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Chapter 2

Nick begins the chapter by describing the valley of ashes - an area between West Egg and New York that completely lacks color and is simply distinguished by grey, bleak dust. In what is perhaps Fitzgerald's most fatalistic, graphic description in the book, each building, car, and person, seems to be covered with an uneraseable layer of ash. And above the valley of ashes are the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, who plays the God figure in this book, a detached, disinterested deity who simply watches over the immoral actions of these fast-paced, reckless young people (Fitzgerald's inclusion of the valley of ashes was inspired by a poem by T.S. Eliot entitled "The Wasteland").
While he is in the valley of ashes, Nick meets Tom's mistress, Myrtle Wilson, who is married to George Wilson, the owner of the gas station/car dealership that Tom goes to. Nick notices from the start that George is a lifeless, spineless man who has no hope of bettering himself - he depends completely on his wife for stability and for happiness. Myrtle, a plump, stout woman, nonetheless possesses a vibrant sexuality that exudes from her personality and charms Tom away from remaining faithful to Daisy. After she tells George to leave the room to get them some chairs, Tom tells her to meet him and Nick on the next train, and after George gets back, Tom abruptly says good-bye to them and takes Nick with him to meet Myrtle.
Nick, Tom, and Myrtle spend the afternoon together in New York. Tom generously buys some puppies that Myrtle was cooing over, and then they all travel to the love nest that Tom has purchased for himself and Myrtle. The three proceed to get drunk in the apartment, and Nick remembers meeting Myrtle's friends, the McKees, who live downstairs from them, and her sister, Catherine. Catherine tells Nick that even though neither Tom nor Myrtle can stand the person that they're married to, they can't run away together because Daisy is a Catholic and doesn't believe in divorce - which shocks Nick because he knows that that is a lie. Even though he is drunk, Nick remembers seeing Tom and Myrtle arguing because Myrtle defies Tom by saying Daisy's name to him over and over again, reminding him of her presence. Tom, in a burst of anger, breaks her nose with his fist, and Nick's memory of what happens after that moment fades away in a drunken blur.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9


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