Chapter 7-4: Tom’s Whip of Panic
Aim: In this 30-minute lesson, you will go over the part 7-4 of the book. Go over comprehension questions after each paragraph, and practice using new expressions.
After saying hello, read the following part of the book out loud with the tutor.
Tom threw on both brakes impatiently and we slid to an abrupt dusty stop under Wilson’s sign. After a moment the proprietor emerged from the interior of his establishment and gazed hollow-eyed at the car.
“Let’s have some gas!” cried Tom roughly. “What do you think we stopped for–to admire the view?”
“I’m sick,” said Wilson without moving. “I been sick all day.”
“What’s the matter?”
“I’m all run down.”
“Well, shall I help myself?” Tom demanded. “You sounded well enough on the phone.”
With an effort Wilson left the shade and support of the doorway and, breathing hard, unscrewed the cap of the tank. In the sunlight his face was green.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt your lunch,” he said. “But I need money pretty bad and I was wondering what you were going to do with your old car.”
“How do you like this one?” inquired Tom. “I bought it last week.”
“It’s a nice yellow one,” said Wilson, as he strained at the handle.
“Like to buy it?”
“Big chance,” Wilson smiled faintly. “No, but I could make some money on the other.”
“What do you want money for, all of a sudden?”
“Your wife does!” exclaimed Tom, startled.
“She’s been talking about it for ten years.” He rested for a moment against the pump, shading his eyes. “And now she’s going whether she wants to or not. I’m going to get her away.”
Why is Tom surprised to find out that the Wilsons are planning to go west?
The coupe flashed by us with a flurry of dust and the flash of a waving hand.
“What do I owe you?” demanded Tom harshly.
“I just got wised up to something funny the last two days,” remarked Wilson. “That’s why I want to get away. That’s why I been bothering you about the car.”
“What do I owe you?”
The relentless beating heat was beginning to confuse me and I had a bad moment there before I realized that so far his suspicions hadn’t alighted on Tom. He had discovered that Myrtle had some sort of life apart from him in another world and the shock had made him physically sick. I stared at him and then at Tom, who had made a parallel discovery less than an hour before–and it occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well. Wilson was so sick that he looked guilty, unforgivably guilty–as if he had just got some poor girl with child.
“I’ll let you have that car,” said Tom. “I’ll send it over tomorrow afternoon.”
That locality was always vaguely disquieting, even in the broad glare of afternoon, and now I turned my head as though I had been warned of something behind. Over the ash heaps the giant eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg kept their vigil but I perceived, after a moment, that other eyes were regarding us with peculiar intensity from less than twenty feet away.
Eyes play a significant role in this chapter. What does it represent?
In one of the windows over the garage the curtains had been moved aside a little and Myrtle Wilson was peering down at the car. So engrossed was she that she had no consciousness of being observed and one emotion after another crept into her face like objects into a slowly developing picture. Her expression was curiously familiar–it was an expression I had often seen on women’s faces but on Myrtle Wilson’s face it seemed purposeless and inexplicable until I realized that her eyes, wide with jealous terror, were fixed not on Tom, but on Jordan Baker, whom she took to be his wife.
There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind, and as we drove away Tom was feeling the hot whips of panic. His wife and his mistress, until an hour ago secure and inviolate, were slipping precipitately from his control. Instinct made him step on the accelerator with the double purpose of overtaking Daisy and leaving Wilson behind, and we sped along toward Astoria at fifty miles an hour, until, among the spidery girders of the elevated, we came in sight of the easygoing blue coupe.
Why is Tom feeling ‘the hot whips of panic’? How is this related to Tom and the two women in his life?
“Those big movies around Fiftieth Street are cool,” suggested Jordan. “I love New York on summer afternoons when every one’s away. There’s something very sensuous about it–overripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going to fall into your hands.” The word “sensuous” had the effect of further disquieting Tom but before he could invent a protest the coupe came to a stop and Daisy signalled us to draw up alongside.
“Where are we going?” she cried.
“How about the movies?”
“It’s so hot,” she complained. “You go. We’ll ride around and meet you after.” With an effort her wit rose faintly, “We’ll meet you on some corner. I’ll be the man smoking two cigarettes.”
“We can’t argue about it here,” Tom said impatiently as a truck gave out a cursing whistle behind us. “You follow me to the south side of Central Park, in front of the Plaza.”
Several times he turned his head and looked back for their car, and if the traffic delayed them he slowed up until they came into sight. I think he was afraid they would dart down a side street and out of his life forever. But they didn’t. And we all took the less explicable step of engaging the parlor of a suite in the Plaza Hotel.
- Explain Nick’s statement paralleling Tom and Wilson, “…it occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well.” Refer to the text and explain what prompted Nick to say this.
- Compare Tom and Wilson. How are they similar and different? Share your thoughts with your Cambly tutor!
Do you understand the following words and expressions? Practice using the new words or expressions with the Cambly tutor.