I lived at West Egg, the--well, the less fashionable of the two, though
this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little
sinister contrast between them. My house was at the very tip of the
egg, only fifty yards from the Sound, and squeezed between two huge
places that rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season. The one on
my right was a colossal affair by any standard--it was a factual
imitation of some Hôtel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side,
spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool
and more than forty acres of lawn and garden. It was Gatsby's mansion.
Or rather, as I didn't know Mr. Gatsby it was a mansion inhabited by
a gentleman of that name. My own house was an eye-sore, but it was a
small eye-sore, and it had been overlooked, so I had a view of the
water, a partial view of my neighbor's lawn, and the consoling
proximity of millionaires--all for eighty dollars a month.
Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg
glittered along the water, and the history of the summer really begins
on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom
Buchanans. Daisy was my second cousin once removed and I'd known Tom in college. And just after the war I spent two days with them in
Her husband, among various physical accomplishments, had been one of
the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven--a
national figure in a way, one of those men who reach such an acute
limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of
anti-climax. His family were enormously wealthy--even in college his
freedom with money was a matter for reproach--but now he'd left Chicago
and come east in a fashion that rather took your breath away: for
instance he'd brought down a string of polo ponies from Lake Forest.
It was hard to realize that a man in my own generation was wealthy
enough to do that.
Why they came east I don't know. They had spent a year in France, for no
particular reason, and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever
people played polo and were rich together. This was a permanent move,
said Daisy over the telephone, but I didn't believe it--I had no sight
into Daisy's heart but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking
a little wistfully for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable
And so it happened that on a warm windy evening I drove over to East
Egg to see two old friends whom I scarcely knew at all. Their house was
even more elaborate than I expected, a cheerful red and white Georgian
Colonial mansion overlooking the bay. The lawn started at the beach
and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over
sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens--finally when it reached
the house drifting up the side in bright vines as though from the
momentum of its run. The front was broken by a line of French windows,
glowing now with reflected gold, and wide open to the warm windy
afternoon, and Tom Buchanan in riding clothes was standing with his
legs apart on the front porch.
He had changed since his New Haven years. Now he was a sturdy, straw haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner.
Two shining, arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and
gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward. Not
even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous
power of that body--he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he
strained the top lacing and you could see a great pack of muscle
shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body
capable of enormous leverage--a cruel body.
His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of
fractiousness he conveyed. There was a touch of paternal contempt in
it, even toward people he liked--and there were men at New Haven who had hated his guts.
"Now, don't think my opinion on these matters is final," he seemed to
say, "just because I'm stronger and more of a man than you are." We
were in the same Senior Society, and while we were never intimate I
always had the impression that he approved of me and wanted me to like
him with some harsh, defiant wistfulness of his own.
"We don't know each other very well, Nick," she said suddenly.
"Even if we are cousins. You didn't come to my wedding."
"I wasn't back from the war."
"That's true." She hesitated. "Well, I've had a very bad time, Nick,
and I'm pretty cynical about everything."
Evidently she had reason to be. I waited but she didn't say any more,
and after a moment I returned rather feebly to the subject of her
"I suppose she talks, and--eats, and everything."
"Oh, yes." She looked at me absently. "Listen, Nick; let me tell you what
I said when she was born. Would you like to hear?"
"It'll show you how I've gotten to feel about--things. Well, she was less
than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the etherwith an utterly abandoned feeling and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head
away and wept. 'All right,' I said, 'I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope
she'll be a fool--that's the best thing a girl can be in this world,
a beautiful little fool."
"You see I think everything's terrible anyhow," she went on in a
convinced way. "Everybody thinks so--the most advanced people. And I KNOW. I've been everywhere and seen everything and done everything."
Her eyes flashed around her in a defiant way, rather like Tom's, and she
laughed with thrilling scorn. "Sophisticated--God, I'm sophisticated!"
The instant her voice broke off, ceasing to compel my attention,
my belief, I felt the basic insincerity of what she had said. It made me uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick
of some sort to exact a contributory emotion from me. I waited,
and sure enough, in a moment she looked at me with an absolute smirk
on her lovely face as if she had asserted her membership in a rather
distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged.