The chapter opens in the format of a scene from a play. The narrator sets the scene in the country house, which is in disarray. A man named Frederick E. Paramore, one of Anthony’s Harvard classmates, shows up looking for Anthony. Tana tells him that Anthony and Gloria are out with friends they are hosting. Paramore, a subscriber to National Geographic, is interested in what Tana has to say about Japan. The phone rings but goes unanswered. Maury shows up at the front door. Paramore greets him, but Maury does not remember him. When Anthony and Gloria show up with their entourage, Anthony pretends to remember Paramore, who says he just learned Anthony lived nearby.
Paramore’s exoticization of Tanalahaka is consistent with the novel’s racist treatment of the Japanese man, but his interest in what Tanalahaka has to say instead of in what his presence says about Anthony and Gloria’s social status demonstrates that the couple has been deluding themselves with their performance of wealth. Neither Maury nor Anthony remembers Paramore, but Anthony’s insistence upon pretending to know who he is shows Anthony’s continued investment in maintaining the image of being socially well-connected.
Paramore says he does not drink alcohol, but by the end of the evening, even he is partaking of the revelry. Gloria complains to Anthony that he is paying too much attention to Rachael Barnes, née Jerryl. She drunkenly says that if his attention can wander, hers can too. Suddenly, Adam Patch and Shuttleworth show up. Shuttleworth says he phoned ahead and left a message. Adam Patch says only, “We’ll go back now, Shuttleworth,” and the pair leaves. The scene ends.
Anthony and Gloria’s lifestyle proves tempting and dangerous even to Paramore, who claims not to drink. This representation of the seductive dangers of alcohol recollects Fitzgerald’s own struggles with alcoholism, as well as Adam Patch’s crusade for prohibition, foreshadowing his dramatic arrival and departure. Anthony and Gloria’s mistrust of one another grows and drives them apart in the moments before the threat of reality comes crashing down: the man who holds their purse strings and disapproves of their lifestyle now knows exactly what his money has been financing.
For some time, Anthony and Gloria have been increasingly capable of indifference and even hatred toward one another. At 26, Gloria is afraid of her advancing age. It seems increasingly unlikely that they will achieve the dream of happiness they have long thought will come with money. They are nervous about the looming “money problem” and are beginning to realize that they are dependent upon alcohol. The August morning after Adam Patch’s appearance at the house, they awake to find that their anxiety has crossed over into fear.
Even as Anthony and Gloria wake to their financial reality, they continue to misunderstand the realities of time and aging. If they are to achieve happiness, it seems they must uncouple this dream from the spoiling dream of wealth. Gloria in particular falls back upon her beauty as the basis of happiness, but she spoils her own chance at happiness by worrying about her fading beauty during the days when she could most enjoy her youthful appearance.
Anthony and Gloria discuss what to do. They wish Adam Patch had died a week ago, before witnessing the party. Anthony decides to go speak to his grandfather. In the midst of this conversation, Gloria says that if Anthony ever acts around a woman the way he acted around Rachael Barnes, she will leave him. Anthony ignores her. His visit to his grandfather is unsuccessful – Shuttleworth tells him that Adam is ill. Later, Gloria and Anthony write an apology letter to the old man, but it goes unanswered.
Anthony and Gloria are so caught up in their selfishness and in their childish inability to imagine working to support themselves that they actively wish death upon Anthony’s grandfather. This wish is even more extreme in light of Anthony’s own phobia of death; the fact that the thought of his grandfather’s death does not make him feel fragile as well demonstrates his feeling that he is somehow immune to the disasters that befall others.
In September, Anthony and Gloria leave the country house. Gloria scolds Anthony for packing his stamp collection. He says he was looking at it the day they left the apartment last spring and decided not to store it. Gloria suggests that he sell it, to which he responds only, “I’m sorry.” Gloria exclaims that she hates the country house.
Anthony and Gloria’s disagreement over the stamp collection shows their inability to communicate about what is most important to them. At the same time, Anthony’s refusal to sell the stamp collection reveals a childish attachment. Once again, he demonstrates an infantile failure to verbalize his feelings.
On the train back to the city, Anthony and Gloria continue to quarrel. Anthony asks Gloria not to be cross because they have only each other. They fall silent, and he reminisces about their experiences in the countryside as they pass through it. Gloria interrupts his thoughts by wondering aloud where Bloeckman has been over the summer.
Both Anthony and Gloria prefer to daydream rather than coming up with real solutions to their distressing situation. However, they have different daydreams that demonstrate their irreconcilable desires. Gloria’s verbalization of her daydream is probably motivated by an immature desire to hurt Anthony.
Anthony is now twenty-nine, and he is beginning to feel as though he has wasted his youth. Shortly before leaving the country house, he read a bulletin detailing some of his Harvard classmates’ careers. Compared to them, he has done very little since graduation. He resolves that in the absence of great success, he will make himself as safe and comfortable as possible. To this end, he tries to renew the lease of his old apartment. It is far too expensive, and the neighbors’ complaints about noise the previous winter make the building owner wary to re-rent to Anthony.
Anthony is still young enough to build a career for himself, but he sets himself up for failure by assuming that he is too old and so deciding to put off his career even longer. The landlord’s hesitation to let Anthony back into the comfort and safety of his apartment, which he thinks of as his sanctuary, signals that his immaturity is beginning to lead to life-altering consequences.
Anthony reveals to Gloria that their income is down to $600 a month after all their spending over the last few years. They must move out of the Ritz, even if not to the old apartment. They find a more modest apartment and hire an Irishwoman to fill the place of Bounds or Tana. Anthony decides to appeal to his grandfather once more when he hears that the old man has fallen gravely ill.
Even while accepting some of the consequences of their foolish over-spending and immature lifestyle, Anthony and Gloria reduce their expenses only minimally, still insisting upon having a servant to signal their social status (and because they’re incapable of taking care of themselves). They think of their situation as temporary and still cling to the idea that they must receive a large inheritance because society has promised it to them.
Shuttleworth refuses to let Anthony see Adam Patch. Irritated, Anthony returns to New York, where he and Gloria spend a tense week. One night, he tells her of a time he yielded to his urge to kick a cat. When Gloria begins sobbing, he tries to tell her he made the story up. She does not believe him and goes on weeping until she falls asleep that night.
Emotionally stunted by his sheltered upbringing, Anthony does not know how to deal with his frustration except by taking it out on others, such as Gloria and the unsuspecting cat. Gloria’s deep upset might signal that she identifies with the cat as the object of Anthony’s abuse.
Adam Patch dies in November. Anthony and Gloria attend the funeral nervously. After a week of not hearing anything about the will, Anthony finally calls his grandfather’s lawyer. When he hangs up the phone, he says to Gloria, “He did it. God damn him!”
Whereas Gloria was affected by her mother’s death to the point of childish displays of grief, Anthony is so blinded by his desperation for money that he’s unable even to display the proper amount of grief. Ironically, his desire to maintain his social status leads him to social faux pas.
Anthony goes to see a lawyer, Mr. Haight. They discuss how it was only in August, after the party, that Adam Patch disinherited Anthony. Of the forty million dollars comprising the estate, most has been willed to Shuttleworth, and the remainder is to be divided among two distant cousins in Idaho and about twenty-five other beneficiaries. For a fee of fifteen thousand dollars, Mr. Haight signs on to contest the will on Anthony’s behalf.
Anthony feels so strongly that he deserves the inheritance that he goes in search of a loophole, and society affords him the possibility of this. Instead of shocking him into responsibility, the legal processes surrounding inheritance string Anthony along, enticing him to spend additional money on a treasure hunt that is unlikely to yield a successful outcome.
As the lawsuit gets underway, Anthony and Gloria continue their partying habits. They keep meaning to work come Monday, but it never happens. Rumors begin to circulate about them. Even Muriel Kane tells them that they need to settle down and have a baby. Anthony and Gloria have as many marital problems as ever, but this confrontation temporarily unites them against a common enemy, Muriel.
Anthony and Gloria’s unstable marriage, which has led them both to their current financial woes, is steadied in the wake of society’s pressure to conform to a standard timeline of adulthood. They are thus trapped in a cycle that drives them deeper into an unhappy marriage and deeper into an untenable lifestyle. Again, their lack of parental desire marks them as outsiders in a society where they desperately want to excel.
Anthony begins to associate himself with the night elevator operator, who never seems to leave the apartment building and who has the air of someone above his station. One night he is killed by robbers. His replacement is a black man from Martinique. Anthony reacts to the story of the elevator operator as Gloria reacted to his story about the kitten.
Anthony identifies with the elevator operator the same way Gloria identified with the kitten, feeling as though the victimization of the man reverberates onto Anthony himself. The incident confirms the fragility of Anthony’s position in society. The replacement elevator operator’s status as a racial “other” and an immigrant demonstrates how easily Anthony could slip into identification with an outsider.
Anthony finally tries in earnest to write. He criticizes Dick for the fallen quality of his writing, but when Anthony does finish a short story, the editor to whom he submits it thinks Anthony has written an “abominable” piece. Anthony writes six stories, and every last one is rejected.
Rather than put in the work to edit his pieces until they are ready to publish, as Dick did with his novel, Anthony abandons each rejected attempt and starts over. His history of being handed opportunities on a platter has conditioned him to believe that success happens instantaneously rather than after invested time and effort.
In mid-January, Gloria’s father dies. She and Anthony travel to Kansas City for the funeral, but Gloria thinks this whole time not of her father but of her mother. She tells Anthony she is a Bilphist, which he finds ridiculous. Gloria is equally disgusted by Anthony’s failure to get any of his stories published. Out of inertia, they stop really trying to curb their expenses. They cycle between spending sprees and moroseness over how untenable their situation is. Gloria says that at least she will have seized the day in her youth. Meanwhile, Mr. Haight assures them that the lawsuit is likely to go to trial by summer.
Gloria is increasingly attached to her deceased mother as her marriage begins more and more to resemble that of her parents. The couple once again fails to change their spending habits because they are accustomed to an upper-class lifestyle, and this failure directly threatens their status among the upper class. Gloria’s justification for her spending does not hold water because, although she is spending money while young, she is hardly enjoying her youth, and instead mostly dreading its decline.
Bloeckman pays Gloria a few more visits. Anthony is outraged by the idea of Gloria becoming an actress and making money. Gloria tells him he should make some of his own money in that case. They have one of their most intense fights over this subject, neither stating the fact that they both know Anthony is jealous of Bloeckman’s interest in Gloria.
Gloria and Anthony have become so accustomed to disagreeing over money and their respective careers (or lack thereof) that they use this old argument as a surrogate for their other marital problems. Their illusive confidence early on in their marriage that they would never be unfaithful to one another has given way to increasing feelings of jealousy on both their parts, nearly as unfounded as their fantasy of eternal happiness together.
In April, war is declared with Germany. Anthony takes on “a new glamour” as military service is glorified, and he, Dick, and Maury submit applications to go to officer training camps. However, Anthony fails a blood-pressure test, and the doctor refuses to recommend him for officer training.
Anthony, Dick, and Maury’s glorification of military service is symptomatic of their dangerous susceptibility to societal trends and ideologies. The absurdity of Anthony’s belief that he has the strength of will to be an army officer stands out when he fails to pass even the preliminary test to determine that he has the physical strength to try.
In July, they lose the lawsuit. Mr. Haight immediately files an appeal. As Anthony and Gloria plan what they will do once they finally win, Anthony is drafted. No doctor fails to recommend him this time. He tells Gloria disinterestedly that he hopes he will die. They decide that she will stay in the apartment while he is at the southern camp. When he leaves, she barely makes it to the train station in time to see him across the crowd. They remain too far apart to see each other’s tears.
By establishing that Anthony is physically too weak for military training and then having him drafted anyway, Fitzgerald reminds the reader that despite all of Anthony’s flaws, society is also at fault for his demise. Anthony is so downtrodden by the broken promise of the lawsuit that he surrenders to the possibility of death. Depressed, he and Gloria can only dredge up feelings for one another when they are torn apart.