Gatsby Chapter 2 Summary

Chapter Summaries from Cliffs Notes

Chapter 2 begins with a description of the valley of ashes, a desolate and forsaken expanse of formerly developed land that marks the intersection of the city with the suburbs. In addition to its desolate feel and uniform grayness, this forlorn area is home to a decaying billboard that calls attention to itself. Depicted on the advertisement are the Eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, which are described as "blue and gigantic — their retinas are one yard high." It was in the valley of ashes that Nick first meets Tom's mistress, Myrtle Wilson. The two men are headed to New York when Tom insists they get off the train in order for Nick to "meet [his] girl."

The two men proceed to a car repair garage owned by George Wilson, a "spiritless man" who is also Myrtle's husband. Tom chats briefly with Wilson about business matters. Myrtle, a sensuous, fleshy woman in her middle thirties, joins the men. Tom quietly informs her he wishes to see her and so she arranges to meet them shortly, leaving her husband under the pretense of visiting her sister in New York. While on their way to Tom and Myrtle's apartment, Myrtle spies a man selling dogs and insists on having one. Once at the apartment, Myrtle phones her sister, Catherine, and her friends, the McKees, to join the party. The six people spend the afternoon in a haze of drunkenness. As the afternoon wears on and she becomes increasingly intoxicated, Myrtle becomes more and more outspoken about her situation in life, her marriage, her impassioned first meeting with Tom, and finally, Tom's marriage. Upon mentioning Daisy's name, Myrtle becomes enraged, shouting "Daisy" at the top of her lungs. Tom, incensed by this outburst, lashes out with his open hand and breaks Myrtle's nose in one "short deft movement." The party enters into a downward spiral and the guests take their departure. The chapter ends with Nick seeing Mr. McKee home and then heading home himself.