|name||The Great Gatsby|
|image caption||Scribner cover|
|author||F. Scott Fitzgerald|
|release date||April 10, 1925|
|media type||Hardback & Paperback|
|isbn||ISBN 0-7432-7356-7 (Paperback)|
The novel chronicles an era that Fitzgerald himself dubbed the "Jazz Age." Following the shock and chaos of World War I, American society enjoyed unprecedented levels of prosperity during the "roaring" 1920s as the economy soared. At the same time, Prohibition - the ban on the sale and manufacture of alcohol as mandated by the Eighteenth Amendment - made millionaires out of bootleggers and led to an increase in organized crime. Although Fitzgerald, like Nick Carraway in his novel, idolized the riches and glamor of the age, he was uncomfortable with the unrestrained materialism and the lack of morality that went with it.
Although it was adapted into both a Broadway play and a Hollywood film within a year of publication, it was not popular upon initial printing, selling fewer than 25,000 copies during the remaining fifteen years of Fitzgerald's life. It was largely forgotten during the Great Depression and World War II. After its republishing in 1945 and 1953, it quickly found a wide readership and is today widely regarded as a paradigm of the Great American Novel. The Great Gatsby has since become a standard text in high school and university courses on American literature in countries around the world, and is ranked second in the Modern Library's list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century.
The narrator of the story. Nick is a young man who has moved to Long Island to work as a banker in New York. He is entranced by Gatsby and his lifestyle, but is also eventually dismissive of it, choosing to move back to the Midwest after Gatsby's death.
A mysterious man with a mysterious past who lives a lavish lifestyle of seemingly-constant extravagant parties. Beneath the flashy exterior and constant greetings of "old sport", Gatsby is actually someone who longs for what he can't have - in his case, Daisy Buchanan. He thinks that if he can amass enough wealth and throw enough parties, he will get Daisy's attention and be good enough for her. He is desperate to relive the past when they were first together.
The object of Gatsby's affection and his obsession. Daisy is bored with her life and seems to be unhappy no matter what she does. She seems to harbor a true affection for Gatsby at times, but when they rekindle their relationship it ends just as quickly as it did when they were younger. Daisy's only real love is money and an easy lifestyle. This is proven when she chooses Tom over Gatsby, allows Gatsby to take the blame for her killing Myrtle in a car accident and not even attending Gatsby's funeral.
The husband of Daisy Buchanan, Tom's life is largely uneventful. He lives an existence of wealth and privilege but cannot recapture the glory of his youth, when he was a renowned football star. He is a hard-hearted man and never suffers the consequences of his actions - despite him being the one having an affair with Myrtle Wilson, it is Gatsby who gets killed because of it.
Nick's romantic interest throughout the novel. She is a professional golfer but Nick notes that she is a cheater. She is a vivacious, sophisticated person, and that is what attracts Nick to her.
The wife of George Wilson, and the woman Tom is having an affair with. She is struck down by the car Daisy is driving and dies, after George finds out about her affair.
The husband of Myrtle. George finds out about his wife's affair and seeks revenge. Tom tells him that it was Gatsby who was having an affair with her, so George murders Gatsby and then himself.
Nick Carraway is the narrator of the story and the fictional author of the book. He is from Minnesota. Nick spends some time commenting on himself and tells us that he doesn’t judge others because if you try to judge people against your own standards, you misjudge them. He says that this is a lesson he learned from his father. According to Nick, Jay Gatsby, the “hero” of the story, is everything that Nick despises, but that Nick can’t help but be entranced by Gatsby anyway.
The story begins in the summer of 1922, upon Nick’s arrival in New York. Nick has a new job (working in the bond business) and a new house (in West Egg, Long Island). West Egg is where the “new rich” live, unlike East Egg, which is viewed as very aristocratic and full of “old money”. Nick lives next door to Gatsby, whose own home is a gigantic Gothic mansion.
Nick actually has more in common with the people of East Egg than West, as he is a Yale graduate and has many social connections in East Egg – one of them being Daisy Buchannan and her husband Tom. Daisy is Nick’s cousin, and Tom and Nick used to be in a social club together at Yale.
Tom greets Nick and they go inside, where Daisy and her friend Jordan Baker are lounging on sofas and talking. Jordan is seemingly bored by what is going on, as she yawns. The conversation changes to be about a white-supremacist book called The Rise of the Colored Empires, which Tom finds utterly convincing and which he is trying to get the others to support as well. None of the rest of the party seem particularly interested in the book, however, and then Tom is interrupted by a phone call from someone who Jordan says is Tom’s New York lover. Daisy worriedly leaves the room after her husband.
The dinner is a rather unpleasant one, and the party soon break up for the evening. Tom and Daisy seem to want to set Jordan and Nick up romantically.
That night, upon arriving home, Nick sees Gatsby standing on his lawn. He seems to be reaching his arms out to something unseen – all Nick can make out is the green light that likely just marks the end of a dock.
Doctor T.J. Eckleburg’s eyes, looming large from the strange advertisement from which they are featured, watch over the valley where the ashes of New York are dumped. The doctor may be gone, but this advertisement remains – seemingly forever.
Nick and Tom are riding a train that goes through this valley. The train stops and Tom makes Nick get off and go with him to a garage owned by George Wilson, overlooking the valley of ashes. Daisy is correct, and Tom does have a lover in New York – Myrtle, the garage owner George Wilson’s wife. Wilson is handsome but dull, Myrtle full of strange life yet a bit overweight. Nick can understand the appeal of her.
Tom unkindly taunts Wilson and then takes Myrtle with him and Nick back to the train, where they go to the apartment in New York that Tom keeps in order to conduct his affair.
Myrtle’s sister Catherine and a couple called McKee (who are generally awful people), who live in the downstairs apartment, join them for a party. Catherine tells Nick that Gatsby is supposedly related to Kaiser Wilhelm, as he is either a cousin or a nephew. Nick gets incredibly drunk with the rest of the party, claiming it is only the second time in his life that he has done so. He is not enjoying himself at the party at all, despite being oddly fascinated by what is going on. He wants to leave.
The party comes to a dramatic close when Tom hits Myrtle in the face, breaking her nose. Myrtle had been getting drunker and drunker, talking about Daisy despite Tom’s warnings not to. Nick and Mr. McKee leave the party, and Nick returns to Long Island on the train.
Nick is brought an invitation to one of Gatsby’s lavish parties (one of the reasons why he is so well-known in the area). Nick attends the party but feels a bit like a fish out of water for the entire time. All of the party-goers spend their time engaged in idle chatter about Gatsby and his wealth and history – apparently not only has he killed another man in cold blood, he was a German spy, and he went to Oxford as well. The rumors just continue without ever getting any confirmation.
Nick and Jordan spend some time together at the party, which is luxurious beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. They try to find Gatsby, but instead find a man Nick calls Owl Eyes who is reading the books in the massive library. When Nick and Jordan go to watch the entertainment at midnight, they find themselves sitting at a table with a young, incredibly handsome man who Nick realizes that he served with in the war. This young, incredibly handsome man also just happens to be Jay Gatsby. Nick is immediately fascinated with Gatsby – his appearance, his patterns of speech (everyone is “old sport” to him), his dress, his mannerisms.
Gatsby summons Jordan at around two in the morning, where he tells her something fascinating but secret. Nick, when walking home, sees the man from the library (Owl Eyes) trying to get his crashed car out of a ditch. He and another man decide to just leave the car there.
Nick discusses his life of work, how he has begun a relationship with Jordan Baker (despite knowing she is a dishonest person). He finds her attractive regardless, and considers himself to be one of the only honest people he has known in his life.
Nick recounts a trip to New York he undertook with Gatsby. Gatsby revealed details about his past to Nick, such as that he is from the Midwest, he was educated at Oxford, he was a jewel collector in Europe, he was a big game hunter and that he was awarded several medals in World War One. Nick doesn’t believe Gatsby, but Gatsby can offer some proof – a photograph of himself at Oxford and a war medal from Montenegro.
Gatbsy is pulled over for speeding on the way to New York, however is able to get out of a speeding fine by showing the officer a white card. At lunch, the two are joined by Meyer Wolfsheim, who allegedly fixed the 1919 World series. Nick wonders if Gatsby has become rich by participating in some criminal business with Wolfsheim.
Nick goes to see Jordon afterwards, who reveals to Nick that Gatsby is in love with Daisy. Before Daisy married Tom she was in love with Gatsby, but married Tom after Gatsby went to war. This is something she apparently is not happy with, although she does not cheat on Tom like he cheats on her. This love for Daisy is the reason why Gatsby purchased a home in West Egg. Nick remembers how he saw Gatsby strangely stretching his arms out towards the green light over the water and thought the light must be from the end of a dock. Nick realizes that the dock must have been the one at Daisy’s house.
Jordan also tells Nick that Gatsby asked her to convince Nick to arrange a meeting between Gatsby and Daisy. Gatsby wants Nick to do it because he is worried Daisy will refuse Gatsby himself if he tries to organize anything.
Nick runs into Gatsby on his way home from seeing Jordan. Gatsby seems to be behaving oddly, and Nick realizes that Gatsby is nervous about asking him to organize a meeting between him and Daisy.
Nick agrees to host the meeting, and Gatsby is thrilled, trying to thank Nick by organizing for someone to mow his lawn and also inviting him in on a business deal – all offers that Nick refuses.
Gatsby is very agitated on the day of the proposed meeting, so much so that he ends up taking a walk by himself in the pouring rain. However, all goes relatively well after some initial awkwardness. Gatsby invites Nick and Daisy over to his house, where Daisy is uncomfortable with Gatsby’s extravagant lifestyle and constant flashy displays of wealth.
Gatsby tells Daisy that he spends all of his nights thinking about her and their future together, but Nick wonders if Gatsby is thinking about a future with the real Daisy or with the one he has idealized in his mind after such a long absence. Gatsby now thinks this imagined version of Daisy to be so perfect that the real Daisy could never live up to that.
Gatsby and Daisy reignite their romance and Nick leaves, the couple so entranced with each other that they have forgotten he is there.
A reporter from New York comes to interview Gatsby, hoping to find out more about the man’s mysterious past. Nick then illuminates the reader as to the real story of Jay Gatsby, and it is nothing like the rumours.
Gatsby’s real name was James Gatz. He didn’t attend Oxford, but St. Olaf college in Minnesota – although only for two weeks, because he hated being a janitor to pay for the tuition costs. Instead, he went to work on Lake Superior, salmon fishing and clam digging. This is where he met a man called Dan Cody, who owned an expensive yacht and had made his fortune in copper. Gatz became Cody’s assistant after warning him about a storm, and Gatz also became Gatsby. For a long time, Gatsby traveled with Cody, and quickly became entranced with the wealthy lifestyle. Cody bequeathed Gatsby $25,000 upon his death, but Gatsby didn’t see a cent of that money because Cody’s mistress blocked him from receiving it. This didn’t stop Gatsby, though, who never lost his love of a lifestyle of wealth and opulence, and set out to make his fortune.
Several weeks pass before Nick sees any of his West Egg acquaintances again. One day, when Nick goes to visit Gatsby, he is surprised that Tom is there too. Tom has been out riding with his friends the Sloane’s, and has stopped in at Gatsby’s for a drink – much to Gatsby’s chagrin. Tom dislikes Gatsby immensely, believing him to have no social graces, and is angry that Daisy goes to see him all the time (although he does not know the reason why). Gatsby accepts an insincere invitation to dine with Tom and Daisy at a later date.
Tom and Daisy attend a party at Gatsby’s the following weekend, but neither enjoy it. Even Nick has a bad time, feeling that the party is just too much. Tom tells Daisy that Gatsby made his money in bootlegging, but she becomes upset and tells him that Gatsby owns a pharmacy chain.
Gatsby confides in Nick after the party that he is upset that Daisy had a bad time, and that he wants things to go back to the way they were – he wants Daisy to be with him, not Tom. When Nick tells Gatsby that that is impossible, that the past is the past, Gatsby argues that he can recreate it. Nick leaves, thinking about how that now Gatsby has Daisy, the dream version he had of her is over, and that the reality may not prove to be what Gatsby hopes.
There are no more parties – the only reason why Gatsby was throwing them in the first place was because he always hoped Daisy would show up at one. Gatsby also fires all of his staff, replacing them instead with staff belonging to Wolfsheim.
Nick travels by train to East Egg to have lunch with Tom and Daisy. It is a hot day, the hottest day of summer in fact. Gatsby and Jordan are also there for lunch. Daisy has had a baby girl, something that stuns Gatsby so much that he can’t believe the baby is even real. Daisy seems to care little for her child.
The whole afternoon is uncomfortable, and not just from the heat. Gatsby and Daisy’s mutual love for each other is quickly revealed, much to the anger of Tom. Daisy asks Gatsby to go to the city with her, because she says she is bored. Tom says that everyone should go to New York, hoping to provoke an argument. Tom, Jordan and Nick take Gatsby’s car and Gatsby and Daisy take Tom’s car. It also turns out that the affair between Tom and Myrtle is no longer a secret, and Myrtle is being moved away. Nick stares at the strange advertisement of Dr. Eckleburg and thinks about how Tom and Wilson are not so different from each other.
The group get a room at the Plaza Hotel to escape the awful heat of the day. Tom gets into his desired confrontation with Gatsby by mocking how Gatsby calls everyone “old sport”, accusing him for lying about his past and for having an affair with Daisy. Gatsby assures Tom that Daisy does not love Tom, but loves Gatsby himself. Tom responds by accusing Gatsby of being a bootlegger, and assures him that Gatsby would never understand his past with Daisy.
Daisy’s love for Gatsby wanes as she watches the two men fight. She becomes drawn back to Tom. Tom realizes his victory over Gatsby, so sure in himself and of Daisy’s love for him that he even sends Daisy back home with Gatsby as her accompaniment.
Everyone leaves to go back to Long Island, and Nick realizes that this day is actually his thirtieth birthday. The closing act of a terrible day is the discovery of a car accident. Myrtle has been hit by a car, and the driver sped off. Tom thinks that it must have been Gatsby’s car, and Gatsby was the driver. However, it is revealed that it was actually Daisy who was driving the car, but Gatsby will accept any blame. Nick finds him hiding outside the Buchannan’s house, worried that Tom would hurt Daisy. However, it is quite the opposite – Tom and Daisy have reconciled, and it is Gatsby who is hurt, left alone outside.
Nick gets no sleep that night, and goes to see Gatsby early the next morning. Gatsby tells Nick that he waited outside the Buchannan’s house until early in the morning, but Daisy did not come to him, and Tom did not hurt her. Nick advises Gatsby to forget Daisy and to move away form Long Island, but Gatsby refuses.
Gatsby tells Nick about his courtship with Daisy. He was deeply obsessed with her and her social status, going so far as to lie about his own background to make himself worthy of her. Gatsby felt like no other woman in the world would ever be as good for him as Daisy. When he went off to war she promised to wait for him, but married Tom while Gatsby was gone, because Tom came from a social position similar to hers.
Gatsby’s gardener has come to drain the swimming pool, but Gatsby tells him to leave it for one more day because he wishes to go for a swim. Nick says goodbye to Gatsby and heads off to work, telling Gatsby that he is worth more than the Buchanans are anyway.
Nick finds it hard to focus on work and turns down a date with Jordan. He relates what happened after Myrtle was killed – George had confronted his wife about her affair and that she couldn’t hide what she had done from God.
Because the eyes of Eckleburg in the strange advertisement stand out against the rising sun of the morning after Myrtle’s death, George believes they are the eyes of God, and that the one who killed her was her lover. Believing that God wants revenge, George sets out to find who owns the car the killed Myrtle.
Wilson initially searches for Tom, knowing that Tom knows the owner of the car the killed Myrtle. He does not believe that Tom killed Myrtle, because Tom was driving a different car that day. Eventually Wilson finds Gatsby, who is taking a swim for the first time in his pool. Wilson shoots Gatsby and himself. Both men die instantly.
Nick is the one who discovers Gatsby’s body. He tries to imagine what Gatsby was thinking as he died, and supposes that the poor man’s thoughts were full of sadness at how his life had become meaningless without his dream of Daisy.
The story ends two years after Gatsby’s death, with Nick discussing the funeral. Nick tried to organize a big funeral for Gatsby, like he thinks Gatsby would have wanted, but nobody shows up except for Owl eyes, some servants, Gatsby’s father and Nick himself. Tom and Daisy have moved away to somewhere unknown. Rumors abound about the nature of Gatsby’s death and his relationship with Myrtle. Nick talks with Gatsby’s father for a while, who is proud of what his son made of his life.
Nick becomes disillusioned with his life in West Egg and returns back to the Midwest. His relationship with Jordan ends (she claims to be engaged to someone else anyway). Tom and Nick run into each other in New York, right before Nick moves away. Tom reveals that he was the one who told Wilson that it was Gatsby’s car that killed Myrtle, and says that he has really suffered because he had to give up his apartment in the city. Tom believes that Gatsby deserved what happened to him, and Nick realizes that both Tom and Daisy are awful, uncaring people who will do whatever they want with the assurance that their wealth will protect them.
Nick reflects that this story, despite taking place on the East Coast, is a story of the West because that is where most of the characters are from. He believes that living on the East Coast has changed their behavior for the worst, and reminisces that life in the Midwest is much simpler.
Nick spends some time at Gatsby’s house one more time before leaving. He removes some graffiti from the steps and lays on the beach behind Gatsby’s house, looking at the moon and thinking about what the country would have looked like to the first explorers who came here.
He thinks about the American Dream – how it is to so many what Daisy was to Gatsby. A dream unfulfilled, and unfulfilled.
- The Great Gatsby summary, quotes, themes, multimedia, teacher resources