The Great Gatsby: Novel Summary: Chapter 2

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Chapter 2

As Fitzgerald's second chapter begins, Nick travels via train to New York City with Tom Buchanan. At the ash-heaps halfway there, they get off in order for Tom to pick up his mistress, Myrtle Wilson. In the sole building near the "valley of ashes" (28) the two men find Myrtle and her husband -- George Wilson -- in his auto repair office. Buchanan interacts with George under the guise of selling him a car; when George leaves the room, however, Tom instructs Myrtle to get on the next train to New York City.

Upon arriving in New York Nick becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the affair he finds himself caught in the midst of, and tries to escape from Tom and Myrtle. The overbearing Tom Buchanan, however, refuses to let him leave, and the three drive to the lovers' secret apartment. As more company arrives -- including Catherine (Myrtle's sister), and Mr. and Mrs. McKee -- Nick proceeds to get drunk for the second time in his life.

Nick's fascination with his next door neighbor intensifies when the guests bring up Gatsby's name in casual conversation. The topic quickly changes, however, as Myrtle starts complaining about her husband over a second bottle of whiskey. By ten that evening the party scene turns ugly, as Tom and his mistress get into an argument over whether or not Myrtle "had any right to mention Daisy's name" (41). When she starts shouting "Daisy!" repeatedly, Tom quickly punches Myrtle, breaking her nose. Nick stumbles away from the chaos, and waits -- drunk, and lying half asleep -- for a train back to West Egg.

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