“The Great Gatsby” Novel Summary Free Essay Example

April 13, 2022 by Essay Writer

Summary

It is 1922 in Long Island, New York and the narrator, Nick Carraway, is arriving at his new home on the West Egg. One evening after settling in, Nick drove over to the East Egg of Long Island to visit his cousin, Daisy, and her husband, Tom Buchanan. While there, he also meets Daisy’s friend, Jordan Baker, and considers her as a possible love interest. One day, Nick and Tom travel to the place called The Valley of Ashes. Above the road hangs an enormous sign painted with two large eyes and rimmed with glasses.

Tom says he wants Nick to meet his girlfriend so when they arrive to an old garage, Nick is introduced to the owner, George Wilson, and his wife, Myrtle. After a short conversation, Myrtle leaves with Tom and Nick and they head for Tom’s special apartment just for him and Myrtle. Once they arrive, Tom and Myrtle host a small party with Myrtle’s sister, Catherine, and Mr.

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and Mrs. McKee. Sometime during the party, Catherine tells Nick she heard that Gatsby is a nephew or cousin to the ruler of Germany during World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm. She starts to talk about Tom’s wife, Daisy, and Tom warns her not to. She proceeds on by chanting Daisy’s name until Tom punches her in the face, breaking her nose. After the incident, Nick and the other guests leave for home. Jay Gatsby is well-known in New York for his extravagant parties that people long to be invited to.

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One day, Nick receives an invitation at his front door from Gatsby’s chauffeur. Shortly after, Nick walks the short distance over to Gatsby’s mansion and joins the party. Nick runs into Jordan Baker. Jordan’s friend, Lucille claims that Gatsby was a German spy during the war. Later, he also hears that Gatsby attended Oxford and had killed a man. At some point, Nick and Jordan decide to try to find Gatsby so they set off amongst the crowd. They sit to watch entertainment at a table with a man Nick seems to think is familiar. The man introduces himself as none other than Jay Gatsby. Nick notices that Mr. Gatsby keeps himself hidden from the rest of the party and becomes increasingly fascinated by him.

Passages

“ ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had’ ” (1).

Advantages means being raised with plenty of money, a high-quality education, healthy food, etc. Don’t criticize others about anything without considering that they may not have the same background that you do.It’s a lot easier to be morally upright when you’re not pinching and scraping to make a living which makes the immorality of the wealthy even more unforgivable, this is a key theme in the novel about society’s morals.

‘Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes but after a certain point I don’t care what it’s founded on.’ (2)

The spirit in which someone does something (or the intent of that someone) is important, but regardless, at one point, the author no longer cares about that intent, just the action that resulted.

In other words, while one may have the best of intentions, their comes a time when it doesn’t matter what one has tried to do, but what one has done. The hard rock symbolizes the morals and the wet marshes symbolizes “the dirty” morals which are wrong. It shows how society during the time was oriented on money not the means of attaining the money.

“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him” (2)

Nick indicates that many people find Gatsby “gorgeous” because he releases an energy wave of success. But this energy is just the effect of gestures, Gatsby projects an image of success, whether or not there is any reality behind the image. Nick also implies that Gatsby is able to project an image of success because he’s especially responsive to what others desire. According to Nick, Gatsby possesses “an extraordinary gift for hope,” and he measures this hope with great sensitivity. This helps shows the character of Gatsby as the creative temperament was the result of a focused dreamer, rather than the result of a mental disposition.

“It is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men” (2-3)

This foul dust is mentioned throughout the novel and is symbolic of the corruption of everything that it encounters it represents the moral irresponsibility of the wealthy Americans during that time period, an irresponsibility that is sure to destroy the romantic illusions of Jay Gatsby. It is the ‘dirty truth,’ and the reality of a corrupt age and a dream built upon Gatsby’s own moral corruption from his ill-gotten wealth and the moral corruption of his ‘golden girl’ whom he pursues. It helps with the internal conflict that Gatsby is facing and also helps with the theme of corruption through symbolism.

“All right…I‘m glad it‘s a girl. And I hope she‘ll be a fool – that‘s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool” (18)

Daisy speaks these words in Chapter 1 as she describes to Nick and Jordan her hopes for her infant daughter. This quote offers a revealing glimpse into Daisy’s character. Daisy is not a fool herself but is the product of a social environment that, to a great extent, does not value intelligence in women. Daisy’s remark is somewhat mocking while she refers to the social values of her era, she does not seem to challenge them. Instead, she describes her own boredom with life and seems to imply that a girl can have more fun if she is beautiful and simplistic. This shows the theme of how society’s upper class may be rich but morally they aren’t rich.

“I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby‘s house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited” (43)

It is important because it shows how people weren’t invited to his parties everyone just came. they were all pretending to be included in this wealthy lifestyle and they all talked about him but really no one knew him or cared about him, they only wanted an escape from their empty lives. It shows the theme of wealth as society used Gatsby, they didn’t know him or particularly liked him but were happy to party at his house.

“Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known” (63)

Truth-telling and transparency are not necessarily pure virtues then in Gatsby. Nick’s ‘cardinal virtue’ would not be worth much if he didn’t also have a few things in common with Jay Gatsby a sense of loyalty, a willingness to suspend disbelief in favor of a romantic illusion, etc. This relates to the theme of wealth not bringing values.

“He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far way, that might have been the end of a dock”

Clearly the green light is at first a symbol for Gatsby of his hope for a love he had lost but wants to recover as soon as that hope is realized, the symbolic nature of the light is gone, and it becomes just a simple green light at the end of a dock. This is used to show the theme of hope, which is used by the author to show the hope that Gatsby has to get Daisy.

Questions

Why is Jay Gatsby mentioned as great in the title? What makes him so great?

In the book Gatsby is mentioned as the richest person in the town of west egg, he owns a big mansion and a lot of expensive things. He treats all his guests well even though many of them aren’t invited to the parties, this is seen when he sends a random women a new dress after she ripped hers at the party. The title can also be seen as ironic as he has risen to society’s high class through an unethical manner, he’s earned his wealth through illegal activities. Even though materialistically he was great, morally he was not.

How does nick’s point of view affect the story?

Most commonly when the story is narrated from a first person point of view it is usually unreliable as people have their own personal biases and beliefs. Nick doesn’t seem like the average first person narrator as he brings the book by saying he has an odd ability to reserve judgment and get people to trust him, which encourages us to believe that he is a unbiased narrator.

What is the American dream mentioned in this novel?

The American dream in this book is a belief that America is perceived as the land of opportunity

The American Dream, where America was perceived as a land of opportunity with unlimited possibilities which could be obtained by courage and hard work. Gatsby at the beginning of the book is perceived a man who got achieved the American dream.

Personal Reaction/Connections

The main theme in this book is materialistic things bring happiness, whoever has money is seen as happy. Gatsby who is incredibly wealthy is seen as happy, but in reality he is not that happy. Materialism was a key component in the time period of the book and it is still an important characteristic of modern societies today. People were, and still are attracted to higher class of living and everybody wants to be rich. Gatsby’s character is defined through his extravagant house, clothing, parties, and cars. Daisy was also attracted with the thought of being wealthy that she loses her patience and marries Tom rather than waiting for Gatsby to return from the war. This particular aspect of society has not changed much since the writing of this novel. Many people are still obsessed with the newest cars, designer clothes, technology and music. Many times we see similar cases to Daisy in which someone will marry a person who has a lot of money rather than marry someone who actually loves them. In both these time periods society values materialistic things but these things always get replaced, as kids we all loved our toys. As we grew older start to value other things, for example when one buys the latest iphone one feels happy but after a couple of years one craves a new one. Long term happiness is brought through emotions shared with loved ones, society’s now and before still do not understand this and crave happiness from materialistic things.

The Great Gatsby was essentially written during a period of prohibition, a period of moral decay and chaos. The author symbolizes Gatsby as a metaphorical representation of the American dream however, as the book progresses we learn that Gatsby himself comes from a corrupted background and in this case his ‘dream’ is winning Daisy. Gatsby became too ambitious which caused him to lose morals and get money in any way possible. A connection that can be made to ambition running wild is Macbeth written by William Shakespeare. In the play the main character lets his ambition run wild when he is told that he will become future king. Macbeth who was a loyal warrior loses his morals to feed his ambition. This ambition is what leads to his downfall, this causes him to lose his sanity and caused him to get killed. Even though Gatsby has not been murdered or killed, his ambition will most likely lead to some horrific event happening to him. Ambition is necessary to succeed but once ambition is blinding to one’s sense of right vs wrong it should be controlled or stopped. Most likely the ambition will lead to Gatsby’s downfall similar to Macbeth’s ambition leading to his downfall.

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