The Great Gatsby: Chapters 1 and 2

Hello friends!  Let’s discuss the first two chapters of The Great Gatsby.

Need a recap of chapter 1?  Here’s one conveniently done by John Green.

The second chapter is discussed in another video with more parts of the book, so I’ll post that one later.  To quickly sum up chapter two, we learn about the Valley of Ashes, meet Tom’s mistress and her husband, head into New York for a party where they basically just get drunk, and Tom breaks Myrtle’s nose.  What a terrible guy.

Valley of Ashes

The valley of ashes was a real dumping ground that was cleaned up to make room for the 1939-1940 World’s Fair.  The site now is Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Thoughts so far?

We’ve met some important characters.  What do you think of Nick, Daisy, and Tom?  How is Nick as a narrator?

I learned once that people learn about who we are from more than what we say and what we do.  It also includes what others say about us.  What do you think about what you know of Gatsby based on the little we’ve seen of him and what others say about him?

Does the Valley of Ashes and the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg mean anything or create a certain mood for you?

Discuss these and anything else you want to from chapters 1 and 2 in the comments.  Next time we’ll discuss chapters 3-5!

– Jill

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10 Responses to “The Great Gatsby: Chapters 1 and 2”


  1. 1 Amber February 13, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    I cannot remember if this is the 3rd or 4th time that I have read The Great Gatsby–I know I read it once in High School and once in College, but I feel like there was another time in there somewhere. So what struck me most about this rereading are the things that I forgot:

    1. Tom’s mistress–I had completely forgotten about her, which is especially interesting because we spend so much more time learning about her than Daisy in these first chapters. And yet, despite hardly knowing Daisy yet, I feel very protective of her.

    2. Nick is gay. I totally didn’t remember this and yet, bam, there it is in a creepy drunk incident right at the beginning of the book. Although, right after I read that scene, I remembered a very long discussion in a class about Nick and Gatsby’s relationship. The scene feels very disconnected, which in a way makes it feel very important, like Fitzgerald wants to wake us up and pay attention. Maybe to point out that Nick is also sleeping with someone married? Especially interesting since Nick, our narrator, is extremely foggy at that moment and himself not really aware.

    oooh my supper is ready, so that is all I will say for now.

  2. 2 ngtlindsay February 13, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Ok. Phew! Just finished. I am so bad because I totally didn’t start reading until this evening. First thought: So far, this book has not been nearly as terrible as I remember it being.
    Second thought after reading Amber’s comment: Wait, Nick is gay? I have no recollection of this and honestly I totally didn’t pick up on it at all. To be honest, from Nick’s description of Daisy, I felt like he was totally in love with her.
    Jill, I’m so glad you pointed out that the Valley of Ashes was a real place because when I was reading about it in chapter 2, I was super confused. I thought that maybe Fitzgerald was maybe trying to write about horrifically unhappy people for a while. But no, the ashes are really just ashes.
    What do I think of the main characters? So far what I think is that they are kind of terrible people.
    Tom: Well let’s see. He’s racist, elitist, a cheater, and a woman beater. Yep. I think that pretty much says it all.
    Daisy: I do not echo Amber’s sentiment about her. I feel sorry for her that she’s married to such a terrible person, but at the same time I don’t think that she’s really that great herself. She also seems elitist and racist and on top of that she’s somebody who thinks she knows everything and has resigned herself to living a crappy life because she’s seen everything there is and knows everything just kind of sucks. Maybe Daisy is depressed? Maybe it’s post partum or something? She seems to not give two craps about her child. I don’t know.
    Nick: I feel the most sympathy for him out of everyone. I don’t like him, but I relate the most to him. It’s weird because I realize that one of the reasons I dislike him is because he’s a little snooty about the whole “I shouldn’t criticize people because I probably had more advantages than them” attitude. It reminds me of Emma, when Mr. Knightley is chiding Emma for being rude to that poor lady (cannot remember her name), about how because Emma is more refined, she out to be courteous out of pity for those less fortunate. It’s kind of a superior attitude and it makes me feel like I want to slap Nick (and Emma/Mr. Knightley). But then! I realize I am a terrible hypocrite because I totally tell myself the same dang thing sometimes. Maybe that’s why I dislike it most in Nick – because I recognize a not so good part of me and it makes me feel bad.
    And to close off this super long comment, I’ll talk about Gatsby.
    So little has been said about him that I just have no idea what to think about him really. My first and only impression right now is that he seems really sad. How Nick described him as standing alone in the dark with his arms outstretched towards the sea and that weird green light (I knew green light was in this book). Who does that? I definitely talk to myself when I’m alone, and I do things like dance around. But something about standing still and reaching out to something seems incredibly weird and sad to me.
    Oh! I forgot about the glasses. Quite honestly I’m pretty sure in high school I said some stuff about how the glasses were supposed to symbolize something like how everybody knew about the affair and that everyone was always watching, etc. etc., but honestly on this readthrough (of just chapters 1 and 2), the glasses didn’t really seem all that significant to me. They could just as well have not been mentioned and I think it wouldn’t have made any difference to me (at least in the first 2 chapters).

  3. 3 ngtlindsay February 13, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Oh! I also wanted to make a note about something I thought while reading this book. It’s funny because I always here people talk about how much more moral and less self absorbed people were back in the “good old days”. Yeah. I don’t feel like you can say that after reading this book. So far it seems like we’re just as awful as we always were.
    Ugh. I think that’s probably why I hated this book so much – most of the characters we’ve met so far are just so awful.
    I also reserve the right to change my opinion after reading the full book.

  4. 4 ngtjennifer February 13, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    I thought we were supposed to read to chapter 4 so I am a little ahead of the game.

    This is my 3rd time reading the book, and I don’t remember really liking it the first two times. So far I am finding it interesting, but I agree with what most people have said about really disliking the characters. But as my dad said, Fitzgerald was known for writing some pretty despicable characters.

    The only person in the book that I have any sympathy for is actually Myrtle’s husband. We don’t know much about him, but compared to everyone else, he is probably a saint. It does actually make me feel better about myself reading a book about such selfish, horrible people 🙂

    Since a lot of things have already been covered, I will talk a little about Gatsby. I think Fitzgerald does an amazing job of setting up the character with an air of mystery and intrigue. It’s like you savor every little bit of info you get about him. Is it true? Is it just a rumor? Who is this man??

    One thing I am enjoying is just how cinematic the book is. With all of the party descriptions and everything I can’t wait to see what Baz Luhrmann does with this!!!!

  5. 5 Amber February 13, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    I think it can definitely be argued that Nick is not gay. But I would say him getting drunk and ending up in his underwear in a creepy guy’s bedroom hours later and not being upset about it implies that it is possible that he prefers men to women. Or at least doesn’t mind having that kind of a relationship with a man. Kind of a Dumbledore/Grindelwald situation. I think Nick is ambiguously in love with everyone, and apathetic towards everyone. Hmmm, so now I am thinking of whether Nick has much in common with a young Dumbledore….does Nick have the same potential?

    Hmmm, I must admit that part of my fondness of Daisy may just be her name and her style. I don’t quite remember how much I will like her by the end of the book. But right now I feel like she is a lady who smiles while people are looking at her, but frowns when she’s alone, and she is too tired from the fake smiling in order to make the effort to figure out how to smile for real.

    and Lindsay, you said: “It’s weird because I realize that one of the reasons I dislike him is because he’s a little snooty about the whole “I shouldn’t criticize people because I probably had more advantages than them” attitude.” But doesn’t the fact that he calls himself out on that make him more likable? I thought it did.

  6. 6 Amber February 13, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    and Jen, I liked Myrtle’s husband, too. But I did start to get kind of annoyed with him for being so spineless.

  7. 7 ngtlindsay February 13, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Huh. I read the ending of chapter 2 as Mr. McKee was in his underwear, not Nick. All it says is “…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.” And then he was at the train station. I mean, he most certainly could have been in his underwear too, but I never assumed he was. In my head, Mr. McKee was just weird and brought Nick to his apartment and proceeded to strip because he was super drunk. I don’t think Nick is gay mostly because of the differences in the way he describes the men and women. I feel like the women are more physically described then the men. And also, he talks about their bosoms and tight clothing, whereas the men are more things like meaniepants eyes and shaving cream left on his cheek.
    But I will totally be on the lookout for hints as to Nick’s sexuality. Maybe that’s why he wouldn’t talk about the rumored engagement? Hmm.
    Also, I didn’t really get the impression that he was calling himself out on his attitude, more like he was just stating it. I get the impression that he feels very superior and doesn’t like how he’s not as rich as Tom.
    Also, Jen, now I am totally going to read chapters 3 and 4 because I must know more about the enigmatic Gatsby! I can’t believe I barely remember ANYTHING about this book.

  8. 9 ngtjennifer February 14, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Yeah, Myrtle’s husband is spineless, but he can’t really do anything because Tom is so powerful and scary and his wife is a royal be-yotch.

    As to Nick’s sexuality, I guess I never really thought of him as gay, but more asexual. He doesn’t seem to think a whole lot of the people around him and even when he does kind of have a relationship he seems so emotionally uninvolved that I can’t imagine him ever being in a healthy relationship with a guy or girl.

  9. 10 ngtjill February 20, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    I am so late to respond, it’s embarrassing. I kind of felt the same way Amber did about Tom’s mistress and Daisy. I was much more sympathetic to Daisy than Myrtle BUT I agree with Lindsay that Daisy is not a flawless character. I’m starting to wonder if any of these characters are going to come across as likable at the end.

    Um, not really much more than that now since I’ve read past 1 & 2 now. More next time!


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