Gatsby Chapter 8 Summary

Chapter Summaries from Cliffs Notes

Nick wakes as Chapter 8 opens, hearing Gatsby return home from his all-night vigil at the Buchanans. He goes to Gatsby's, feeling he should tell him something (even he doesn't know what, exactly). Gatsby reveals that nothing happened while he kept his watch. Nick suggests Gatsby leave town for a while, certain Gatsby's car would be identified as the "death car." Nick's comments make Gatsby reveal the story of his past, "because 'Jay Gatsby' had broken up like glass against Tom's hard malice." Daisy, Gatsby reveals, was his social superior, yet they fell deeply in love. The reader also learns that, when courting, Daisy and Gatsby had been intimate with each other and it was this act of intimacy that bonded him to her inexorably, feeling "married to her." Gatsby left Daisy, heading off to war. He excelled in battle and when the war was over, he tried to get home, but ended up at Oxford instead. Daisy didn't understand why he didn't return directly and, over time, her interest began to wane until she eventually broke off their relationship.

Moving back to the present, Gatsby and Nick continue their discussion of Daisy and how Gatsby had gone to Louisville to find her upon his return to the United States. She was on her honeymoon and Gatsby was left with a "melancholy beauty," as well as the idea that if he had only searched harder he would have found her. The men are finishing breakfast as Gatsby's gardener arrives. He says he plans on draining the pool because the season is over, but Gatsby asks him to wait because he hasn't used the pool at all. Nick, purposely moving slowly, heads to his train. He doesn't want to leave Gatsby, impulsively declaring "They're a rotten crowd . . . You're worth the whole damn bunch put together."

For Nick, the day drags on; he feels uneasy, preoccupied with the past day's adventures. Jordan phones, but Nick cuts her off. He phones Gatsby and, unable to reach him, decides to head home early. The narrative again shifts time and focus, as Fitzgerald goes back in time, to the evening prior, in the valley of ashes. George Wilson, despondent at Myrtle's death, appears irrational when Michaelis attempts to engage him in conversation. By morning, Michaelis is exhausted and returns home to sleep. When he returns four hours later, Wilson is gone and has traveled to Port Roosevelt, Gads Hill, West Egg, and ultimately, Gatsby's house. There he finds Gatsby floating on an air mattress in the pool. Wilson, sure that Gatsby is responsible for his wife's death, shoots and kills Gatsby. Nick finds Gatsby's body floating in the pool and, while starting to the house with the body, the gardener discovers Wilson's lifeless body off in the grass.