The Great Gatsby: Chapter 8

In Chapter 8, the reader gets a glimpse into Gatsby and Daisy’s past relationship. After Daisy marries Tom, Gatsby returns to Daisy’s hometown, hoping somehow to feel Daisy’s presence, to breath in the air that surrounded her, to touch the inanimate objects where her hand might have lain:

The track curved and now it was going away from the sun which, as it sunk lower, seemed to spread itself in benediction over the vanishing city where she had drawn her breath. He stretched out his hand desperately as if to snatch only a wisp of air, to save a fragment of the spot that she had made lovely for him. But it was all going by too fast now for his blurred eyes and he knew that he had lost that part of it, the freshest and the best, forever.

It is almost at the end of the novel that the reader finally understands the significance of the end of Chapter 1:

 [F]ifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my neighbor’s mansion and was standing with his hands in his pockets regarding the silver pepper of the stars. Something in his leisurely movements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn suggested that it was Mr. Gatsby himself, come out to determine what share was his of our local heavens.

I decided to call to him. . . . But I didn’t call to him for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone–he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward–and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.

Green LightGatsby stretched out his arms, pulling in the green light, breathing in any essence of Daisy he possibly could in order to keep his dream alive.

Fitzgerald shows us Gatsby’s longing well before we know what he longs for. He shows us the meaning of the green light after it has become meaningless. He even shows us the depth of Gatsby’s love for Daisy, after we see that Daisy is not worthy of that love.

It is through that intricate looping of the story that Fitzgerald creates that very same longing in us. Even as we long for Gatsby to turn his boat around, we know that the siren’s song has already delivered its final blow.

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