The Great Gatsby Summary | Book Analysis (2023)

In The Great Gatsby, readers will find themselves thrust into New York in the 1920s and the lives of Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby, and Daisy and Tom Buchanan. The relationships between these central characters are defined by their understanding of the past, social climbing, and their desire for wealth.

The Great Gatsby Summary | Book Analysis (1)

‘Spoiler Free’ The Great Gatsby Summary

The Great Gatsby follows Nick Carraway, a young man from the midwest who moves to New York. He meets Jay Gatsby, a mysterious millionaire, and spends time with his cousin, Daisy, and her husband, Tom. As Nick learns more about the dynamic in East and West Egg, he also learns that Gatsby is in love with Daisy and wants Nick to help him rekindle their relationship.

What at first seems like a perfect match soon results in a tragic event that should shatter the lives of everyone involved. But, as Nick learns, the people he’s surrounded himself with are vapid and entirely without empathy.

The Great Gatsby Summary

Spoiler alert: important details of the novel are revealed below.

The Great Gatsby opens with Nick Carraway moving to New York from Minnesota in the summer of 1922. He intends to learn the bond business. The reader learns about the difference between West Egg and East Egg, districts of Long Island. Nick moves to the former, a wealthy area in which the newly rich live. It’s not as fashionable or well established as East Egg, where the generationally wealthy and upper class live.

(Video) The Great Gatsby | Summary & Analysis | F. Scott Fitzgerald

Nick soon meets a mysterious man, Jay Gatsby, who is his next-door neighbor. He lives in a huge mansion and throws outrageous parties every Saturday night. He travels to East Egg soon after moving in to visit his cousin, Daisy Buchanan, and her husband, Tom. The two are socially popular and have a great deal of money. Tom is a large man with gruff habits and prone to racist comments. He also meets Jordan Baker, a professional golfer, at their home. The three live in luxury and demonstrate their disregard and lack of empathy for others on many different occasions.

It’s that night that Nick sees Gatsby for the first time. He’s standing at the end of his dock, looking across the water. Nick spots a green light in the distance. A light he eventually learns is on the end of Daisy’s dock.

Soon after, Nick travels with Tom to see Myrtle Wilson, Tom’s most recent mistress. He openly flaunts this relationship even though Nick is his wife’s cousin. Her husband runs a garage in a run-down section of the city. It’s an area very different from that in which the main characters live. Myrtle and Tom fight about Daisy, Tom’s wife, and the evening ends when Tom hits Myrtle, breaking her nose.

Nick turns up to one of Gatsby’s parties after this incident, knowing that everyone who comes to his home is accepted into the gathering. No one is ever turned away, nor is anyone ever invited. Gatsby is mysterious, staying away from his guests and preferring to watch everything than participate himself. Gatsby and Jordan speak briefly, and the latter expresses amazement at what she heard.

Gatsby and Nick drive into the city where Nick meets Meyer Wolfshiem, one of Gatsby’s underworld associates. He’s linked to organized crime. At this time, the reader learns that Gatsby told Jordan that he knew Daisy in 1917 in Louisville and is in love with her still. His parties are only an opportunity to see her. He hopes every night that she shows up. The two originally met when Gatsby was in the army. He didn’t have the money to support the kind of life she wanted to have. But, in the intervening years, he’s focused on making as much money as possible so that he could win her back.

Daisy, on the other hand, found someone with more money to marry. It turns out that Gatsby even selected his home so that he’d be across the sound from her, as close as he could get.

(Video) Video SparkNotes: F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby summary

Gatsby asks Nick to help him reestablish his connection with Daisy. But he’s worried Daisy isn’t going to want to see him. This results in Nick inviting Daisy to his house without informing her that Gatsby was all invited. The two reconnect and start an affair, making Nick feel like the odd one out. The three go to Gatsby’s house, where he shows Daisy around to prove how far he’s come since they knew one another years earlier.

The reader learns more about Gatsby’s past, including the time he spent working for Dan Cody on a yacht. Gatsby changed his name when he was seventeen from James Gatz and determined to make a different kind of life for himself. Now, Gatsby believes that he can recapture the love he had in the past marking a dichotomy between the type of peers Gatsby turned himself into and the person he’s trying to reclaim.

Tom grows suspicious about the relationship between his wife and Gatsby and soon realizes that Gatsby is in love with her. Daisy doesn’t hide her affection for Gatsby either. Tom eventually confronts Gatsby in the Plaza Hotel. Gatsby tries to get Daisy to admit that she’s never loved Tom and it was always him that she cared for. She’s unable to do that. Tom then tells Daisy that Gatsby is a criminal who made his fortune from bootlegging and other illegal activities. She returns to Tom, and he sends her home. Myrtle’s husband has also learned that his wife is having an affair, but he doesn’t know who the man is.

The climax of the novel occurs when it’s revealed that there’s been a car accident. Daisy was driving and hit Myrtle, Tom’s mistress, with the car. But, Gatsby wants to take the blame. Myrtle’s husband, George, is informed of the death and decides that Myrtle’s lover must’ve driven the car. He finds Gatsby at the mansion and shoots him, and then kills himself. Gatsby has a small funeral, one that isn’t attended by any of those who took advantage of his hospitality. No one seems especially bothered by the man’s death. Nick, who has been having a relationship with Jordan, ends it and moves back to Minnesota. He is determined to get away from the vapid people in Gatsby’s circle.

It turns out that Tom told George that Gatsby owned the car that hit Myrtle, a roundabout way of naming him as Myrtle’s lover rather than take the blame for that himself. Nick is disgusted by the actions of those he briefly considered friends.

The book ends with Nick contemplating what happened to Gatsby’s dream of a life with Daisy. It was corrupted by money and the desire for social climbing. He lands on the thought that the time of the American dream, just like Gatsby’s dream, is over.

(Video) The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald Summary & Critical Analysis | American Literature

FAQs

What is the basic plot of The Great Gatsby?

The book tells the story of a self-made millionaire, Jay Gatsby, who tries and fails to reclaim a relationship from five years prior.

What is the main message in The Great Gatsby?

The main message is that American dream is impossible to obtain.

(Video) The Great Gatsby : Novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hindi summary Explanation

How did Gatsby kill himself?

Gatsby was killed by George Wilson who later killed himself.

What lesson can you learn from The Great Gatsby?

You can learn that the past is impossible to reclaim and that the American dream is a myth.

What did Gatsby do to get rich?

Gatsby worked bootlegging alcohol and in other miscellaneous criminal enterprises with people like Meyer Wolfsheim.

(Video) The Great Gatsby | Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis | F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby Summary | Book Analysis (2)

FAQs

What is The Great Gatsby about analysis? ›

The Great Gatsby is a story about the impossibility of recapturing the past and also the difficulty of altering one's future. The protagonist of the novel is Jay Gatsby, who is the mysterious and wealthy neighbor of the narrator, Nick Carraway.

What is the main summary of The Great Gatsby? ›

F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel,The Great Gatsby, follows Jay Gatsby, a man who orders his life around one desire: to be reunited with Daisy Buchanan, the love he lost five years earlier. Gatsby's quest leads him from poverty to wealth, into the arms of his beloved, and eventually to death.

What are the 3 themes of The Great Gatsby? ›

The Great Gatsby Themes and Analysis 🍾 Within 'The Great Gatsby,' F. Scott Fitzgerald taps into several important themes. These include the American dream, and its decline, as well as wealth, class, and love.

Why is it called The Great Gatsby? ›

By the same token, the title of the novel refers to the theatrical skill with which Gatsby makes this illusion seem real: the moniker “ the Great Gatsby ” suggests the sort of vaudeville billing that would have been given to an acrobat, an escape artist, or a magician.

What is the theme of The Great Gatsby? ›

The Great Gatsby, by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a novel set on Long Island in the 1920s that uses its characters to explore themes of materialism and the American Dream.

What is the twist in The Great Gatsby? ›

Later at tea, Jordan Baker tells Nick the surprising thing that Gatsby had told her in confidence at his party: Gatsby had known Nick's cousin Daisy almost five years earlier in Louisville and they had been in love, but then he went away to fight in the war and she married Tom Buchanan.

What does the end of The Great Gatsby mean? ›

As Nick explains on the novel's final page, Gatsby spent years hoping for a happy future with Daisy, but this future always receded into the distance. Nick claims that Gatsby's hopes for the future were elusive because they didn't relate to the future at all.

What does the green light symbolize? ›

The green light

Nick first sees Gatsby stretching his arms towards a green light at the end of Daisy's dock. Here, the green light is a symbol of hope.

What is the main conflict in The Great Gatsby? ›

Major conflict Gatsby has amassed a vast fortune in order to win the affections of the upper-class Daisy Buchanan, but his mysterious past stands in the way of his being accepted by her.

Why is The Great Gatsby so important? ›

Despite being a commentary on a different age and people, Gatsby's story is as relevant today as it was when it was written. Because it explores universal themes — human follies, the hopelessness of societal constructs and man's struggle with time and fate.

What is the most essential symbol in The Great Gatsby? ›

The Green Light at the end of Daisy's dock is by far the most important symbol in the novel. An artificial light that flashes to make incoming boats aware of the dock, it is key in understanding the novel. The light is symbolic of Gatsby's American Dream; his pursuit to “change the past'' and regain Daisy's love.

What does Daisy represent to Gatsby? ›

To Gatsby, Daisy represents the paragon of perfection—she has the aura of charm, wealth, sophistication, grace, and aristocracy that he longed for as a child in North Dakota and that first attracted him to her. In reality, however, Daisy falls far short of Gatsby's ideals.

What is a good thesis statement for The Great Gatsby? ›

The thesis explores the manner in which F. Scott Fitzgerald highlights the failure of the American Dream through the lives of his characters. Gatsby's dream is to win Daisy back and so he relentlessly pursues what he did not have, namely material wealth. In the process he loses himself and fails to attain his dream.

How does The Great Gatsby relate to the real world? ›

Gatsby tries to control people with his wealth and it works we see this happening today people try to use their money to take advantage of others and to fit in. The book describes ways on how money rules the world and people and we still see cases of this today. People also are divided by money today in many places.

Is Nick in love with Gatsby? ›

In that novel, Nick loves Gatsby, the erstwhile James Gatz of North Dakota, for his capacity to dream Jay Gatsby into being and for his willingness to risk it all for the love of a beautiful woman. In a queer reading of Gatsby, Nick doesn't just love Gatsby, he's in love with him.

Why does Nick return west after Gatsby's death? ›

Why does Nick return west after Gatsby's death? He misses his family, he wants to change jobs, and he is disgusted with the east. Why is Gatsby's love for Daisy doomed to fail? She can never live up to the idea of who Gatsby thinks she is.

Was Gatsby a good man? ›

I don't even mean to say that Gatsby is a bad character—he is well written, interesting, and even sympathetic. He's just not a romantic hero. He's a Great man but not a good man. He's not in love with Daisy, he's in love with the idea of her, the idea of money, and the distant green glow of his own idealized past.

What are important quotes in The Great Gatsby? ›

10 Great Quotes From The Great Gatsby
  • “I hope she'll be a fool. ...
  • “There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.” — ...
  • “Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.” — ...
  • “Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.” —
8 May 2013

What is the meaning of Gatsby? ›

Gatsby Origin and Meaning

The name Gatsby is boy's name of German origin meaning "from Gaddesby". Gatsby is one of the most famous literary surnames, borne by the titular character of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

What are some symbols in The Great Gatsby? ›

The Great Gatsby Symbols
  • The Green Light and the Color Green. The green light at the end of Daisy's dock is the symbol of Gatsby's hopes and dreams. ...
  • The Eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. ...
  • The Valley of Ashes. ...
  • East and West. ...
  • Gatsby's Mansion.

What does Gatsby's death symbolize? ›

Gatsby's death is significant because it represents the horrible end to the dream that he built his whole life, even though in a way he already died when he lost his chance to be with Daisy after the fight with Tom.

What is Nick's final message to the reader? ›

Nicks Final message to the reader is that society is composed of Boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

What does Nick realize at the end of The Great Gatsby? ›

But here's what we think is going on: Nick realizes that chasing a future dream just ends up miring us in the past. All of our dreams are based on visions of our past self, like Gatsby who in the past believed that he would end up with Daisy and who believed in the American myth of the self-made man.

How did Nick react to Gatsby's death? ›

Nick is struck by the bitter injustice of Gatsby's solitary death. Despite all the people who found their way to Gatsby's parties, not one, with the exception of a man known only as "Owl Eyes," bothered to make an appearance at his funeral (and he only made it to the gate after the services ended).

Who found Gatsby's body? ›

Nick finds Gatsby's body floating in the pool and, while starting to the house with the body, the gardener discovers Wilson's lifeless body off in the grass.

Why did Daisy leave Gatsby in the end? ›

Gatsby 's major downfall was when him and Daisy began talking again, and Daisy ended up leaving Gastby for her husband Tom. Gatsby wanted Daisy to tell Tom, her husband that she never loved him.

Why does Daisy cry about the shirts? ›

Daisy cries because she has never seen such beautiful shirts, and their appearance makes her emotional. The scene solidifies her character and her treatment of Gatsby. She is vain and self-serving, only concerned with material goods.

What does the owl eyed man symbolize in The Great Gatsby? ›

Owl Eyes symbolizes the true American Dream by doing things that he knows are morally right rather than doing things to try and gain materialistic items. During one of Gatsby's parties, when Owl Eyes was first introduced in the novel, he was found in the library admiring Gatsby's collection of books.

What do Gatsby's shirts symbolize? ›

Gatsby's expensive English shirts symbolize his wealth. Gatsby's clothes have a symbolic meaning, as the use of colour and fabric in his clothing demonstrates his hope, dreams, and wealth.

› wiki › The_Great_Gatsby ›


The Great Gatsby

https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › The_Great_Gatsby
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › The_Great_Gatsby
The Great Gatsby is a 1925 novel by American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. Set in the Jazz Age on Long Island, near New York City, the novel depicts first-person ...
What Does the Green Light Mean? One of the most memorable images in The Great Gatsby is the green light that Gatsby watches across the water, which simultaneous...

The Great Gatsby The Green Light

https://www.shmoop.com › great-gatsby › analysis › the-g...
https://www.shmoop.com › great-gatsby › analysis › the-g...
The green light on Daisy's dock symbolizes an unattainable dream in The Great Gatsby. Let's unpack the meaning and why Gatsby gazes at it wistfully.

What is the main conflict of The Great Gatsby? ›

Major conflict Gatsby has amassed a vast fortune in order to win the affections of the upper-class Daisy Buchanan, but his mysterious past stands in the way of his being accepted by her.

What message is Fitzgerald conveying about the class structure of the 1920s? ›

By creating distinct social classes — old money, new money, and no money — Fitzgerald sends strong messages about the elitism running throughout every strata of society. The first and most obvious group Fitzgerald attacks is, of course, the rich.

What is the twist in The Great Gatsby? ›

It turned out Wilson had been told by Tom it was Gatsby driving the coupe when it hit Myrtle, but in fact, Daisy had been driving. Wilson was mad with rage and came to Gatsby's house one afternoon. He shot and killed Gatsby in the pool and then shot himself a few steps away in the garden.

Why did F. Scott Fitzgerald write The Great Gatsby? ›

Fitzgerald was inspired to write The Great Gatsby to show the American Dream and its attainability. He lived through the Jazz Age and struggled to gain wealth and success of his own. Fitzgerald depicted his own struggles with love, wealth, and success through the character of Jay Gatsby.

What is the climax of Great Gatsby? ›

Climax: Nick's disillusionment is complete when Gatsby is murdered by Myrtle's husband—who believed Gatsby was responsible for her death and who then kills himself. All the people who flocked to Gatsby and his parties during his life disappear upon word of his death.

What is the most important part of The Great Gatsby? ›

The most important event in The Great Gatsby is the death of Myrtle Wilson and Gatsby taking the blame for Daisy driving Tom's car.

What is a symbol in The Great Gatsby? ›

The Great Gatsby | Symbols | F. Scott Fitzgerald - YouTube

What does The Great Gatsby teach us about society? ›

Scott Fitzgerald uses ideas to show the nature of society by dividing the characters into 3 different social classes: old money, new money, and no money. The author leaves a powerful reminder to the audience of how the society we live in is really a dangerous place that is likely to collapse by these classes of people.

Why is The Great Gatsby so important? ›

Despite being a commentary on a different age and people, Gatsby's story is as relevant today as it was when it was written. Because it explores universal themes — human follies, the hopelessness of societal constructs and man's struggle with time and fate.

How does The Great Gatsby relate to current society? ›

Gatsby tries to control people with his wealth and it works we see this happening today people try to use their money to take advantage of others and to fit in. The book describes ways on how money rules the world and people and we still see cases of this today. People also are divided by money today in many places.

What does Gatsby's death symbolize? ›

Gatsby's death is significant because it represents the horrible end to the dream that he built his whole life, even though in a way he already died when he lost his chance to be with Daisy after the fight with Tom.

What were Gatsby's last words before he died? ›

The last line of Gatsby reads: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

What is Nick's final message to the reader? ›

Nicks Final message to the reader is that society is composed of Boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

What does the end of The Great Gatsby mean? ›

As Nick explains on the novel's final page, Gatsby spent years hoping for a happy future with Daisy, but this future always receded into the distance. Nick claims that Gatsby's hopes for the future were elusive because they didn't relate to the future at all.

What does the green light symbolize in The Great Gatsby? ›

Here, the green light is a symbol of hope. After meeting up with Daisy in chapter five, the light ceases to be the emblem it once was: the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever... now it was again a green light on a dock. This symbolises the destruction of Gatsby's dream.

How did The Great Gatsby end? ›

At the end of The Great Gatsby, Gatsby is revealed to have been a bootlegger; Daisy abandons him, Tom shoots him, and his funeral is sparsely attended. Nick reflects on the story in the last few paragraphs, noting that Gatsby built all of his wealth and status in service of reuniting with his lost love, Daisy.

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