It has been observed over the ages that the hotter the weather the shorter the temper. Heat-or intense heat-seems to bring out the worst in some people. Homicide rates -- in fact, crime rates in general -- are scientifically known to increase in the summer, as the discomfort associated with hotter temperatures is directly correlated to violent behavior. And so it is in Chapter 7 of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. The intrigues that have revolved around Gatsby and the Buchanans, as well as between Gatsby and the organized crime with which he is associated, are literally and figuratively reaching their boiling points.
Nick Carraway, Fitzgerald's narrator, notes early in this chapter that the weather has turned particularly hot: "The next day was broiling, almost the last, certainly the warmest, of the summer." The discomfort associated with this intense heat is reaffirmed throughout the day. As Nick rides the train, the conductor, repeats, "Some weather! Hot! Hot! Hot! Is it hot enough for you? Is it hot? Is it … ?" Fitzgerald's purpose in emphasizing the heat is to further establish the setting for the events that will occur. Tom and Daisy Buchanan, both now engaged in illicit liaisons, the latter with the titular figure of the novel, have invited Gatsby and Nick to their estate in East Egg. The tension is thick enough to cut with a knife, as it is presumed that each of the characters has some inkling as to what has been going on between and around them. Fitzgerald sets the stage for the type of 'parlor games' that prefigure climactic developments yet to come. Soon after arriving at the Buchanan's mansion, Nick and Gatsby are greeted by Tom as described in the following passage:
"Tom flung open the door, blocked out its space for a moment with his thick body, and hurried into the room. ‘Mr. Gatsby!’ He put out his broad, flat hand with well concealed dislike. ‘I’m glad to see you, sir…. Nick….’"
Tom and Gatsby appear headed for a major confrontation, and lurking in the background is the latter's relationship to Meyer Wolfsheim and the underworld figures with whom he associates. The intense heat of the day prefigures the tensions that permeate the scene in Chapter Seven.
Weather plays a tremendous role in The Great Gatsby as it relates to dictating the tone and also symbolizes the action. For example, in chapter 5 when Gatsby is set to meet Daisy at Nick's cottage it is pouring rain which provides for a gloomy scene. Even Gatsby's mannerisms before meeting Daisy gives us a melancholy tone to the scene where Gatsby "...sat down miserably..." and "Gatsby, pale as death, with his hands plunged like weights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glaring tragically into my eyes." As chapter 5 unfolds and Gatsby and Daisy have gotten over their nervousness and reconnect, the rain stops and it's bright outside. Both Daisy and Gatsby noticing that it's stopped with Gatsby saying, "What do you think of that? It's stopped raining," and Daisy replying "'I'm glad, Jay.' Her throat, full of aching, grieving beauty..."
This weather motif occurs again in chapter 7 where Nick mentions the weather is "broiling" and "certainly the warmest of the summer." The heat reflects the tension throughout the chapter as Gatsby, Nick and Jordan join Tom and Daisy at their home then eventually into a hotel in New York. The heat and tension intensify when Tom replies to Daisy's request to open another window by saying "The thing to do is to forget about the heat..." "You make it ten times worse by crabbing about it." Gatsby responds by saying, "Why not let her alone, old sport." This ups the ante of the conversation as rises to a boiling point where Daisy becomes distressed and confused.