The Great Gatsby Book Summary

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“The Great Gatsby,” written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a novel set in the summer of 1922 in the fictional towns of West Egg and East Egg on prosperous Long Island. The book is narrated by Nick Carraway, a Yale University graduate from the Midwest who moves to New York to become a bond salesman. He settles in West Egg, the less-fashionable of the two areas, and becomes intrigued by his mysterious and fabulously wealthy neighbor, Jay Gatsby, who lives in a lavish mansion and throws extravagant parties every weekend.

Jay Gatsby is known for his opulent parties filled with glamorous attendees, yet he is rarely seen at these gatherings. Gatsby’s primary goal is to be reunited with Daisy Buchanan, a beautiful debutante and Nick’s cousin, who lives across the bay in the more prestigious East Egg with her brutish, wealthy husband, Tom Buchanan.

Five years prior, Gatsby and Daisy had been in love, but Gatsby was poor and went to fight in World War I, hoping to return and marry Daisy. However, Daisy was unable, or unwilling, to wait and married Tom Buchanan instead, who was from her own social strata. After returning from the war, Gatsby dedicated his life to becoming wealthy, believing that this would enable him to win Daisy back.

Nick becomes the conduit for the renewal of the romance between Gatsby and Daisy when Gatsby learns of their familial connection. At Gatsby’s request, Nick arranges a meeting between Gatsby and Daisy, and the two rekindle their love. Gatsby insists that Daisy disavow any love for her husband, Tom, and declare that she has always loved only Gatsby. Daisy, however, cannot make such an unequivocal declaration.

As the story unfolds, it is revealed that Tom has a mistress, Myrtle Wilson, who is the wife of an impoverished garage owner, George Wilson. The relationship between Tom and Myrtle represents another example of the carelessness and moral laxity of the wealthy.

The climax of the novel occurs on a sweltering day when Daisy, Gatsby, Tom, Nick, and Jordan Baker (a cynical professional golfer who is Daisy’s friend and Nick’s brief love interest) decide to drive into the city. Tom, already suspicious of Gatsby’s intentions towards his wife, confronts him. Daisy is unable to fully support Gatsby’s assertions of their shared past, leaving Gatsby emotionally crushed.

In a cruel twist of fate, as they drive back from the city, Daisy, who is driving Gatsby’s car, hits and kills Myrtle Wilson, who had run out onto the road. Tom, Daisy, and Jordan pass by the accident, and only Tom realizes that the woman killed is his mistress. However, he does not know that Daisy was driving the car that hit Myrtle.

Despairing at Daisy’s betrayal and horrified by the accident, Gatsby waits outside the Buchanan house while Daisy assures Tom that she has no feelings for Gatsby. Meanwhile, George Wilson, devastated by his wife’s death and deceived by Tom into believing that the owner of the car that hit Myrtle was her lover, tracks Gatsby down and shoots him before taking his own life.

By the end of the novel, the carefree summer comes to a harsh end, with Gatsby’s murder symbolizing the ultimate fall from grace. The characters who were once captivated by the glittering, decadent lifestyle of the Jazz Age, retreat back into their money, leaving a trail of destruction behind them. Nick, disillusioned with the East, moves back to the Midwest. Gatsby, who loved too passionately and single-mindedly, is left forgotten, highlighting the emptiness and moral bankruptcy of the wealthy.

In essence, “The Great Gatsby” presents a stark portrait of the American Dream, portraying it as corrupt and ultimately destructive. It explores themes of wealth, class, love, and idealism, making it a timeless critique of the socially irresponsible lifestyles of indulgent post-war America.

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About the Author

F. Scott Fitzgerald was an influential novelist and short story writer. His writing’s popularity declined during his lifetime, but there was a resurgence of interest following his death in 1940. Since then, his work has been widely celebrated by readers and critics alike. His other novels include This Side of Paradise and Tender is the Night.

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