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The Great Gatsby

By F. Scott Fitzgerald
 
The story of Jay Gatsby, a rich bootlegger, and his undying love for Daisy Buchanan.  The only catch?  Daisy is married to someone else.  This story is told from the point-of-view of Jay's neighbor Nick Carraway.  Fitzgerald is famed for perfectly depicting the debauchery of the roaring twenties.

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Chapter 1

  • We meet the narrator, Nick Carraway, and many other main characters including his cousin Daisy Buchanan, her husband Tom, and Daisy’s friend Jordan Baker.
  • Nick explains the two eggs: East egg is where the old money is (and Tom and Daisy), and West Egg is where the new money is (and Nick and Gatsby).
  • Nick goes to meet Nick and Daisy at their home.  There he meets Jordan, and she asks him about his neighbor, Gatsby.
  • While at dinner is told by her that Tom has a mistress in the city (New York).
  • When Nick arrives home he sees Gatsby staring out across the bay toward a green light.

Chapter 2

  • While riding with Tom into New York, Tom stops at a gas station in the valley of ashes where his mistress lives.
  • His mistress is named Myrtle and she lives above a gas station with her husband, George Wilson.
  • Tom and Nick continue into New York and Myrtle follows.
  • Myrtle throws an impromptu party in her and Tom’s love nest, and invites the downstairs neighbors and her sister.
  • Everyone gets drunk, Myrtle speaks about Daisy and Tom backhands her.  After that, the party breaks up, and the chapter ends with Nick going downstairs to look at one of the guest’s photography portfolios.

Chapter 3

  • Nick is invited to a party at Gatsby’s.
  • At the party there is much speculation about how Gatsby made all of his money
  • Nick meets Gatsby who is then immediately called away on business
  • Nick runs into Jordan who tells him all she knows about Gatsby (which isn't much) and tells Nick to call her.
  • The party degrades into confusion including fighting couples and a druken collision outside.
  • Nick begins dating Jordan Baker who he describes as “incurably dishonest.”

Chapter 4

  • Nick recounts all the people who attend Gatsby’s party in the summer of 1922
  • Nick and Gatsby go into town to have lunch. On the way Gatsby shares his past with Nick which seems a little rehearsed rather than real
  • They are joined at lunch by Gatsby’s friend Meyer Wolfshiem who is famous for fixing the 1919 World Series.  This seems to reaffirm the general belief that Gatsby has made his money through illegal dealings
  •  After lunch Tom Buchanan appears and Gatsby disappears
  • At lunch one day Jordan recounts some events from her and Daisy’s girlhood days in Louisville.
  • Jordan remembers seeing Daisy on her front porch with a soldier named Jay Gatsby.  She also remembers how distraught Daisy was when Gatsby was shipped off.
  • Jordan also tells about the disasters night before Daisy got married: she got drunk, tried to get rid of an expensive pearl necklace, and told her bridesmaids she’d changed her mind.  The next morning she got married to Tom without a word.
  •  After these stories, Jordan tells Nick that Gatsby has a favor to ask: he wants Nick to invite him and Daisy to tea. 

Chapter 5

  • When Nick arrives home from his date with Jordan Gatsby is standing outside.  He and Nick discuss the details of the tea.
  • Daisy comes over a few days later, and she and Gatsby have their reunion.  Gatsby is extremely nervous and Nick leaves them alone for a while.
  • Gatsby takes Nick and Daisy over to his house to give them a tour.

Chapter 6

  • Nick was over at Gatsby’s when Tom Buchanan and two others stop by.  They invite Gatsby and Nick to dinner, but then leave before Gatsby knows where to go
  •  Tom, Daisy, and Nick go to one of Gatsby’s parties.  Tom and Daisy aren’t terribly impressed

Chapter 7

  • Gatsby’s parties end.  He also fires his staff and hires some new people who don’t gossip.  He lets Nick know that Daisy has been spending a lot of time at his house
  • Nick goes over to Daisy’s house to eat with Daisy, Tom, Jordan, and Gatsby.  While there Tom realizes that Gatsby and Daisy are having an affair.
  • The party goes into the city—Tom drives Gatsby’s car with Jordan and Nick and Daisy and Gatsby ride in Tom’s
  • On the way into the city, Tom stops at Wilson’s to get more gas.  Wilson tells Tom that he and his wife are going out west.  Wilson looks distraught.  Myrtle looks on from above the garage her attention fixed on Jordan Baker who she believes is Tom’s wife.
  • The group arrives in New York and gets a suite at the Plaza Hotel.  While in the Plaza hotel, Tom begins to berate Gatsby.  Tom makes it known that he is aware of Daisy’s affair with Gatsby.  Gatsby claims that Daisy never loved Tom.  Tom encourages Daisy to say it as well, but she can’t.  Gatsby is crushed.
  • Gatsby and Daisy leave in Gatsby’s car
  • Myrtle had been locked above the garage all day.  She runs out into the street and sees the car that Tom had been driving earlier.  She tries to flag it down, but the car runs her over and never stops.  Myrtle is killed.
  • Nick, Jordan, and Tom arrive at the scene of the accident.  Witnesses describe the car that killed Myrtle Wilson.  Tom tells Wilson that he knows the owner of the car.
  • Tom gets home and Gatsby is standing outside.  After talking to Gatsby, Nick realizes that Daisy had been driving the car when Myrtle was killed.  Gatsby says that he will take the blame.

Chapter 8

  • Nick goes over to Gatsby’s house where he tells him of when he first met Daisy.  They loved each other, but Gatsby didn’t have any money, so they couldn’t get married.  While he away overseas he got the letter telling him that Daisy had married Tom.
  • Nick goes to work, but promises to call Gatsby later.  That afternoon, Nick can’t get in touch with Gatsby because his phone is busy.
  • The scene changes and we find out what happened that afternoon: Wilson tell his neighbor that he thought Myrtle was having an affair.  He believed that Myrtle’s lover had killed her with his car.
  • Wilson finds out who the owner of the yellow coupe was.  He goes to Gatsby’s house where he kills Gatsby and then himself.

Chapter 9

  • Nick tries to tell the people that Gatsby knew that he is dead.  A telegram arrives from Minnesota saying that his father is coming.
  • Nick can’t find anyone to go to Gatsby’s funeral and only three people attend
  • Nick breaks it off with Jordan
  • Nick sees Tom on the street a while later and refuses to shake his hand.  Tom admits to telling Wilson who owned the yellow car, but doesn’t see why that was a bad thing.

 

Themes in the Great Gatsby

 

Death of the American Dream:

One of the major themes of TGG is the decline of America.  This was an idea that permeated the writings of many authors of this period.  After WWI, many writers were disillusioned with America and its seemingly unfulfilled promises.  It seemed that progress simply polluted America rather than making it better.  There was a distrust of all institutions including government, industry, and religion.  To many artists of this time, there was little good in the modern world.  Examples of this theme are seen throughout the novel.

  • Gatsby embodies the “American dream” in TGG.  He was born into nothing and he managed to overcome this to be extremely successful.  He could buy anything he wanted, but the one thing he really desired wasn’t for sale.  Despite all his success, he wasn’t truly happy and in the end he died alone.
  • Other characters’ failure to respect Gatsby also supports this theme.  While he is very rich, he is not accepted by the very people who partake in his hospitality.  This can be seen in the way people gossip about Gatsby at his own party speculating on how he made his money and suggesting horrible possibilities.   
  • The valley of ashes between the eggs and the city represents the corruption caused by industry.  A wasteland of industry, the valley of ashes is devoid of life and value.  This clearly shows how industry left America with less rather than more.
  • The eyes of T.J. Eckleburg in the valley of Ashes also represent this theme.  George Wilson refers to the eyes as those of God, but they are faded and abandoned. This shows the author’s belief that God is absent in current society, and we are left with only a shadow of what once was.

 

Wastefulness of the Upper Classes

Fitzgerald reveals his distaste for the upper classes in TGG.  He shows that they are careless both with things and other people.

  • Tom and Daisy never appear to do anything except eat and drink.  They wander around the world without jobs or purpose.
  • Daisy mentions that she always waits for the longest day of the year, but misses it.  She seems incapable of even a simple goal.
  • Daisy only brings out her daughter for show.  She doesn’t seem involved in the raising of the child at all.
  • Both Tom and Daisy are engaged in affairs.  In Tom’s case, they begin immediately after he is married.
  • When Jordan discusses her approach to driving she says the following, “They’ll keep out of my way . . . It takes two to make an accident.”  She shows that she is not concerned with what accidents she may cause.
  • The people that come to Gatsby’s house invite him to join them and then leave before he's ready
  • Tom gives Gatsby's name to Wilson regardless of the consequences

Comprehension Questions

Vocabulary
A
Abstracted--lost in one's own mind
Abyss--Bottomless hole
Acuity--Sharp understanding
Addendum--Something added, usually to a book
Aesthetic--Related to beauty or art
Ambiguous--unclear, uncertain; having multiple meanings
Amorphous--shapeless, having no definite form
Antecedent--the thing that comes before
Apathy--Lack of interest
Append--added on
 

B

Banter--light-hearted, teasing remarks
Bizarre--strange
Boisterous--high-spririted; rowdy
Buoyant--pushing upward; able to float
 

C

Clamor--to demand noisily; shout
Combustible--likely to catch fear
Commensurate--equal
Complacency--satisfied; eager to please
Confound--confuse; make a situation worse
Contempt--hatred or digust
Convivial--pleasant, sociable
Corpulance--fat
Corroboration--confirm
Corrugated--with ridges and troughs
Credulous--gullible
Crescendo--increasing loudness; increasing intensity; climax; music played louder and louder
Cynical--pessimistic; sarcastic
 

D

Debauchery--immoral behavior
Deft--quick and skillful; clever
Defunct--not operating; dead
Desolate--empty; alone; grim
Despairing--feeling a loss of hope
Dilatory--slow; wasting time
Din--loud noise
Disconcerting--causing confusion or dismay
Discord--disagreement; unpleasant music
Disdain--contempt or disgust; to look down on
 
 

E

Ecstasy--intense happiness
Eddy--small whirl
Elicit--cause a reaction; draw something out
Endow--to give someone money or something else desirable
Engross--take up all of someone’s attention
Euphemism--term used to replace an offensive word
Exalt--to promote or praise; intensify; stimulate; raise
 

F

Feint--pretend attack; fake move; deceptive action
Ferocity--fierceness; savagery
Fervent--Lots of enthusiasm; hot
Florid--having an unhealthy red complexion; fancy in wording or style; healthy
Foliage--Leaves
Formidable--difficult to deal with or overcome; inspiring respect; frightening
Fortuitous--accidental; the result of luck; lucky
Fractious--Irritable and complaining

G

Garnish--add to food or drink; decorate something
Garrulous--talking too much; wordy
Gravity--seriousness; serious behavior; heaviness

H

Haughty--behaving in a superior way
Hilarity--laughter
Homogeneous--similar; of similar composition
Hues--colors

I

Impetuous--done spur of the moment without thinking about it
Incessant--Going on without stopping
Indignation--Anger because of something unfair
Ineffeable--Incapable of being expressed in words
Ineptness--unable to handle a job; not appropriate
Ingratiate--to try to please someone; kiss up
Innumerable--too many to count
Insidious--slowly harmful and destructive
Insolence--disrespect
Interminable--enless (or seems endless)
Inviolable--unbreakable; safe from an attack

J

Jaunty--happy and carefree; casual
Juxtapose--put side by side

L

Labyrinthine--extremely confusing; like a labyrinth
Languid--without energy; slow-moving; listless
Laud--to praise someone; song of praise
Legacy--money left to someone in a will; something from the past
Lethargic--tired
Levity--remarks or behavior intended to be amusing; light in weight
Luxuriant--with a lot of rich, healthy growth; growing a lot

M

Magnanimity--great generosity or noble spirit
Malevolence--wanting to cause harm; harmful or evil

Malice—wanting to cause harm to others

Marred--spoiled
Melancholy--feeling or causing sadness
Menagerie--collection of animals; diverse, and peculiar group

N

Nebulous--not clear

O

Oblivion--state of being forgotten; overlooking past offensive
Obscure--hard to understand; not distinct; not important or well-known; dark
Obstinate--stubborn; refusing to change; difficult to control
Obtrude--impose; push out; appear unwelcome
Oculist--doctor for the eyes

P

Perpetuate--to make someone last
Plagiarize--to steal or use someone else's work as your own
Pneumatic--referring to air or gas
Poignant--causing sadness, pity, or regret; very penetrating; sharply painful; strong smelling or tasting
Portent--a sign that something bad is going to happen; significance; a wonderful thing
Precipitate--to make something happen quickly; send somebody or something rapidly
Presumption--belief not based on evidence; behavior that is rude or disrespectful
Prodigal--very wasteful; making large amounts; wasting parental money, but still loved
Profundity--great understanding; something that requires great understanding; greatness
Profuse--given freely; generous in giving; a great amount

Provincial—narrow-minded, unsophisticated

Punctilious--careful about having good manners; paying close attention to details
Pungent--strong smelling or tasting; sharp and pointed