The Great Gatsby Chapter 8 Summary & Annotations: In Simple Terms

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

If you’ve been reading The Great Gatsby, or if you’ve been keeping up via our summaries, you might have thought that nothing could top the events in Chapter 7. (You can find The Great Gatsby chapter 7 summary here.)

The Great Gatsby Chapter 8 Summary

Author F. Scott Fitzgerald isn’t done yet, however. Keep reading and discover what happens in Chapter 8 of this classic American novel.

Short on Time? Check Out the Highlights from this Chapter

Key Points Chapter 8 The Great Gatsby

  • Nick goes to Gatsby’s the next morning and suggests he leave town for a while.
  • Gatsby refuses and tries to explain his obsession with Daisy by revealing how they met.
  • Gatsby asks Nick to stay and enjoy the pool with him, but Nick is late for work.
  • Gatsby brings the phone to the pool, certain that Daisy will call him.
  • Nick is too distracted to work much, but he calls Gatsby to check on him.
  • As Gatsby is swimming, George Wilson appears and shoots Gatsby, then himself.
  • Nick rushes back to Gatsby’s house and finds his dead body in the pool.

What Happens in Chapter 8 of The Great Gatsby?

Nick didn’t sleep much the night after the confrontation between Tom and Gatsby. He’s thinking about Myrtle’s death and wondering what everyone will do now.

Nick goes to Gatsby’s house and suggests that Gatsby leave town for a while. The police will surely be looking for him and/or his car.

Gatsby tells Nick that he can’t leave, not without Daisy. Gatsby explains that he waited outside Daisy’s house until 4 AM to be sure that Daisy was alright.

Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway, and Daisy Buchanan

He goes on to tell Nick about how he met Daisy at her debutant party in Louisville. He admits to Nick that he lied to Daisy about his background so that she would take interest in him.

While Daisy had promised to wait for Gatsby, after a few years she grows tired of waiting and decides to marry Tom Buchanan with her parent’s approval.

Gatsby’s gardener interrupts the story by explaining that he intended to drain the pool for the winter. Although it had been scorcher just the day before, the feel of autumn is in the air, and the gardener wants to drain the pool before the leaves clog the drains.

Gatsby tells him to wait one more day. He hasn’t used the magnificent pool all summer, and today he plans to go swimming. Gatsby invites Nick, who declines, insisting that he must go because he’s late for work.

Gatsby has the servants place the phone near the pool because he is certain that Daisy will call.

As Nick is leaving, he tells Gatsby that Daisy, Tom, perhaps even Jordan Baker ( read Jordan quotes here ), are a “lousy” bunch and that he (Gatsby) is better than all of them put together.

Nick goes to work but can’t concentrate. His mind keeps going over the events of the last few days. Even Nick can’t help but wonder if Daisy really will call Gatsby.

Jordan Baker calls Nick at work, upset that he isn’t paying her a sufficient amount of attention. Nick is shocked by her selfishness. A person met a horrific and violent death last night, and this is what Jordan is upset about? They hang up on one another, and it appears that any chance their relationship may have had has just flown out the window.

character George Wilson in The Great Gatsby novel

The story shifts back to the Valley of Ashes and George Wilson. George had stayed up all night as well, talking to the cafe owner, Michaelis. Michaelis would tell Nick that George was half-crazy that night, talking about “Him” and the “eyes of God”.

When Michaelis leaves George for a few minutes to get some coffee. George disappears to look for Tom because he knows the owner of the yellow car.

As Gatsby is floating on a mattress in his pool, Wilson shoots and kills Gatsby instantly. Horrified at what he’s done and unable to live with himself, George then goes off into the garden and shoots himself in the head.

Nick feels that something is terribly wrong so he leaves work early and returns to West Egg, where he finds Gatsby floating dead in the pool.

Nick reflects on Gatsby’s obsession and wonders what Gatsby’s final thoughts were. He imagines that Gatsby may have been disillusioned by his dream of Daisy and the reality of Daisy.

What Is the Tone of Chapter 8 of The Great Gatsby?

While the reader may have thought that Chapter 7 brought some bad news ( read best Great Gatsby Chapter 7 Quotes ) and disappointment to Gatsby (not to mention death to Myrtle!), the storyline here turns from bad to worse.

The chapter begins with hopefulness and Gatsby’s remembrances of how he fell deeply in love with Daisy, but it ends in tragic death.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby

This chapter shows that even in death, people are separated by class.

Only the poor and those born to poverty are killed, including Myrtle, George, and Gatsby. Those who were born to wealth, Tom, Daisy, and perhaps even Nick, are unscathed and will face no repercussions.

The overall tone of this chapter is one of hope, but that hope is tragically and irrevocably dashed on the rocks.

What Is the Theme of Chapter 8?

In this chapter, Fitzgerald is showing the tragic side of the American Dream.

Despite Gatsby working hard for his wealth, he is dramatically cut out of his dream of having everlasting true love.

George Wilson, despite his honest, hard work ethics, never makes a dime and is cheated on by his wife, Myrtle.

The death of the American Dream, along with the death of these three characters, is violent, tragic, and sudden.

One might say that Gatsby’s death is the end of Nick’s dream as well. Nick started out that summer with high hopes of becoming a bond salesman and finding a happy, exciting life on the East Coast, but he has also seen this dream broken apart without any hope of mending it.

Did Gatsby Take Daisy’s Virginity?

Flapper Girl flirting with young man in The Great Gatsby

If we believe Gatsby’s version of the story of how these two met, it does appear that Gatsby took Daisy’s virginity.

As Gatsby describes how he met and fell in love with Daisy Fay, he explains to Nick how he knew that if he “took” Daisy, he would never love anyone else, but he did so anyway.

For a young woman to give her virginity to anyone other than her husband or future husband, it would seem that Daisy was also deeply in love with Gatsby and expected him to return from the war and marry her.

Although Gatsby did well in the war, he knew fully well that he was poor and that this would not be acceptable to Daisy, who was accustomed to wealth.

He stays at Oxford College for a few months, perhaps in hope that he could find his way to wealth via an education but ultimately decided that this would take too long.

Gatsby returns to the US but not to Daisy’s arms. He goes into the bootlegging and speakeasy business to earn his money.

Wouldn’t It Have Mattered to Tom that Daisy Was Not a Virgin?

It’s doubtful that the self-centered Tom realized his bride was not a virgin.

Many young women throughout time have faked their “virginity” in a variety of ways. Chances are that Tom was unaware that his wife was not a virgin.

Would Tom have cared if he knew beforehand that Daisy wasn’t a virgin? Possibly. It’s difficult to say.

In Chapter 6, Tom tells Nick and Jordan that he doesn’t know where Daisy could have met Gatsby before, but he intended to find out. (You can find The Great Gatsby Chapter 6 summary here.)

This would suggest that Tom did not know that Daisy was not a virgin when they married, nor did he have the slightest idea that it was Gatsby who had Daisy first.

Best Quotes from Chapter 8

Best Quotes from Chapter 8

She was the first “nice” girl he had ever known. In various unrevealed capacities he had come in contact with such people but always with indiscernible barbed wire between. He found her excitingly desirable. He went to her house, at first with other officers from Camp Taylor, then alone.

It amazed him–he had never been in such a beautiful house before. But what gave it an air of breathless intensity was that Daisy lived there–it was as casual a thing to her as his tent out at camp was to him.

There was a ripe mystery about it, a hint of bedrooms upstairs more beautiful and cool than other bedrooms, of gay and radiant activities taking place through its corridors and of romances that were not musty and laid away already in lavender but fresh and breathing and redolent of this year’s shining motor cars and of dances whose flowers were scarcely withered.

It excited him too that many men had already loved Daisy–it increased her value in his eyes. He felt their presence all about the house, pervading the air with the shades and echoes of still vibrant emotions.

As Gatsby tells Nick about meeting and falling in love with Daisy, Nick reflects on Gatsby’s story and considers how Gatsby must have felt and how it changed him.

Of course she might have loved him, just for a minute, when they were first married–and loved me more even then, do you see?

Suddenly he came out with a curious remark:

“In any case,” he said, “it was just personal.”

What could you make of that, except to suspect some intensity in his conception of the affair that couldn’t be measured?

Even Gatsby has to admit out loud that perhaps Daisy did love Tom- even if it was just for a minute. He has decided that he can live with that, as long as she loves him above all others.

“They’re a rotten crowd,” I shouted across the lawn. “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”

I’ve always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end. First he nodded politely, and then his face broke into that radiant and understanding smile, as if we’d been in ecstatic cahoots on that fact all the time.

His gorgeous pink rag of a suit made a bright spot of color against the white steps, and I thought of the night when I first came to his ancestral home three months before. The lawn and drive had been crowded with the faces of those who guessed at his corruption–and he had stood on those steps, concealing his incorruptible dream, as he waved them goodbye.

It’s interesting to note that Nick is telling the reader that while he initially disapproved of Gatsby, he later came to admire and respect him.

Usually her voice came over the wire as something fresh and cool as if a divot from a green golf links had come sailing in at the office window, but this morning it seemed harsh and dry.

“I’ve left Daisy’s house,” she said. “I’m at Hempstead, and I’m going down to Southampton this afternoon.”

Probably it had been tactful to leave Daisy’s house, but the act annoyed me, and her next remark made me rigid.

“You weren’t so nice to me last night.”

How could it have mattered then?

The bloom is off the rose of the relationship between Jordan and Nick. He’s disgusted that Jordan’s only concern is about herself.

Chapter 8 Best Quotes of Great Gatsby Novel

No telephone message arrived but the butler went without his sleep and waited for it until four o’clock–until long after there was any one to give it to if it came. I have an idea that Gatsby himself didn’t believe it would come, and perhaps he no longer cared.

If that was true he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass.

A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about… like that ashen, fantastic figure gliding toward him through the amorphous trees.

Seeing Gatsby’s body, Nick tries to imagine what Gatsby’s final thoughts were, what he had been thinking, and if Jay Gatsby had realized in the end that his dream was hopelessly lost.

Final Thoughts on Chapter 8 of The Great Gatsby

As Gatsby talks about how he fell in love with Daisy before she married Tom and how impressed he was by the wealth of Daisy’s family, the reader realizes that, in Gatsby mind, love and money go hand in hand.

Daisy could not have loved Gatsby completely if he were poor. Likewise, one wonders if Gatsby would have fallen so hard for Daisy if she had been poor.

In this novel, Fitzgerald uses Gatsby as a symbol of American society in the 1920s. The rich got richer, and the poor get saddled with the work and the blame when things go wrong.

The American Dream and the pursuit of happiness have been denigrated to nothing more than the pursuit of cash, cash, and more cash, only to be cut short by death.

The Great Gatsby Chapter 8 Summary & Annotations: In Simple Terms
The Great Gatsby Chapter 8 Summary & Annotations: In Simple Terms
If you thought that Chapter 7 of The Great Gatsby was a doozy, you’ll be equally shocked by Chapter 8. Short on time? Read our complete summary here.
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