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The Great Gatsby      

by F. Scott Fitzgerald     

-Chapter 2-


    Chapter two opens with a brilliant description of the "valley of ashes", an area between West Egg and New York City.  In a menacing description, Fitzgerald describes this dead land.  The valley of ashes is "-- 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."  Watching over this area is a giant billboard featuring the enormous eyes of doctor T.J. Eckleburg.  Nick Carraway is riding through this area on a train to New York with Tom Buchanan, who suddenly decides to get off the train to meet his "girl", the mistress described in chapter one.  

    They get off the train, under the eyes of doctor Eckleburg , and enter George Wilson's car repair shop.  Tom talks with Tom about a car sale that he is conducting, and waits impatiently for George's wife Myrtle to emerge.  Myrtle is an attractive, vital person, making up for her lack of physical perfection with the way she carries herself.  When George turns his back she and Tom agree to meet at the train station in New York.  

    When they arrive in New York Myrtle immediately asks Tom for gifts, and Tom is happy to please her.  She buys a copy of a tabloid called The Town Tattle.  Just as the group is about to get a taxi, Myrtle decides that she wants to buy a dog form a street vendor.  Tom doesn't really like the vendor and thinks the dog is a mutt, but Myrtle buys him anyway.   Finally, they get in a cab and take a ride along fifth avenue, stopping at an apartment on 158th Street.  

    As Myrtle walks in, she decides to call her friends the McKees to come over for a small gathering.  The apartment itself was on the top floor, and it was crowded with furnishings.  A set of large furniture made everyone stumble around the small spaces left to move.  Myrtle quickly sent the elevator-boy to search for dog biscuits and milk, and Tom brought out a bottle of whiskey for the group to share. 

    Mrs. Wilson then called up her sister Catherine as well as the McKees for a little party.  Nick admits to being drunk only twice in his life, and this party was one of those occasions.   He meets Catherine, who portrayed herself as a  "worldly girl"   She wears excessive amounts of jewelry, and had tried to change her eyebrows, giving her face a blurry appearance.  Mr. McKee was described as a "feminine man", and he thought himself to be a great photographer.  His wife evidently agreed with him, proudly telling Nick that he had photographed her 127 times.  

    The conversation at the party is inane and flits from subject to subject.  The ladies initially discuss a foot doctor, Mrs. Eberhardt, who they think charges too much.  Mrs. Wilson changes her outfits constantly to keep herself at the center of attention.  The groups continues to drink heavily, and the subject of photography is brought up by Mr. McKee.  He explains some of the work he has done on Long Island with such dreary and unimaginative names as Montauk Point- The Gulls and Montauk Point- The Sea.  The conversation about Long Island brought up a brief but very interesting dialogue to Nick.  McKee says that Gatsby was a nephew of Kaiser Wilhelm, and said, "I'm scared of him, I'd hate to have him get anything on me."  However, the dialogue is almost immediately interrupted by Catherine who starts to talk about Tom and Myrtle as she gets increasingly drunk.  She thinks that both of them would be happier by divorcing their current spouses.  Mrs. McKee chips into the conversation telling a pointless story about how she almost married a man who was below her station.  This little anecdote prompted Catherine to ask her sister why she had ever married George, saying that she had been "crazy about him for a while.  Myrtle quickly dismissed this point, saying that she had first known what a mistake she was making when she found out that George got married in a borrowed suit.  A second bottle of whiskey was brought out, and the conversations got increasingly interesting.

    Myrtle pulled close to Nick and started telling him about how she first met Tom, giving the justification "you can't live forever" for her infidelity.  By this time, Nick was beginning to lose his sense of time, and only catches small phrases of the conversations.  He is in a daze from around nine o'clock until midnight, when he hears some excitement.  Mrs. Wilson was agitating Tom by yelling Daisy's name in his face, and Tom lost control of himself and struck her in the nose with the back of his hand, breaking it.  After this event, the party broke up.  Nick had to take Mr. McKee home, and blacks out after, waking up in Penn Station.  

summary by Alex Campolo