mother’s grave that’ll last all summer. I got to write down a list so I won’t forget all the things I got to do.”

It was nine o’clock—almost immediately afterward I looked at my watch and found it was ten. Mr. McKee was asleep on a chair with his fists clenched in his lap, like a photograph of a man of action. Taking out my handkerchief I wiped from his cheek the remains of the spot of dried lather that had worried me all the afternoon.

The little dog was sitting on the table looking with blind eyes through the smoke, and from time to time groaning faintly. People disappeared, reappeared, made plans to go somewhere, and then lost each other, searched for each other, found each other a few feet away. Sometime toward midnight Tom Buchanan and Mrs. Wilson stood face to face discussing, in impas­sioned voices, whether Mrs. Wilson had any right to mention Daisy’s name.

“Daisy! Daisy! Daisy!” shouted Mrs. Wilson. “I’ll say it whenever I want to! Daisy! Dai——”

Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand.

Then there were bloody towels upon the bathroom floor, and women’s voices scolding, and high over the confusion a long broken wail of pain. Mr. McKee awoke from his doze and started in a daze toward the door. When he had gone half-way he turned around and stared at the scene—his wife and Catherine scolding and consoling as they stumbled here and there among the crowded furniture with articles of aid, and the despairing figure on the couch, bleeding fluently, and trying to spread a copy of Town Tattle over the tapes­try scenes of Versailles. Then Mr. McKee turned and continued on out the door. Taking my hat from the chandelier, I followed.

“Come to lunch some day,” he suggested, as we groaned down in the elevator.



“Keep your hands off the lever,” snapped the elevator boy.

“I beg your pardon,” said Mr. McKee with dignity. “I didn’t know I was touching it.”

“All right,” I agreed, “I’ll be glad to.”

. . . I was standing beside his bed and he was sitting up between the sheets, clad in his underwear, with a great portfolio in his hands.

“Beauty and the Beast . . . Loneliness . . . Old Grocery Horse . . . Brook’n Bridge. . . .”

Then I was lying half-asleep in the cold lower level of the Pennsylvania Station, staring at the morning Trib­une, and waiting for the four o’clock train.


  1. Myrtle’s enthusiasm for receiving guests seems to be a form of class emulation, as though she believes that she has achieved an elevated social status through her affair with Tom. The narration frequently reminds readers that she is performing an illusion, however, with details such as her furniture being too big for her apartment and the stacks of gossip magazines left around.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  2. Fitzgerald refers to Central Park, which is the fifth largest park in New York City. Located between the Upper West and Upper East Side neighborhoods of Manhattan, the park spans 843 acres and was first open to the public in 1858. Unfortunately, Central Park began to fall into a decline in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, partly because so many people were visiting for relaxation and leisure. Further, New York taxpayers objected to paying for maintenance costs, which made it difficult to care for the park amid such high visitor counts—especially among the middle and working classes, which were prohibited from gathering in large groups in the late 19th century.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  3. The Palace of Versailles served as the royal residence of the French monarchy from 1682 until the start of the French Revolution in 1789. The Palace is often associated with opulence and wealth—and, in Myrtle and Tom’s apartment, symbolizes the power and status that Myrtle desires and Tom enjoys. The juxtaposition of the “Town Tattle” issue against the regal tapestry scenes of Versailles is a pointed reminder of the base behavior of the highest classes. This image is especially powerful given that Tom has just hit Myrtle, and she is trying to protect the tapestry, and its image of idealized splendor, from being stained by her blood.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  4. The “wave,” or “finger wave,” was a popular hairstyle for women during the 1920s, 1930s,and later in the 1990s. The style was worn by celebrities, including Anita Page and Bette Davis, and later by Madonna and Missy Elliott. It involves setting hair into waves, usually by pinching it between one’s fingers and combing it into a waving “s” shape. In the 1920s and 1930s, a styling lotion was used to fix the style in place; hairsprays and gels can be used today. Myrtle’s choice of hairstyle seems consistent with a desire to emulate wealthy women, given that the wave was often worn by celebrities and socialites at the time.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  5. Myrtle’s repetition of the phrase “you can’t live forever” is an example of epizeuxis, the repetition of words or phrases in immediate succession. As with other forms of repetition, epizeuxis often amplifies a point, meaning, or emotion in the text. Here, epizeuxis underscores the intensity of Myrtle’s feelings, especially those of hope and excitement when she imagines having an affair with a powerful man like Tom. It also underscores Myrtle’s description as having “intense vitality,” seeming more alive than her surroundings in the valley of ashes. However, the words “you can’t live forever” also remind readers of the fleeting nature of status, wealth, and privilege—for death is the great equalizer that spares no one. The inevitability of mortality becomes increasingly important in The Great Gatsby, particularly towards the end of the story.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  6. Nick’s conflicting feelings during his visit to Myrtle and Tom’s apartment seem to characterize his relationship with his own social class throughout the novel. He is “within and without,” wanting to leave the party and yet being drawn back into the chaotic conversations “as if with ropes.” He dissociates, imagining himself looking up to the “yellow window” of the apartment from outside. Nick is perhaps hypocritical in his critical portrayal of those around him, given that he also comes from an older family that enjoys great privilege (of which his father made him repeatedly aware). Though his current companions are not high-status individuals, his paradoxical feelings of enchantment and repulsion seem to represent his inability to fully decontextualize himself from his class.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  7. In describing her marriage, Myrtle presents herself as a victim, trapped with a man below her social status. Her situation develops several major themes in The Great Gatsby, especially those related to class emulation, reality versus illusion, and the roles of wealth and class in determining human value. George Wilson’s ability to seem like a gentleman could represent broader social anxieties about how status is determined—especially during a time when lower-status people could become fabulously wealthy, enabling them to imitate “old money” families like Tom’s. George is of lower value in Myrtle’s eyes, however, because he is neither wealthy nor a gentleman, though what that latter would entail is not fully described.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  8. The Roman Catholic Church, and its followers by extension, do not sanction divorce; instead, they consider marriage to be an irrevocable sacrament that can only be dissolved through an annulment. Legal divorce is not grounds for excommunication, but divorced couples are still considered to be married within the Church. Therefore, neither person can remarry until the other has died. Annulments, however, are recognized as legitimate under certain circumstances and are granted if the Church does not recognize the marriage as having been valid in the first place. Such circumstances include being forced into marriage or not understanding the vows being taken. It seems likely that Tom has lied about Daisy being a Catholic in order to excuse himself from committing to Myrtle.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  9. Kaiser Wilhelm II was the German emperor (Kaiser) and king of Prussia from 1888 to 1918. He was a well-known figure during World War I, primarily because of his outspoken views on militarism and controversial newspaper interviews. Kaiser Wilhelm’s role in Germany’s involvement in the War is contested among historians; his tendency to speak openly about his views have led some to believe that he wielded significant political power, while others argue that he was merely under the control of his generals.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  10. Nick uses a paradox when he describes the room growing smaller. A paradox is a contradiction that, upon closer analysis, reveals a deeper meaning or makes an important point. The verb “to grow” is usually used to describe an increase in size, as well as a progression to maturity that involves some type of expansion. Therefore, to describe something as “growing smaller” is a contradiction.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  11. The noun “hauteur” means disdainful pride or arrogant superiority in behavior or appearance.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  12. Nick uses a simile when he compares the photograph of Mrs. Wilson’s mother to “an ectoplasm on the wall.” A simile is a literary device in which two unlike things are compared using the words “like” or “as.” Today, in biology, an ectoplasm is the outer part of the cytoplasm, or all of the inner materials, of a cell. However, at the time of Gatsby’s writing, “ectoplasm” would have had paranormal associations. In 1894, the French physiologist and psychical researcher Charles Richet introduced the term to describe a substance excreted from the bodies of physical mediums in the process of summoning spirits. Spirits, in turn, were believed to wear this substance in order to interact with the physical world. The simile emphasizes the eerie presence of the photograph in a memorable way, while also indicating the extent of Nick’s retroactive disgust for the environment around him.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  13. When applied to a person, the adjective “rakish” describes someone who appears to lack restraint (especially relating to drinking and promiscuity) or who is otherwise unconventional or informal. However, it can also describe something that is thin and angled in a visually streamlined way, such as Catherine’s eyebrows. It seems plausible, given her appearance and behavior, that Catherine is as unrestrained as Tom and Myrtle. However, the contrast between her drawn-on brows and “the efforts of nature toward...the old alignment” shows Catherine to be as pretentious in her pose of glamor as Myrtle is in playing at hostess.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  14. The novel Simon Called Peter was written in 1921 by British novelist Robert Keable. It was an instant bestseller, making Keable a celebrity and selling around 600,000 copies by the end of the 1920s. The story is about a man whose experiences as a chaplain in France lead him to a sexual and religious awakening. Fitzgerald thought the novel immoral, and its presence here can be read as a criticism of Tom and Myrtle’s spiritually vacant affair.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  15. Drunkenness is an important motif, or repeating element with symbolic significance in a text, in The Great Gatsby. In the 19th century, a sect of Protestants began arguing for the outlawing of alcohol because of its ill effects on society. As a result, from 1920 to 1933, the United States government imposed a constitutional ban on the production, distribution, and consumption of alcoholic beverages, commonly referred to as “Prohibition.” Despite Prohibition, many continued to drink copiously. In Gatsby, alcohol consumption is often accompanied by foolish or even violent behavior. Intoxication seems to symbolize not only moral decline in the Roaring Twenties but also a pervading sense of shallow disconnect.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  16. The Airedale is the largest breed of terrier dogs. Also known as Bingley Terriers or Waterside Terriers, Airedales were first bred in the River Aire valley in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England. Despite Tom’s assertion that the puppy is “no police dog,” Airedales were the first police dogs used in Great Britain and were even used as war dogs. Tom’s casual purchase of the puppy serves as a display of wealth to his companions and suggests that an element of his interest in Myrtle is her lowly status, which reinforces his own economic and social security.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  17. It seems likely that Nick is well-aware of Rockefeller’s reputation as a brilliant entrepreneur and can see the “absurd resemblance” of the dog seller to the oil tycoon occurring on multiple levels.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  18. John D. Rockefeller (1839–1937) was a renowned American businessman who is considered to be the richest American of all time. Much of his wealth came from success in the oil industry after he founded the Standard Oil Company in 1870. He was its largest shareholder, even after he stopped running the company in 1897. Nick’s mention of Rockefeller is consistent with his references to immensely wealthy men like J. P. Morgan who inspired the widespread pursuit of wealth throughout the 1920s.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  19. “Town Tattle” is based on a New York gossip magazine called Town Topics. It was established in 1879 by Colonel William D’Alton Mann, a Civil War veteran, entrepreneur, and notorious blackmailer. He was known for borrowing—and often never reimbursing—large sums of money from notable people who did not want their secrets disclosed in the magazine. The “Town Tattle” would likely have been instantly recognizable to contemporary New York readers as a criticism not only of Myrtle’s character, but also a symbol of the rise of gossip and celebrity culture. The “moving-picture magazine” is probably the Motion Picture Story Magazine (1911–1977), a monthly periodical that is widely regarded to have been the first fan magazine for everyday filmgoers.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  20. “East Eggers” are East Egg’s residents, most of whom come from respected “old money” families like Tom Buchanan’s. Nick and Gatsby live in West Egg, home to those who became wealthy from the economic expansion of the Roaring Twenties. Despite carelessly parading Myrtle around at restaurants in the city, Tom is uncomfortable being seen with her in the presence of his neighbors. Since her existence is “insisted upon wherever he was known,” it is unlikely that Tom is trying to conceal his affair. It is more plausible that he feels self-conscious about being seen with a woman of low class before reaching the less strictly governed social world of New York City. This points at the hypocrisy of the upper class: it is widely understood across East Egg that Tom has a mistress, and his “deference” to “sensibilities” is an empty gesture.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  21. George Wilson is a foil for Tom Buchanan. A foil is a type of juxtaposition in which two characters with contrasting characteristics are compared as a means of highlighting the traits of one or both of them. Character foils usually have at least one significant trait in common, or some other type of connection that also serves to underscore the qualities of one character. Tom and Wilson are connected through Wilson’s wife, Myrtle, with whom Tom is having an affair. Whereas Tom is wealthy, confident, and aggressive, Wilson is poor, insecure, and mostly passive. While Tom may lack moral substance, arguably as an effect of the carelessness conferred by his wealth, Wilson seems to lack physical substance, as if poverty has drained his vitality. The differences between Wilson and Tom, as well as Tom’s treatment of Wilson, emphasize how unpleasant Tom is and Fitzgerald’s interest in the spiritual implications of wealth and status, which are at the heart of the American dream.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  22. The brutishness of Tom’s behavior is at odds with the refined manners often associated with his social class. However, it is perhaps as a result of his immense wealth and the high status of his family that he seems to feel entitled to everything and everyone around him, to the extent that he successfully bullies Nick into meeting his mistress. Tom’s increasingly unlikeable character seems to embody the hypocrisy, and perhaps even the capacity for violence, of his social class.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  23. Nick thinks Tom has already had a lot to drink. The choice of idiom is suggestive of violence even before Nick wonders if Tom might violently coerce him to go to New York. Besides the dehumanizing portrayal of Tom as a machine fueled by alcohol, a tank, and therefore to be “tanked up,” might be associated with the explosive potential of gasoline or the firepower of a war tank. Drunkenness, which develops into a motif as the novel progresses, has magnified Tom’s arrogance; now, he displays entitlement and a willingness to physically force people to do what he wants.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  24. Doctor T. J. Eckleburg’s vigilant, bespectacled eyes have symbolic significance in The Great Gatsby. Their “persistent stare” watches, faded from years of sunlight, over the dismal valley of ashes from a billboard that has been presumably abandoned by the oculist who paid for it. Over the course of the novel, the eyes take on different symbolic meanings for different characters.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  25. There is a lot of alliteration, or the repetition of sounds within a group of words, in this paragraph. This particular type of alliteration is known as “consonance,” the repetition of the same consonant sounds. Here, the consonant “g” is repeated in the words “grey,” “gives,” and “ghastly,” and the hard consonant “c” is repeated in “cars,” “crawls,” “creak,” and “comes.” Though alliteration is more often associated with sound and rhythm in poetry, prose writers use it to highlight specific imagery and emphasize important details. Here, alliteration augments the striking visual and auditory imagery of the valley of ashes, which is one of the novel’s most important symbols.

    — Owl Eyes Editors
  26. A “valley of ashes” is what Nick calls the industrialized area of Queens that separates West Egg from Manhattan, and it is an important symbol in The Great Gatsby. Though the ground is not literally made of ashes, its pollution gives it a gray appearance that resembles ash. The valley of ashes symbolizes the working class, which has no access to the privilege of East Eggers and West Eggers. Instead, they are trapped in the position of subsidizing a booming capitalist economy with their labor without ever having the opportunity to benefit from it. The novel’s vivid image of the depressing valley of ashes, as well as its connecting its misery to the working class, indicates its stance that the upper class’s reliance on poor laborers is exploitative.

    — Owl Eyes Editors