closes The Great Gatsby by tying up several loose ends. During the
day after Gatsby's death, Nick feels that he alone is on his neighbor's
side, as Gatsby's house floods with police, photographers, and newspapermen.
Discovering that Tom and Daisy Buchanan have left town, leaving
no address, Nick sends a letter to Meyer Wolfsheim informing him
of Gatsby's death. Wolfsheim responds by saying although it is one
of the most difficult shocks of his life, he is simply too busy
to be involved with funeral preparations or visit Gatsby's house.
As Nick stays with the dead body at Gatsby's house the phone rings,
and a man begins talking -- believing Gatsby answered the phone
-- with news that "Young Parke's in trouble....They picked him up
when he handed the bonds over the counter" (174). This seems to
indicate, finally, that Gatsby was involved with illegally handling
stolen bond funds.
Gatsby's father arrives for the funeral, and Nick attempts to find
others to attend; everyone he speaks with, however, has an excuse.
None of the guests who abused Gatsby's hospitality at his parties
all summer show up to his funeral, until Owl Eyes -- a character
from Nick's first visit to Gatsby's -- arrives. Taken aback that
no one else came, Owl Eyes remembers, "Why, my God! they used to
go there by the hundreds....The poor son-of-a-bitch" (183).
After Gatsby's death, Nick determines to move back to the Midwest,
but first goes to visit Jordan Baker one last time. To Nick's surprise,
Jordan informs him that she is already engaged to somebody else,
prompting him to leave angrily, still "half in love with her, and
tremendously sorry" (186). Later that fall Nick runs into Tom Buchanan,
who Nick remains angry at. Having figured out that George Wilson
had gone to see Tom before killing Gatsby, Nick asks Tom what he
told Wilson that afternoon. Tom replies, "I told him the truth,"
(187) elaborating that Wilson was crazy enough to kill him if he
didn't reveal who owned the car.
Finally, on his last night in West Egg, Nick goes over to Gatsby's
house -- that "huge incoherent failure of a house" (188) -- where
he finds some boy has scrawled an obscene word with a piece of brick
on the front steps. After erasing it, Nick walks to the beach, reflecting
on how Gatsby's green light -- one man's hope for the future --
was actually just part of an unattainable past.
reports of Gatsby's death are consistent with the rumors that circulated
when he was alive: they assume a number of lurid details, when in
fact the circumstances of the murder are actually somewhat mundane.
The general opinion of Gatsby after the death demonstrates clearly
how he was such an outsider in society. Only Nick remains devoted
to Gatsby after the murder, while the rest of Gatsby's acquaintances
have no interest in him. The many guests at his parties are now
absent; his murder confirms the ill suspicions and rumors that had
circulated concerning Gatsby.
After the murder, Tom and Daisy quickly flee New York, an action
typical of their careless behavior. They do not take responsibility
for any of the events surrounding Gatsby's murder, leaving Nick
to handle everything alone. Even Meyer Wolfsheim behaves responsibly
in comparison to the Buchanans. Although he refuses to be mixed
up in the situation, he still shows concern and compassion. Wolfsheim
even gives a sane appraisal of the situation, telling Nick that
one should show friendship for a man when he is alive.
Wolfsheim's reluctance to be involved seems honorable, and Fitzgerald
makes it clear that Wolfsheim had genuine affection for Gatsby.
The Buchanans behave entirely selfishly.
Henry Gatz serves to place Gatsby's life in proper perspective.
From him Nick learns how much Gatsby achieved and how dedicated
he was to self-improvement. Even when he was an adolescent he had
grand plans for becoming respectable. Contrary to his reputation
as a man interested only in pleasure, Gatsby took good care of his
father, buying him a house and providing him with a modestly comfortable
The funeral provides further evidence that few had any concern for
Gatsby. Other than his servants, Henry Gatz and Nick, only the Owl-Eyed
man from the first party attend the funeral. Where hundreds attended
his parties, only a small number attend his funeral.
A common trait among the principle characters of the novel ' Gatsby,
Daisy, Nick, and the Buchanans ' is that each came east for its
excitement, compared to the bored Midwest. Yet for Nick the excitement
of the east is a grotesque distortion. The excitement of the east
sustains wild parties at the Gatsby mansion, but also provides an
atmosphere in which people as careless as the Buchanans can wreak
incredible havoc upon others.
Jordan's 'bad driver' metaphor places Nick into a different light.
Since he serves primarily as an objective narrator, there is little
critique of his actions. Only Jordan points out that Nick is as
false and careless as the others. He pursued a halfhearted romance
with Jordan with little consideration for her feelings, showing
interest for her only casually. Significantly, she does not find
the solution to their faults to be self-improvement and correction,
but rather avoidance. According to Jordan, irresponsible people
are only harmful when they find each other (as Nick had found her
and the Buchanans).
The meeting between Tom and Nick is disturbing because Tom sincerely
believes that he deserves some degree of sympathy. It was Tom who
was responsible for Gatsby's murder, but he believed that the outcome
was justice. It is here that Nick fully realizes the Buchanans'
depravity, giving the most accurate appraisal of them: he calls
them "careless people" who "smashed up things and creatures and
then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness."
Fitzgerald concludes the novel with a final note on Gatsby's beliefs.
It is this particular aspect of his character ' his optimistic belief
in achievement and the ability to attain one's dreams ' that defines
Gatsby, in contrast to the compromising cynicism of his peers. Yet
the final symbol contradicts and deflates the grand optimism that
Gatsby held. Fitzgerald ends the book with the sentence "So we beat
on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past,"
which contradicts Gatsby's fervent belief that one can escape his
origins and rewrite his past.