Introduction to The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of the greatest American writers, wrote The Great Gatsby. It was first published on 10th April 1925 and did not win instant applause. However, later it became the most read American novel, read by a diverse range of audiences. As time passed, it impacted the American generations, proving an all-time bestseller and a masterpiece. The novel shows the regions of West Egg and East Egg near Long Island known for its prosperity during the Jazz Era after World War 1. The story revolves around the obsession of the millionaire, Jay Gatsby for a fashionable woman, Daisy. She is very popular among the military officers for her parties. On account of the exploration of a host of themes, the novel has been termed Fitzgerald’s magnum opus.
Summary of The Great Gatsby
The story of the novel, The Great Gatsby, revolves around a young man, Nick Carraway, who comes from Minnesota to New York in 1922. He is also the narrator of the story. His main objective is to establish his career in the bonds. Nick rents a house in West Egg on Long Island, which is a fictional village of New York. He finds himself living amidst the huge mansions of the rich and famous. Right across the water, there is a refined village of East Egg. Nick’s cousin Daisy and her wealthy husband Tom Buchanan live in that part of the village. Tom is known to be cruel, absurdly rich as well. One day Nick goes to meet Daisy and Tom for dinner. There, he meets Jordan Baker, Daisy’s friend. Daisy is a well-known golf champion. She tells him about Tom’s affair. Apparently, Tom has a mistress in New York City. Daisy secretly confesses to Nick that she is not happy with Tom. Once Nick returns to his house in West Egg, he sees his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. Jay is standing alone in the dark calling out to a green light across the bay. The place points to Tom’s and Daisy’s place.
After a few months, Tom introduces Nick to his mistress, Myrtle Wilson. Myrtle is married George Wilson, who is not as lively or joyful as Tom. According to Nick, George is “a valley of ashes”. He also compares George to an industrial wasteland supervised by Doctor T.J. Eckleburg. They meet her at the garage where George works as a repairman. Tom, Nick, and Myrtle go to her apartment in Manhattan. Myrtle’s sister and some other friends join them. As they are heavily drunk, they fall into an argument. Tom punches Myrtle in the nose when she talks about Daisy and insults her. Nick also wakes up in a train station.
A few months pass, Nick grows comfortable with the noises and lights of dazzling parties held at his neighbor Jay Gatsby’s house. Jay always has the famous and rich people gather on Saturday nights. There all the rich and famous enjoy Gatsby’s extravagant bar and enjoy listening to jazz orchestra. One day, Nick receives an invitation from Gatsby to one of these parties. There he meets Jordan and spends most of the evening. Nick notices that Jay is mostly absent during his parties. He overhears the guests talking about Gatsby’s dark past. Later, Nick meets him at the end of the party. While at first, he doesn’t know who Jay Gatsby was. Nick is properly introduced to Gatsby asking Jordan to speak privately. When Jordan returns she doesn’t share any details of the conversation between her and Jay Gatsby.
Nick becomes even more suspicious about this mystery character and decides to learn more about him through Jordan. Nick continues to see Jordan Baker. He also gets acquainted with Jay Gatsby at the same time. During one of the drives for lunch in Manhattan, Gatsby tries to dismiss the rumors that has been reaching Nick. Jay tells Nick that his parents were very wealthy people and were dead. He studied in Oxford and discharged as a war hero after World War 1. Nick doesn’t believe Jay at this point. At lunch, Nick is introduced to Gatsby’s business partner, Meyer Wolfsheim. Meyer is known to fix the World Series in 1919. (This character was based on a real person and a real event from the author’s time). Nick meets Jordan Baker. She reveals Nick about her conversation with Gatsby. Gatsby knew Daisy, Nick’s cousin five years before. While he lived in Louisville, Jay and Daisy were in love. When Jay left to fight in the war, Daisy married Tom Buchanan. Gatsby bought his current mansion on West Egg to be across the water to see Daisy from distance.
Gatsby request Nick to invite Daisy to his house so that he can meet her. After a few days Jay Gatsby, invited by Nick, meets Daisy over tea. Daisy is surprised to see Gatsby after five years gap. Initially, they are quiet and hesitant, making the meeting extremely awkward. Nick observes this and leaves them alone for some time. He believes that by giving them a little privacy, they might talk and sort things out. Surprisingly, when Nick returns, Jay and Daisy speak without any uneasiness in the environment. Jay Gatsby is beaming with happiness; and Daisy is crying happy tears. Later, they head to Jay Gatsby’s mansion. Gatsby begins to show all his rooms and artifacts to her.
Few days pass, with Daisy and Jay Gatsby meeting frequently, Tom comes to know about Daisy’s meeting with Gatsby. He doesn’t like it. One day, Tom unwillingly attends Jay Gatsby’s party with Daisy. Daisy feels uncomfortable at the party. She is disgusted by the bad behavior of the rich crowd at West Egg. Tom assumes that Gatsby has a business of selling goods illegally. He accuses Jay Gatsby at the party and also shares his frustration with Nick after the party. Gatsby tries to ignore all the fight and asks Daisy to leave Tom. He begs her to tell the truth to Tom that she does not love him. Gatsby asks Daisy to marry him after they separate. He confesses that he had never stopped loving Daisy.
Right after that incident, Jay Gatsby stops throwing his wild parties. Daisy visits him almost every afternoon. One day, Nick is invited for lunch by the Buchanans. Jay Gatsby and Jordan are also invited. During the lunch, Daisy compliments Gatsby in front of everyone. This also proves as a declaration of her love for Jay Gatsby. Tom also notices Daisy but chooses not to react. He requests them to come to the town. Daisy and Jat Gatsby go to Tom’s car. However, Tom takes Jay Gatsby’s car with Jordan and Nick. Tom stops for the fuel at George Wilson’s garage in the valley of ashes. Wilson breaks the news to Tom that he had been planning to go west of the city with his wife Myrtle to raise more money.
Hearing the news Tom is visibly mad and speeds towards Manhattan. He catches up with Daisy and Gatsby. They go to a parlor at the Plaza Hotel, while Tom is still disturbed by hearing George’s and Myrtle’s moving news. While having a drink Tom confronts Gatsby about his and Daisy’s relationship. Daisy tries her best to calm them down. However, Gatsby begs Daisy to reveal the truth of their love. When Tom continues to threaten Jay Gatsy, Daisy threatens to leave Tom. Out of prejudice, Tom tells them that he had been investigating Gatsby. He concludes that Jay Gatsby was selling illegal alcohol at drugstores in Chicago with Wolfsheim. Gatsby denies the allegations and tries to diffuse the situation. However, Daisy loses hope. They leave the Plaza, just as Nick turns 30, without celebrating his birthday.
While returning, Daisy drives Gatsby’s car. On the way they accidentally hit Myrtle. Just before the accident Myrtle and George had a severe argument. She runs toward the street thinking Tom is still driving Gatsby’s car. While Jay Gatsby and Daisy see Myrtle they don’t stop. Daisy is afraid to stop and is caught by a couple of witnesses. Tom who is following them from Plaza stops his car after seeing the accident scene and the crowd on the road. Tom is shocked and heartbroken after seeing Myrtle’s dead body in Wilson’s garage. Wilson reveals to Tom that a yellow car was responsible for the accident. Tom tells that the car was not his and leaves to East Egg while mourning. When Nick sees Jay Gatsby at the Buchanans’ mansion he comes to know that Daisy caused the accident. However, Gatsby tells him that he will take the blame if his car is found. Jay also decides to be at Daisy’s house as a guard to protect her from Tom.
The next day, Nick asks Gatsby to disappear, as his car will eventually be traced. Gatsby refuses to leave. He reveals the truth of his past to Nick. Jay Gatsby was from a poor farming family and met Daisy while serving in the army in Louisville. As he was too poor to marry, he did use illegal methods to gain his wealth after the war. Proving that Tom was correct.
Nick returns for work unwillingly. Gatsby desperately waits for Daisy’s call. After a few days, George Wilson visits Tom at the East Egg. He tells him that Gatsby killed Myrtle. After revealing the new George barges into Gatsby’s mansion. Gatsby is relaxing by his pool when George shoots him and then turns the gun on himself. Nick is shocked and arranges Jay Gatsby’s funeral. Nick and Jay Gatsby’s father is the only audience at the funeral. Eventually, Daisy and Tom leave Long Island without revealing their new address. Nick returns to the Midwest and realizes that his life in the East was never good.
Major Themes in The Great Gatsby
- The American Dream: The novel, Great Gatsby, presents the theme of the American Dream through its character of Jay Gatsby. When Nick meets him, he overemphasizes his lifestyle. He even desires to be in his parties and introduces him to Daisy when a chance arises. Therefore, Gatsby meets Daisy and tries to revive his past love, seeing that he has achieved fame through his riches and would get her now. However, Daisy disappears from his life after the accident. Nick with his American dream is the only friend in the end who arranges his funeral. The frequent uses of business and business jargon show the theme of the American Dream.
- Home: The novel shows its theme of home through different characters. Nick leaves home and returns when he learns about the importance of home distinctively different from the mansions of East Egg and West Egg. Jay Gatsby, too, learns that mansions do not become home of a person. That is why he reverts to Daisy to set up a home but fails in his attempts.
- Money: Money is not only an important theme but also a theme in the novel. Money brings a few characters close to each other. The discussion of places like East Egg and West Egg and new and old money shows that money makes the mare go for Nick, Tom, Daisy as well as Gatsby. However, by the end, Nick comes to know that money is not everything as he performs funeral rites of Gatsby alone with nobody else besides his dead body.
- Materialism: Materialism is another significant theme of The Great Gatsby in that it shows its ravages and destruction where it is desired to be the most important value. The lush and extravagant parties, the mysterious and rich lifestyles, and extravagant shows of wealth do not go side by the side the sincerity of relations in the human world. Gatsby’s lifestyle attracts others, but nobody knows his mental condition, though, he fails to win Daisy by the end of the novel when meets his end, as she is already married.
- Past: Past is a constant theme in the novel that Gatsby, Tom, and Daisy want to leave their past but it constantly haunts them. Gatsby has made remarkable progress in his life. Daisy and Tom have caused quite a scandal in their previous city of Chicago, the reason that they are running away from it. Jordan Baker also tries to bury her past life. Nick then clearly explains it to Daisy that he cannot bring back the past.
- The hollowness of Upper Class: The novel shows the hollowness of the elite class or upper strata of the American society through the characters of Jay Gatsby as well as the region of East Egg as corrupt and devoid of the moral and ethical framework but West Egg as the social fabric tied in a morality. When Nick learns about Gatsby and Daisy, he reaches the conclusion by the end that all is rotten to the core.
- Life and Death: Fitzgerald has presented the theme of life and death through the parties that are being thrown in the West Egg region in New York and through the character of Nick and Gatsby. However, it is Owl Eyes that shows the looming shadow of death amid life. Death is shown to end Jay Gatsby’s life of extravagance.
- Love and Marriage: The novel shows two strained marriages of Tom with Daisy and Myrtle Wilson with George Wilson as bad examples of marriages. Although Nick and Gatsby are in search of love and they find it to some extent, this is not the real love but just a type of tender curiosity in Nick’s words.
- Class: The novel shows the class system through different characters such as Gatsby represents the upper strata, for Nick is seeking to join this class despite his being form the middle class. The incompatibility of the marriage of Myrtle with George shows this class difference.
Major Characters in The Great Gatsby
- Jay Gatsby: James Gatz or Jay Gatsby is the main protagonist, known for his mysterious past and extravagant lifestyle. His parties and mansion located in West Egg make other characters seek his attention and be invited to his parties. Later, he reveals the truth to Nick that he was a young man from a poor family and lived in Dakota. He made fortune after serving in WWI in the army and knew Daisy then. His love, though, stays unrequited until the end as Daisy gave importance to money. Though he amasses a vast fortune. George Wilson kills him by the end of having an affair with his wife. Though in reality, Daisy commits the crime and kills Myrtle, but Jay takes the blame upon himself.
- Nick Carraway: Nick is the narrator of the story. He is from a rich family from Minnesota and wants to join the upper class of the society by joining the bond business in New York. Hence, he moves to the city. Nick is seen as an honest and responsible man. He joins Gatsby and Buchanan’s just to experience the East Egg society. Once, Nick gets close to Gatsby, he comes to know the truth and stands by him. When Gatsby is killed by George, he arranges his funeral and leaves East Egg for good.
- Daisy Buchanan: Daisy Buchanan is Tom’s wife. In the past, she was with Gatsby while he was serving in World War 1. She leaves Jay Gatsby because of his financial status. Through her cousin Nick, she meets Jay Gatsby after five years. She kills Myrtle in an accident. She leaves Gatsby when takes the blame on himself to protect her. She is quite selfish and immature.
- Tom Buchanan: Tom is a former soccer player from Yale and comes from an elite family. However, the brutal and deeply insecure, the reason that he often displays racism. He is dominating over his wife, Daisy, and condemns her for meeting Gatsby. While he disapproves, Daisy’s choice, he has a mistress, Myrtle. Tom is also a bully and a narcissist.
- Jordan Baker: Jordan is a strong woman and Daisy’s old friend who once won golf tournament through deceit. However, unlike her friend, she is quite cold in manners and does not respond to Nick’s advances.
- Myrtle Wilson: Myrtle is Tom’s mistress and promiscuous woman. She crosses social boundaries if she finds a chance. In her desperation, she marries George, the owner of a garage, but continues her affair with Tom. When she picks up a fight with her husband over the move, she runs to the street where speeding Daisy accidentally kills her. though Gatsby takes the blame.
- George Wilson: A poor and lazy garage owner, George Wilson. He married ambitious Myrtle but faces agony and mental torture over her affair with Tom. He later murders Gatsby assuming Gatsby had killed Myrtle by accident.
- Meyer Wolfsheim: Meyer is Gatsby’s colleague and famous for his involvement in the world of crime and fixing series. He is a mixture of morality and the criminal world and offers condolence on the death of Gatsby.
- Dan Cody: Dan is one of those men who exploited the Gold Rush and won riches. Gatsby became his disciple and learned the art of making money but didn’t receive anything else. Though he left some fortune for Gatsby, it was taken away by his previous wife.
Writing Style of The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald applies wry and elegiac which also includes sophisticated style in The Great Gatsby. The language, though, creates a sense of loss and nostalgia, becomes poetic, at times, loaded with figurative images. In one way, it seems to be an extended elegy that laments the corruption of a whole class merely for the abstract concept of a dream which is rotten to the core on account of greed, avariciousness, and lasciviousness that it breeds. However, when the novel shows metaphorical language and elaborate images, it seems highly sophisticated. Fitzgerald is an expert writer and knows where to apply what type of language.
Analysis of Literary Devices in The Great Gatsby
- Action: The main action of the novel comprises Jay Gatsby yearning for Daisy’s affection. He took the blame for the accident and faced sequences as George Wilson kills him. The rising action comprises the reunion of Daisy and Gatsby, while the falling action is the death of Gatsby or maybe his final funeral rites.
- Allegory: The Great Gatsby shows some strands of allegory in the character of Gatsby who is a symbol of something to be re-created through dreams. However, as a representative figure of every common American, Gatsby seems to have made it an allegory, for his dream of winning his love after having won a Gothic mansion and name in the parties proves a miserable failure.
- Antagonist: Tom Buchanan is the antagonist of the novel, The Great Gatsby. He is not only an imposing figure but also a dominating man who represents obstacles that stand between a man’s desire and his attempts to reach his goal. He does not let Daisy and Gatsby meet to fulfill their desire of marriage after loving each other.
- Allusion: Some of the allusions used in The Great Gatsby are such as a reference to Midas, a Greek legend, another to Morgan, an American financier, to Maecenas, an art patron of Rome, to Oxford, a university in England and to Rockefeller, a self-styled billionaire of the 19th century.
- Conflict: There are two types of conflicts in the novel, The Great Gatsby. The first one is the external conflict going on between Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan, the husband of Daisy how to dodge him to win his wife. The internal conflict goes in the mind of Gatsby about himself, about his love and renewal of relationship with Daisy.
- Characters: The Great Gatsby presents both static as well as dynamic characters. The young man, Nick Carraway, the narrator is a dynamic character. He not only sees the entire situation but also sees his friends and near and dear ones in a wider perspective. His opinion also changes from good to bad by the end of the novel about different characters such as Tome, Jordan, and Daisy. However, Gatsby and Tom stays the same and does not show any change. Therefore, they are static characters.
- Climax: The climax in The Great Gatsby takes place when the group of all of them is coming back from New York and Myrtle is killed by Gatsby. Then Gatsby shows greatness by taking the blame and getting killed by George.
- Foreshadowing: The novel, The Great Gatsby, shows several examples of foreshadowing. Its fourth chapter shows the first such example when Nick sees that the gambler Wolfsheim is the friend of Gatsby which points to the means of his riches. The second example occurs when Jordan asks Nick that Gatsby wants to meet Daisy which clearly shows that he is going to rekindle his old love.
- Hyperbole: Hyperbole or exaggeration occurs in the novel on several occasions. For example,
- I’m p-paralysed with happiness.’ (Chapter-1)
- The flowers were unnecessary, for at two o’clock a greenhouse
arrived from Gatsby’s, with innumerable receptacles to contain it. (Chapter-5)
- ‘FIer family is one aunt about a thousand years old. (Chapter-1)
All these three examples show good use of the literary device of hyperbole.
- Imagery: Imagery means to use images as in these examples;
- If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. (Chapter-1)
- He wouldn’t say another word. His correctness grew on him as we neared the city. We passed Port Roosevelt, where there was a glimpse of red-belted ocean-going ships, and sped along a cobbled slum lined with the dark, undeserted saloons of the faded-gilt nineteen-hundreds.” (Chapter-4)
In the first example, the passage shows the description of a person while the second presents the description of Port Roosevelt. In both descriptions, Fitzgerald has used senses of sound, sight, and hearing extensively.
- Metaphor: The Great Gatsby shows various metaphors throughout the novel. For example,
1. The lawn started at the beach and ran towards the front door for a quarter of a
mile, jumping over sundials and brick walks and burning gardens.
2. Twenty miles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in contour and separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out into the most domesticated body of saltwater in the Western hemisphere, the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound.
3. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
The first metaphor compares the law to an animal, the second the places to eggs, and the last compares life to a voyage.
- Mood: The novel, The Great Gatsby, shows a very serious mood that depicts pessimism and vapidity along with uselessness of the riches. It also becomes somber at the ugliness of the Valley of Ashes and the sad at the death of Gatsby.
- Motif: The most important motifs of the novel, The Great Gatsby, are judgment, infidelity, and wealth which occur recurrently in the storyline.
- Narrator: The novel, The Great Gatsby, has been narrated in a first-person narrative by Nick Carraway. It presents impressions of the place, society, and events from his personal point of view.
- Personification: Personification means to attribute human acts and emotions to non-living objects. For example,
- Half a dozen fingers pointed at the amputated wheel. (Chapter-3)
- Blinded by the glare of the headlights and confused by the incessant groaning of the horns, the apparition stood swaying for a moment before he perceived the man in the duster. (Chapter-3)
- The dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away trying to touch what was no longer tangible. (Chapter-7)
The first example shows fingers, second apparition, and the third dead dream as if they have lives of their own.
- Protagonist: Although it seems that Nick Carraway is the protagonist, yet he is not. He is only the narrator. It is Jay Gatsby who is the real protagonist of the novel. It is because he demonstrates greatness by the end by telling truth to Nick, taking the blame on himself, and getting killed.
- Paradox: The Great Gatsby, at the deep level, shows that Gatsby is a person of many paradoxes. He idealizes the American Dream and has become a gentleman to be liked. However, he has left this world with a single friend at his funeral.
- Rhetorical Questions: The novel shows the use of rhetorical questions in several places. For example,
1. What could you make of that, except to suspect some intensity in his conception of the affair that couldn’t be measured?
2. Who wants to go to town?’ demanded Daisy insistently.
The first example shows the use of a rhetorical question posed by Nick that he does not want an answer. The second shows the same used by Daisy.
- Theme: A theme is a central idea that the novelist or the writer wants to stress upon. The novel, The Great Gatsby, not only shows class, society, American Dream, and mortality but also demonstrates loneliness and the impacts of riches or wealth.
- Setting: The setting of the novel, The Great Gatsby, is the city of New York and its Long Island with two fictional towns East Egg and West Egg.
- Simile: The novel shows good use of various similes. For example,
1. Instead of being the warm center of the world, the Middle West now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe. (Chapter-1)
2. They (bonds) stood on my shelf in red and gold like new money from the mint. (Chapter-1)
- The first simile compares the Middle West to a ragged edge, while the second compares the gold to new money.
- Symbol: The Great Gatsby shows various symbols such as the green light, the clothes of Gatsby, and the Valley of Ashes as well as his car which shows that it is due to the new money that he has earned. Even the East Egg and West Egg or symbols of capitalism and materialism.
- Irony: The novel shows irony in that, though, Gatsby is the center of attention of the parties, nobody shows up at his funeral except one person. The second irony is that Gatsby shows shyness when meeting Daisy despite his mundane success. The third example of irony is that Myrtle wants to die at the hands of Tom but it is Daisy who becomes her killer, for she was driving the car.