Chapter 2 of The Great Gatsby will introduce us to many new characters, as well as give the narrator, Nick Carraway, an insightful look into his old college friend Tom Buchanan.
Nick will also reveal to the reader his ambivalent feelings towards his cousin Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom, as well as a hint about Nick’s sexuality.
Nick has a habit of slowly revealing not only his character but also the true character of others as the novel progresses.
As the reader will discover, not everyone in this amazing novel is who they claim to be.
What Are Some Quotes about the Setting of The Great Gatsby in Chapter 2?
Chapter 2 places the characters in two settings – the valley of ashes and New York.
The first paragraph devotes time to give a vivid description of a desolate place called the valley of ashes.
The Great Gatsby Chapter 2 Quotes, Valley of Ashes Description
The valley of ashes is located between West Egg and New York, and F. Scott Fitzgerald describes it through Nick’s eyes as:
A fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.
How Is Tom and Myrtle’s Apartment in New York Described in Chapter 2?
Tom and Myrtle’s apartment is a top-floor unit in a long row of white houses at 158th Street. Everything about it is small – the room, bedroom, dining room, and bath – which doesn’t seem to bother both Tom and Myrtle.
Nick, on the other hand, seems short of nice words when he describes it as:
The living room was crowded to the doors with a set of tapestried furniture entirely too large for it, so that to move about was to stumble continually over scenes of ladies swinging in the gardens of Versailles.
He went on to criticize a blurred photograph and the presence of gossip and scandal magazines on the table.
Nick Carraway’s Best Quotes From Chapter 2
With the curious description of the valley of ashes, the reader will also get to meet equally curious characters and symbols, including the blue and gigantic eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg with irises one-yard high.
Let’s hear more from Nick Carraway’s thoughts and observations.
Where Does Tom Invite Nick in Chapter 2?
Tom Buchanan, husband to Daisy and an old college friend to Nick Carraway, invites Nick to lunch in New York City. Nick must feel like a poor relative compared to Tom, despite the fact that Nick does come from a well-off family.
They stop by a garage in the valley of ashes and ride the train to New York. Most of the events in Chapter 2 will occur in the apartment that Tom keeps for his trysts with his mistress, Myrtle Wilson.
Compared to the dark, ashy skies where Myrtle lives, the apartment in New York sounds quite nice.
What Does Nick Think about Tom’s Invitation?
Nick notes about Tom’s invitation and clearly expresses his dislike of Tom:
“I think he’d tanked up a good deal at luncheon and his determination to have my company bordered on violence. The supercilious assumption was that on Sunday afternoon I had nothing better to do.”
Nick had heard from Jordan Baker in Chapter 1 that Tom “had a woman” in New York, but it isn’t until this chapter that we learn that, not only is this true but also that Tom’s mistress is a lower-class married woman.
Tom has Nick get off the train at the stop in the Valley of Ashes. Under the pretense of talking to his mechanic, George Wilson ( see George Wilson Quotes here ), about selling George (or giving him) an old car, Tom takes this opportunity to tell George’s wife, Myrtle, to get on the next train and meet him at the apartment.
What Does Nick Say He Has Only Done Twice in His Life?
In Chapter 2, Nick tells us:
“I have been drunk just twice in my life, and the second time was that afternoon; so everything that happened has a dim, hazy cast over it, although until after 8 o’clock the apartment was full of cheerful sun. “
It could be that Nick wants to put himself in a positive light (for very rarely getting drunk) or justify his actions afterwards (more on this later). Whatever his reasons, the reader does get to feel the haziness of Nick’s accounts of what happened for the rest of that day/night.
Who Joins Nick, Tom, and Myrtle at the Party?
Myrtle’s sister Catherine comes to the party, as does a couple who live downstairs, the McKee’s.
What Does Nick Do After the Party at Tom and Myrtle’s Apartment?
After Tom gets angry at Myrtle for mentioning Daisy’s name, Mr. McKee and Nick decide that it’s time to leave. Both are quite drunk as the exchange in the elevator implies:
“Come to lunch someday,” he (Mr. McKee) suggested, as we groaned down in the elevator.
“Keep your hands off the lever”, snapped the elevator boy.
“I beg your pardon,” said Mr. McKee with dignity, “I didn’t know I was touching it.”
Rather than go home, Nick decides to make sure Mr. McKee gets to bed alright.
“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”.
Some suggest that this is a subtle message telling the reader that Nick was gay and that he had slept with Mr. McKee. But is Nick Carraway gay? Find out more about the subject.
Whether this was Fitzgerald’s way of telling the reader that Nick was gay or simply another way of explaining Nick’s gentle and caring nature, will be up to the reader to decide.
Tom Buchanan’s Best Quotes From Chapter 2
In this chapter, the reader is about to learn more than they want to know about Tom.
Tom is very, very wealthy so he doesn’t have to work. This leaves him quite a bit of leisure time, which appears to include affairs with every woman who will allow him the pleasure of their company.
Tom mentions nothing to Nick at first, only talking about going to the city. As soon as the train stops in the Valley of Ashes, Tom tells Nick that they are getting off the train.
“I want you to meet my girl.”
You might think that Daisy or his daughter was “his girl”, and the word mistress would have been a more suitable choice.
Tom goes to a gas station, where George Wilson sells gas and does basic mechanical work.
“Hello, Wilson, old man”, said Tom, slapping him jovially on the shoulder, “How’s business?”
” I can’t complain”, answered Wilson unconvincingly. “When are you going to sell me that car?”
“Next week. I’ve got my man working on it now.”
“Works pretty slow, don’t he?”
“No, he doesn’t”, said Tom coldly, “And if you feel that way about it, maybe I’d better sell it somewhere else after all”.
“I don’t mean that,” explained Wilson quickly, “I just meant-” His voice faded off…
This exchange shows how Tom uses his money (in the form of a car) to control others. George isn’t about to say anything that would anger or upset Tom because Tom would give the car to someone else, and George desperately needs the money. Tom is well aware of this fact.
Wilson goes to the office to get some chairs, and Tom uses this moment to tell Myrtle –
“I want to see you.” said Tom intently. “Get on the next train.”
“I’ll meet you by the newsstand on the lower level.”
Tom seems to have no problem not only betraying his friend George, but his wife Daisy as well.
As Tom and Nick get back on the train, Tom talks about George to Nick:
Terrible place, isn’t it?” said Tom, exchanging a frown with Doctor Eckleburg.
“It does her good to get away.”
“Doesn’t her husband object?”
“Wilson? He thinks she goes to see her sister in New York. He’s so dumb, he doesn’t know he’s alive.”
Poor George is clueless about his wife’s affair, and Tom mocks him for not knowing.
The Best Quotes from Myrtle Wilson in Chapter 2
Myrtle is from a lower class than Tom and Daisy, but she has ambitions of climbing the ladder, even if she can only do so via an affair with Tom.
Myrtle might believe that she will convince Tom to divorce Daisy, but in the meantime, she seems to want to take advantage of being with a rich man.
After agreeing to meet Tom in New York, Myrtle spies someone selling dogs on the corner. She tells Tom:
“I want one of those dogs”, she said earnestly, “I want to get one for the apartment. They’re nice to have- a dog.”
Myrtle doesn’t have a problem asking for what she wants!
Myrtle’s sister Catherine arrives and complains that there is no ice for the drinks. Myrtle puts on airs telling her:
“My dear,” she told her sister in a high, mincing shout, “Most of these fellas will cheat you every time. All they think of is the money. I had a woman up here last week to look at my feet, and when she gave me the bill you’d of thought she had my appendicitis out.”
Tired of living the life of a poor mechanic’s wife, Myrtle decides to play “rich housewife”.
What Does Myrtle Say When Complimented about Her Dress?
Myrtle acts haughty and tries to impart that she owns many expensive clothes, as she reacts to a compliment:
“I like your dress,” remarked Mrs. McKee, “I think it’s adorable.”
Mrs. Wilson rejected the compliment by raising her eyebrows in disdain.
“It’s just a crazy old thing,” she said. “I just slip it on sometimes when I don’t care what I look like.”
What Happens When Myrtle Keeps on Shouting Daisy’s Name?
After several bottles of whiskey had been consumed by all the partygoers, Myrtle and Tom start fighting over Myrtle’s right to say Daisy’s name.
“Daisy! Daisy! Daisy!” shouted Mrs. Wilson. “Ill say it whenever I want to! Daisy! Dai-”
Making a short, deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her (Myrtle’s) nose with his open hand.
Daisy had called Tom a brute, and it appears that she was 100 percent correct.
The Best Quotes from Myrtle’s Sister Catherine in Chapter 2
While the author doesn’t tell us Catherine’s last name ( see popular last names from the 1920s ), we know that she is Myrtle’s unmarried sister. Although a minor character in the novel, Catherine provides some of the important quotes from The Great Gatsby.
It’s Catherine who seems to believe that Tom is going to divorce Daisy and marry her sister. This must be a happy idea, believing that her sister will be rich and will probably “share” with her sister, but the reader can tell that Tom will never divorce Daisy.
Catherine explains to Nick how both Tom and Myrtle can’t stand the person they’re married to:
“Can’t stand them.” She looked at Myrtle, then at Tom. “What I say is, why go on living with them if they can’t stand them? If I was them I’d get a divorce and get married to each other right away.”
“It’s really his wife that’s keeping them apart. She’s a Catholic and they don’t believe in divorce.”
Nick side-notes about his shock over the elaborate lie because he knew Daisy was not a Catholic. Who told Myrtle and Catherine the lie that Daisy was a Catholic?
Chances are that it was Tom. Lying that his wife wouldn’t give him a divorce was a convenient excuse to stop Myrtle’s nagging about a marriage that he had no intention of ever getting into.
Final Summary on Chapter 2 Quotes
When reading The Great Gatsby, it seems as if everyone is desperately wishing they were someone else- except perhaps for Tom.
Catherine and Myrtle want to be the wife and sister-in-law of a wealthy man.
Nick wishes he was anywhere but where he was.
Mr. McKee wants to be a famous photographer.
Mrs. McKee wants to be the friend of a wealthy woman.
While Nick insists that he isn’t a drinker, he does get roaring drunk at this party. Perhaps this is the only way he can deal with what he sees.
His friend Tom is cheating on his wife and Nick’s cousin Daisy. He also sees that Tom is a violent man, even with women.
Nick does demonstrate that he is a good listener. He knows that the line about Daisy being a Catholic isn’t true, but he doesn’t say anything.
We have yet to meet the mysterious Mr. Jay Gatsby, but that happens in Chapter 3, where Nick gets invited to Gatsby’s house with a blue lawn in West Egg.
You can find the best Great Gatsby Chapter 3 quotes here. You’ll learn more about what Gatsby believed in, his fixation with the green light on Daisy’s dock, and how it symbolizes the American dream that Gatsby and everyone wanted to achieve.
Written by Kerry Wisby – GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Owner & Founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Kerry Wisby, a former teacher with a BA in English, is the founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com. With a passion for all things 1920s, including The Great Gatsby novel, her website is the ultimate source for Roaring Twenties fashion, history, and party ideas. Read more about Kerry here.