Curiosity about the beginnings of the mysterious Gatsby are at an all-time peak when Gatsby suddenly disappears from the social scene. He stops throwing huge parties on Saturday nights because his sole intention in inviting all those people was to lure Daisy to his house, and now that he has resumed contact with her, he no longer needs to cater to everyone else's desires. To make sure that no gossip circulates about him and Daisy or his business, he fires all his servants and instead hires friends and relatives of Wolfshiem to take care of the house. Nick is confused by the complete turnaround in Gatsby's behavior but because, as he admits at the beginning of the novel, he is reluctant to pass judgment on others.
On the hottest day of the summer, Nick has lunch with Jordan, Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby at the Buchanans' home, and just as the temperature is peaking that afternoon, so too does the tension between Gatsby and Tom reach a palpable limit. When Nick arrives, Tom is on the phone in the hallway, and Jordan whispers that he is probably talking to his mistress. Daisy calls for her daughter to greet the guests, and Gatsby seems to be completely surprised and taken aback by the little girl's existence, for he had believed that she, along with the love between Tom and Daisy, had been a hoax, and her presence strikes him speechless.
Everyone is annoyed and crabby because of the heat, and Daisy suggests that they all go into the city for fun. She looks at Gatsby and suddenly tells him that he looks cool, and in that glance, Tom can see that they are having an affair. He announces that they are all going to town but that they must split into two cars. Daisy chooses to go with Gatsby in Tom's coupe, and Tom drives Nick and Jordan in Gatsby's flashy car. While he is driving, Tom tells Nick and Jordan about his realization, and he stops at George Wilson's gas station to fill up Gatsby's car.
Wilson looks extremely sickly and pale, and Nick notices that his face has turned a shade of green. George asks Tom if he still intended to sell his car because George wants to take his wife far away from New York, to the West. Nick realizes that George had finally found out that Myrtle was living a life that he didn't know about, and the knowledge that she lived apart from him had made him physically ill. To appease Wilson, Tom tells him that he will send the car over in the morning and gets back into Gatsby's car to resume the drive to the city. But what Tom doesn't realize is that Myrtle Wilson was watching him during his exchange with George and that she had believed that Jordan Baker was Daisy, his wife.
The five of them end up drinking cocktails in a suite at the Plaza Hotel, and they try to ease the thick tension by thinking of ways to make the room cooler. Tom tries to quiz Gatsby about his education at Oxford, and Gatsby tells him that he had gone to Oxford for five months because officers after the Armistice had been given the opportunity to study at any of the universities in England or France. Daisy is proud of Gatsby for quickly cutting Tom down, and Tom responds by asking Gatsby pointedly what kind of trouble he was trying to start in his house. Daisy tells Tom to calm down, but he is furious and insults Gatsby by saying that the only way that Gatsby could make friends was by turning his house into a pigsty.
Gatsby lashes back at Tom by telling him that Daisy had never loved Tom and even though he and Daisy had been separated for five years, he and Daisy were still in love. Tom responds by telling him that Daisy does love him and that even though he goes off and makes a fool of himself sometimes, he loves her just as much. Gatsby turns to Daisy and asks her to tell Tom that she had never loved him, but Daisy is unable to fulfill Gatsby's request. She begins to sob, claiming that Gatsby wants too much - she says that she had loved Tom once, but she loved Gatsby, too. Gatsby is amazed that she had loved BOTH of them, but he still confidently tells Tom that Daisy is leaving him. Tom, infuriated by what Gatsby is saying, announces to everyone that Gatsby is nothing but a bootlegger and was also involved in the drug business. After a moment of stunned, tragic silence, Gatsby begins to defend himself to Daisy and tries to deny all of Tom's claims, but the damage has already been done to his image in Daisy's eyes. They decide to head back to Long Island, and Nick comes to the sudden realization that today is his birthday and that he has just turned 30 years old - and he does not look forward to enduring a new decade.
Nick suddenly switches his focus from the five of them to George Wilson's gas station. While they have been arguing in the city, George Wilson has locked up Myrtle and refuses to let her leave until she goes West with him because he cannot live with the thought of her living separately from him. Michaelis, a kind young Greek man who runs a coffee shop near Wilson's garage, hears Wilson and Myrtle yelling at each other within the garage. He later reports that he had heard Myrtle dare George to beat her, and Michaelis had seen her rushing out into the night. As she runs screaming into the road, though, a car that is speeding down the road fails to stop in time and ends up killing her - and Michaelis notes that the car hadn't even slowed down after hitting her.
Nick, Jordan, and Tom, who had been several miles behind Gatsby's car, finally come upon the accident scene, and at first, none of them are sure of who the victim was. Finally, they discover that Myrtle Wilson was killed by the "death car," and they find Michaelis trying to comfort a hysterical George Wilson. Witnesses tell the police that the car that killed her was painted a bright yellow and that it was traveling well over forty miles an hour. Tom is shocked by her death but seems to take her death well, especially because he and Nick are the only ones who know that Myrtle was his mistress. Tom finally breaks down, though, when they get back to the car, and he calls Gatsby a "God Damn coward" because he believes that Gatsby is the one who killed her - and he hadn't even stopped the car to see if she had survived.
Even though Jordan tries to persuade Nick to stay at the Buchanans after their eventual night, Nick just wants to get away from them all and walks out of the Buchanan house. Even before he leaves their lawn, Gatsby steps out from behind the front bushes and asks Nick if she was killed. He reveals to Nick that Daisy was the one driving the car and that she had tried to swerve away from Myrtle when she had run screaming in front of the car but hadn't been able to stop the car. Gatsby tells Nick that he is going to stay at the Buchanan house to make sure that Daisy is safe, even if he has to stay there the entire night. He and Nick tiptoe to peek inside the Buchanans' kitchen, and they see Daisy and Tom quietly talking to each other, and Tom is comforting Daisy, covering her hand with his own. Even though they don't seem glowingly happy, there is a special air of intimacy surrounding them that Gatsby could never break into. Nick realizes that keeping a vigil over Daisy would be futile, and he leaves Gatsby standing in the darkness, who hopes that his invisible presence will somehow comfort her.
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