Chapter Nine: Most of the reports of the murder were grotesque and
untrue. Nick finds himself alone on Gatsby's side. Tom and Daisy suddenly
left town. Meyer Wolfsheim is difficult to contact, and offers assistance,
but cannot become too involved because of current entanglements.
Nick is able to locate Gatsby's father but he is too distressed to be of
any assistance to Nick in arranging the funeral. Mr. Gatz says that his son
would have "helped build up the country." He shows Nick his son's daily schedule,
in which he has practically every minute of his day planned. He had a continual
interest in self-improvement.
Klipspringer, the boarder, leaves suddenly and only returns to get his tennis
shoes. He doesn't wan to be involved in any way.
Nick goes to see Wolfsheim, who claims that he made Gatsby. He tells Nick
"we need to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he
is dead," and politely refuses to attend the funeral.
At the funeral, one of the few attendees is the Owl-Eyed man from Gatsby's
first party. Nick thinks about the differences between the west and the east,
and realizes that he, the Buchanans, Gatsby and Jordan are all Westerners
who came east, perhaps possessing some deficiency which made them unadaptable
to Eastern life.
After Gatsby's death the East is haunted and distorted for Nick and he is
anxious to leave. He meets with Jordan Baker and realizes that there was really
nothing between them. She tells Nick that the two of them are both "bad
drivers," referring back to a conversation that they had earlier in their
Months later Nick sees Tom Buchanan, and Nick scorns him, knowing that he
pointed Wilson toward Gatsby. Nick realizes that all of Tom's actions were,
to him, justified. Nick leaves New York to return West.
The 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
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 life.
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 attends the funeral. Where hundreds attended his parties, only a small number attend his funeral.
A common trait among the principle characters of the novel ï¿½ Gatsby, Daisy,
Nick, and the Buchanans ï¿½ 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 ï¿½ his optimistic belief in achievement
and the ability to attain one's dreams ï¿½ 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.