Chapter 6 Summary of The Great Gatsby: A Study Guide

Last Updated: October 24th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

The Great Gatsby has been called one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. This novel, based in the 1920s, has a many symbolisms and tells a classic tale of a love triangle gone wrong.

Chapter 6 The Great Gatsby

What happens in Chapter 6? Check out our full summary and analysis or if you are short on time read my summary of The Great Gatsby Book.

What Is Chapter 6 in The Great Gatsby All About?

Chapter 6 delves deeper into who Jay Gatsby really is (read more on Chapter 6 Quotes ), where he comes from, and how deep Gatsby’s love for Daisy is.

This chapter opens with a reporter asking Gatsby if he has anything he would like to say to the press.

This is where we learn the truth about Gatsby’s past.

Who Is James Gatz in The Great Gatsby?

Jay Gatsby was born James Gatz. He is a son of poor farmers in North Dakota, but he has bigger ambitions. Feeling that paying his way through college would take forever, Gatz gets a job on Lake Superior working on fishing boats.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby movie

This is where Gatz meets the multi-millionaire Dan Cody. He saves Cody’s yacht from destruction on the rocks because Cody was too drunk to operate the ship. Impressed and grateful for what the young lad did for him, Dan Cody gives Gatz a job—as his personal assistant.

Cody takes Gatz with him everywhere, and Gatz not only becomes accustomed to the life of the very wealthy but also learns how to act, dress, and speak like them.

Who Named Him Jay Gatsby?

Nick has an answer for this. He wrote—

Who Named Him Jay Gatsby by Nick Carraway

“I suppose he’d had the name ready for a long time, even then. His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people—his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby sprang from his Platonic conception of himself.”

In short, James Gatz invented his new name himself.

Was Dan Cody a Real Person?

No, he wasn’t.

Some believe that Fitzgerald got this name from combining two famous frontiersmen who were quite popular in the 1920s, Daniel Boone and Buffalo Bill Cody.

A man wearing a coat and navigating a yacht

The name Dan Cody is meant to give readers a romanticized name that has depth and dignity to it.

While there was a real-life millionaire named Dan Cody, this man found his fortune in gold and silver mining, which would have made him “new money” and not a suitable character for the then-poor James Gatz to emulate.

Why Did Tom Buchanan Go to Gatsby’s Party?

Also in Chapter 6, Nick, Daisy, and Tom attend one of Gatsby’s parties. As to why Tom went to Gatsby’s party, Nick has an explanation as he notes that—

Tom was evidently perturbed at Daisy’s running around alone, for on the following Saturday night, he came with her to Gatsby’s party.

Did Tom and Daisy Like Gatsby’s Party?

Gatsby and Daisy dance together, as well as spend some private time talking, with Nick trying to hide them from Tom.

Jay Gatsby dancing with Daisy Buchanan at one of Gatsby's parties

Eventually, Daisy makes it clear that this party has bored her, and she thinks Tom is simply looking for a new mistress.

Tom is unimpressed and finds Gatsby has no class and no manners, by his standards anyway.

Tom tries to berate Gatsby, bringing up rumors (that are true) about Gatsby’s bootlegging business. Daisy defends Gatsby, saying that he’s earned his money via a chain of drugstores.

Did Gatsby Kiss Daisy in Chapter 6?

While Fitzgerald doesn’t specifically say that Gatsby kissed Daisy (or that Daisy kissed him first), you can see that this probably happened.

Daisy and Gatsby go dancing together. Tom is out talking to the many celebrities at the party.The Great Gatsby's Dream - a drawing of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan talking very close to each other

Gatsby takes Daisy down by the lake, where they talk in private. When Tom goes looking for Daisy, Nick tries to hide the couple by telling him that Daisy was upstairs dancing.

One can easily imagine this pair talking, kissing, and exchanging sweet nothings in the dark of night, but there is no mention of a kiss in this chapter.

What Does Tom Swear to in Chapter 6?

While Tom Buchanan doesn’t seem to believe that his multiple affairs should bother Daisy, he is instantly aware that Daisy and Gatsby are attracted to one another.

A flapper girl flirting with a young man

In hopes of shattering that attraction, Tom mentions rumors he’s heard that said Gatsby made his fortune from bootlegging or other illegal means.

After Daisy defends Gatsby, Tom swears that he will discover where Gatsby’s money comes from and prove to everyone that he is right.

He is also hoping that if he finds out the truth, Daisy’s infatuation with Jay Gatsby will cool down.

Why Is Gatsby Depressed at the End of Chapter 6?

After Daisy and Tom leave, Gatsby tells Nick that he is disappointed that Daisy didn’t seem to enjoy his party. He also explains that he wants Daisy to leave Tom Buchanan so they can be together like they were when they fell in love in Louisville.

When Nick tells Gatsby that he can’t relive the past, this was Gatsby’s reaction:

“Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!” He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.”

This reply strikes Nick as both charming but disgustingly sentimental.

Gatsby appears to be depressed by the thought that Tom might find out about his illegal dealings, and this might scare Daisy away.

Leonardo DiCaprio in a scene in The Great Gatsby where he plays the title role

Gatsby is beyond all hope at this point in the book. He can’t see that while he can try to recreate a new scenario where Daisy might fall in love with him again, Daisy isn’t the same girl she was 5 years ago.

Even Nick cautions Gatsby, telling him that he can’t recreate the past, but Gatsby will not be deterred. Jay Gatsby believes that he is so close to realizing his dream, and because of this conviction, he can’t see the forest for the trees.

Gatsby’s dream may be parallel to the American Dream, that despite all their efforts, some people never achieve their dreams.

The same is true with Gatsby.

Chapter 6 Summary of The Great Gatsby

The most important line in Chapter 6 came from Jay Gatsby when he incredulously cried:

Jay Gatsby Line from Chapter 6 The Great Gatsby

Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!

This was the whole point of Gatsby’s life, around which the story revolved. This was the driving force behind Gatsby, and sadly, it was also his downfall.

There were three main themes in this chapter.

1. Gatsby as a boy, and how he has changed yet remained immature – In Chapter 6, we see a poor boy who pulled himself up by his bootstraps, even if he did so illegally.

We discover that he became new-money rich from bootlegging and other illegal endeavors. His story about how he rewrote his life when he met Dan Cody is remarkable. Yet how he went on from that shows that he really hasn’t matured much beyond his 17-year-old self.

While he learned how to behave, dress, and act like a gentleman, he doesn’t appear to have matured mentally and emotionally beyond this obsession with money and Daisy.

2. Gatsby’s dreams and the extent to which he is willing to go to attain those dreams – All his efforts are not just for the money but for his love of Daisy and his dream that the two of them can make a life together.

A drawing of a gentleman and a flapper girl in drop-waist dress

This chapter shows us that pursuing money and material things to the point of madness can cause its own set of problems. Determination is a good thing, especially when put to use, but determination without thought can become an obsession, which is destructive.

3. Nick sees through Gatsby’s dreams and folly – In the beginning of the book, Nick speaks about Gatsby almost reverently, as if he was bigger than life and worthy of worship.

However, the party in Chapter 6 also shows us that Nick is easily influenced by others. While he admires Gatsby’s mansion and the lights, when Tom and Daisy speak about the gaudiness of the drunken party-goers, Nick seems to feel that Tom is correct. New money has no class.

Chapter 6 shows both sides of the American Dream, as well as Gatsby’s dream of a life with Daisy. While money makes the world go around, where you obtained your money and how long you’ve had it makes a big difference in how the world treats you.

While some might say that Gatsby is a weak character, this is debatable. The Great Gatsby is about a protagonist who cannot exist or function in the present because his entire focus is on the past.

Chapter 6 Summary of The Great Gatsby: A Study Guide
Chapter 6 Summary of The Great Gatsby: A Study Guide
What are the main points of Chapter 6 of The Great Gatsby? What is the most important line in Chapter 6 and what are the three themes? Find out here.
Gatsby Flapper Girl