The Great Gatsby – Chapters 8 and 9

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

A sombre end to the novel, where we learn just how fickle celebrity culture and Gatsby’s ideas of the American dream are. Gatsby’s end is tragic, not only for him but for George Wilson, demented by Myrtle’s betrayal and death, and Tom’s not-so-subtle hints.

The final lines are truly beautiful, even more so through their haunting nature – the idea that although we try and try, we cannot recapture the past, or what is lost. This idea is based in much of the context of the novel – the roaring twenties were filled with money and parties and scandal, but perhaps all this noise was simply to fill the emptiness and silence left behind after the brutality of the First World War.

Some questions to ponder:

Chapter 8

  • Gatsby tells his story to Nick.
    “…he found that he had committed himself to the following of a grail.” – why does Fitzgerald use the word “grail”?
  • Nick says “They’re a rotten crowd, you’re worth the whole damned bunch put together” – who is he talking about and what does he mean?
  • George Wilson says “God sees everything” – what is he talking about?
  • What does George do? Why?
  • “It was after we started with Gatsby toward the house that the gardener saw Wilson’s body a little way off in the grass, and the holocaust was complete.”  – why does Fitzgerald use the word “holocaust”?

Chapter 9

  • –What do Tom and Daisy do?
  • How is Tom responsible for Gatbsy’s death?
  • Why did Tom do it?
  • –How does Meyer Wolfsheim respond to Gatsby’s death?
  • How did Gatsby treat his father?
  • Who showed up to the funeral?
  • Was the American dream a failure for Gatsby? For Nick?
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