The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald

BACKGROUND

This novel is an American classic. Written in 1925, The Great Gatsby allowed F. Scott Fitzgerald to capture a time of excess. Through his characters, we are shown a world of money, of class and power, of drinking, and casual love affairs. F. Scott Fitzgerald died young, a member of this "lost generation," who sank deep into alcoholism and yet produced beautiful stories about his so-called Jazz Age. This novel gives a clear picture of 1920’s American culture. Focused on money, love, and class, this novel’s emptiness can be seen as part of the "American Dream" of making it big, no matter what the cost.

 

MAIN CHARACTERS

Nick Carraway: Nick narrates the story. A smart guy with a good head on his shoulders, he is responsible and disciplined. He went to Yale University, fought in the army, then started a bond business. Nick owns a summer house next door to Jay Gatsby’s.

Jay Gatsby: Gatsby lives next door to Nick. Always throwing giant parties, Gatsby is a complex character. At first, he’s a mystery, that cool guy you hear about but don’t know. It turns out that Gatsby has a history of crime, some dirty friends, and is having an affair with Daisy. Gatsby is a sort-of fading hero – a guy with dreams of making it big and marrying the woman he loves, regardless of his slightly slummy background.

Tom Buchanan: Daisy’s Husband. He is an old classmate of Nick’s from Yale, where Tom played football. Now he’s a really rich businessman. Tom is racist, aggressive, and is having an affair with some really sexy babe named Myrtle, who he treats him like dirt. At the end of the book, he confronts Gatsby about screwing his wife. Then he tells some lies and gets Gatsby in trouble.

Daisy Buchanan: She is Tom’s wife and Nick’s second cousin once removed. Daisy is like that perfect girl who every guy wants. She’s is not completely innocent, she has an edge to her. But Gatsby loves her and though Nick likes her, too, he’s suspicious of her. Daisy is getting is on with Gatsby.

Jordan Baker: Jordan is a woman. She is a pro-golfer, and is kind of like the "modern woman."  She acts like a man -- swears, smokes, drinks, and has a lot of sex. Jordan is a friend of Daisy’s from way back home. She dates Nick.

Myrtle Wilson: The woman that Tom has an affair with, she gets killed in the end.             

 

PLOT

Nick Carraway is this Midwestern guy who moved to NY to learn the bond business. In 1922 he buys a house in a place called West Egg, Long Island – it’s the not-so-cool part of the island. Jay Gatsby lives next door in a mansion. The Buchanans live is East Egg, the richer, cooler side of town. Daisy Buchanan, Nick’s way distant cousin, invites Nick over for dinner, where he meets Jordan Baker. During dinner, Tom gets a phone call from Myrtle Wilson, the chick he’s having an affair with. He has an apartment for her in NY where they get together and have hot sex. One day Tom takes Nick to that apartment. Nick meets Myrtle, and together with some other people they talk, drink, and get wasted. Then Myrtle starts saying Daisy’s name (Tom’s wife) and Tom hits her and breaks her nose.

A couple weeks go by, and then Nick meets his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. Gatsby has these huge parties, but nobody knows anything about him. He is a mystery. Nick and Gatsby drive into NY one day, and Gatsby tells Nick that he is a Midwest dude, and went to Oxford University in England and also fought in the war. Nick doesn’t believe him. They go to lunch and Nick meets Gatsby’s associate, who was the guy that fixed the World Series in 1919, Meyer Wolfsheim. It is suggested that Gatsby’s wealth comes from his connection to Meyer. The reason Gatsby hangs around with Nick is because he is in love with Daisy (Nick’s cousin) and wants Nick to hook them up. He met her along time ago and they hooked up, then lost contact with her. Nick sets up a meeting and Gatsby and Daisy hang out in Gatsby’s mansion.

At this point in the book, Nick tells us about Gatsby’s past. His original name was Jay Gatz. He dropped out of college, and befriended some millionaire. That guy left Gatsby a lot of money. Daisy and Tom go to a party at Gatsby’s pad and they hate it because it is so tacky and not like their little upscale parties. Daisy is still screwing Gatsby, but Gatsby is mad because they don’t have the same "magic" they did when they were together in the past. Then the affair comes out in the open. All the 5 characters get in a car and go to the Plaza Hotel. They get a suite at the hotel. Then Tom and Gatsby yell at each other. Tom makes it clear that Gatsby’s fancy past (Oxford, etc.) is fake. And Gatsby tells Tom that Daisy doesn’t love Tom, and that she only married him because Gatsby didn’t have money then and she didn’t want to wait anymore. Finally Tom wins because Daisy says she is not going away with Gatsby.

Tom sends Daisy home with Gatsby. On the way home, their car hits and kills Myrtle Wilson. Nick, Tom, and Jordan go home and they find police cars at an accident site and find out that the accident was caused by Gatsby’s car. Gatsby hides at Daisy’s house to prevent Tom from beating her. Daisy was driving, so it was her fault, but Gatsby says he will take the blame. Then Nick goes to work, but is feeling scared for Gatsby, so he leaves to try and find him. He goes to his house and finds Gatsby’s body, shot to death. Also, George Wilson (husband of Myrtle, the chick who was killed in the car wreck) is lying there. George Wilson shot Gatsby for "supposedly" killing his wife and then shot himself.

Then Nick tries to contact Tom and Daisy but they’ve left town along with all of Gatsby’s associates. At the funeral, only Nick and Gatsby’s father show up. When they bump into each other on 5th Ave. in NYC, Nick learns that Tom told George Wilson that Gatsby owned the car that killed his wife and where to find Gatsby to kill him. Disgusted with everything, Nick moves back to the Midwest.

 

CHAPTER BY CHAPTER

CHAPTER 1

  • Nick is from the Midwest.                                    
  • East Egg is a fancy town with very rich people and West Egg is the less popular, less well off place.
  • Nick is at the Buchanan’s house. Jordan Baker is there, too.
  • Tom gets a call, and Jordan tells Nick that the chick on the phone is Tom’s mistress.
  • Jordan leaves early because she has a golf tournament in the morning.
  • The evening ends early, and Tom and Daisy tell Nick that they want to hook him up with Jordan Baker.
  • Nick goes home and sees Gatsby for the first time.

CHAPTER 2

  • The book has some descriptions of the valley between West Egg and New York as this place that is gray and depressing.
  • Tom takes Nick to George Wilson’s garage. Nick meets George and his wife, Myrtle. Remember, Tom is sleeping with her.
  • We see that Myrtle Wilson is this sexy lady and George Wilson is a boring dude.
  • Nick, Tom, Myrtle Wilson, and her sister all go to Tom’s NYC sex-pad.
  • They all get drunk and talk a lot of crap.
  • Myrtle gets drunk and yells out Tom’s wife’s name, and Tom punches Myrtle in the nose.

CHAPTER 3

  • Nick goes to one of Gatsby’s parties.
  • He sees Jordan Baker there and they talk.
  • Finally, he meets Gatsby.
  • The party goes on, people get drunk, and Gatsby leaves at 2 AM to take a phone call.
  • We learn that Nick hooks up with Jordan in the middle of the summer, and that she is a dishonest woman.

CHAPTER 4

  • Gatsby drives Nick to the city and they eat lunch.
  • Gatsby tells Nick about himself (how he’s from the Midwest, he went to Oxford and he’s a war hero), but Nick knows he is lying.
  • Meyer Wolfsheim joins them for lunch. He is a shady business guy.
  • Jordan tells Nick about Daisy and Gatsby – that she was this young hot babe, Gatsby met her, they fell in love, but then she ended up marrying Tom Buchanan. On her wedding night she got a letter from Gatsby, and was so affected, she got drunk.
  • Jordan tells Nick that Gatsby wants to see Daisy again.

CHAPTER 5

  • Nick invites Daisy to his house because Gatsby asked him to.
  • Gatsby is nervous because he is going to see Daisy again.
  • Daisy and Gatsby have fun and talk all night long.

CHAPTER 6

  • The real story of Gatsby is that he was the son of a farmer and went to some lame school in Minnesota
  • Nick goes to Gatsby’s house and finds Gatsby with Tom – lots of tension.
  • Tom dislikes Gatsby, but wants to go with Daisy to his house because he doesn’t trust her going alone.
  • Tom and Daisy argue and Tom talks crap about Gatsby.
  • Nick and Gatsby talk about Daisy and Gatsby says he wants to go back to the time when they were in love.

CHAPTER 7

  • Tom, Nick, Jordan, Daisy and Gatsby all go to Tom’s house for some lunch. Daisy and Gatsby cannot hide their love. Tom is angered by this.
  • All of them go to NY, and Jordan, Tom and Nick go in Gatsby’s car. Gatsby and Daisy drive in Tom’s car.
  • Tom stops at George Wilson’s garage for gas. Myrtle Wilson sees Tom there.
  • They all go to a hotel and get a suite.
  • Tom and Gatsby fight over Daisy’s love. Daisy chooses Tom, but she’s not happy. Gatsby is crushed.
  • Then Tom sends Daisy home with Gatsby (he knows they’re not gonna screw around).
  • Daisy and Gatsby hit Myrtle Wilson with their car and kill her.
  • When Nick finds out, he goes to Tom’s house and finds Gatsby hiding, in case Tom wants to beat up Daisy for the car wreck. Gatsby decides to take the blame even though Daisy was driving.

CHAPTER 8

  • Nick and Gatsby talk about Gatsby’s life at his house.
  • Nick goes to work, but is worrying about Gatsby so he tries to go find him.
  • Tom tells Myrtle Wilson’s husband that Gatsby was driving, and then tells him Gatsby’s address.
  • Nick goes to Gatsby’s house and finds him dead in the pool, killed by George Wilson.   He also finds George Wilson's body. George shot himself.

CHAPTER 9

  • Nick goes to Gatsby’s funeral, and nobody shows up except for Gatsby’s father.
  • Tom and Daisy leave the city and move elsewhere.
  • Nick dumps Jordan, and moves back to the Midwest.

                       

THINGS TO MAKE YOU LOOK SMART

  • Nick and Gatsby are almost split halves of one man -- Nick thinks where Gatsby dreams, Gatsby enjoys where Nick might only observe.
  • Money is a large part of the American Dream. Self-worth and social image is based on material gain and affluence, rather than personal character. However, coming from a good social standing and favorable upbringing gain override newer financial gain.
  • Consider the issues of morality in this novel. They have all this money and power and live shallow lives concerned with their own pleasures, no matter what the effects on others.
  • Nick goes through a change in this book. By telling us the story of Gatsby, he himself has gone through some change in his nature, grown up a bit, and learned some stuff about life.
  • Fitzgerald’s prose hints at the ongoing emptiness in his character’s lives – money, marriage, business, and love are empty f they are not based in reality.
  • There are innumerable references to time throughout the novel. Fitzgerald was a master at getting across the idea that moments are just that – emotions, actions, parties, or feelings all last for only a certain amount of time and then fade.