header logo
The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby Summary


Here you will find a The Great Gatsby summary (F. Scott Fitzgerald's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

P.S.: As an Amazon Associate, we earn money from purchases made through links in this page. But the summaries are totally free!

Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

The Great Gatsby Summary Overview

A youthful Minnesota native, Nick Carraway, relocates to New York during the summer of 1922 to get involved in the bond business. He settles in a wealthy but uncool neighborhood in the West Egg region of Long Island. The area is home to nouveau riche—people who have recently amassed wealth and lack established societal ties. Nick’s enigmatic neighbor, Jay Gatsby, lives in an enormous Gothic mansion and is known for lavish parties every Saturday night. Nick, unlike his West Egg counterparts, is Yale-educated and connected to the East Egg’s high society. One night, he visits his cousin, Daisy Buchanan, and her husband, Tom, for dinner. Nick gets introduced to Jordan Baker, a striking, cynical woman, and they begin dating. He learns of Tom's mistress, Myrtle Wilson, who lives in the industrial wasteland between West Egg and New York City. Afterward, he attends a tawdry party in the city with Tom and Myrtle, where Tom breaks Myrtle's nose for mentioning Daisy. As the summer unfolds, Nick is invited to one of Gatsby’s notorious parties. He meets Gatsby, a surprisingly young man with an English accent, a captivating smile, and a habit of calling everyone “old sport.” Gatsby confesses his love for Daisy to Jordan and reveals his extravagant lifestyle is merely a ploy to win her over. He wants Nick to set up a meeting with Daisy, fearing she might not agree if she knew about his feelings for her. Daisy and Gatsby reconnect and start an affair after an initially awkward encounter. Soon, Daisy's husband, Tom, becomes suspicious and confronts Gatsby in New York City. Tom scornfully sends Daisy and Gatsby back to East Egg after revealing Gatsby's criminal activities to Daisy. Not long after, Gatsby's car hits and kills Myrtle, and he decides to take the blame even though Daisy was driving. The next day, Myrtle's husband, George, shoots Gatsby and then himself, after Tom lets him know Gatsby was the driver. Disgusted by the moral decay amongst the wealthy, Nick breaks up with Jordan and returns to the Midwest. He believes that just like Gatsby's love for Daisy, the American dream of happiness and individualism has crumbled under the relentless pursuit of wealth.

chapter 1

Nick Carraway, a young man from Minnesota, is our guide through The Great Gatsby. He introduces himself as a non-judgmental observer, a lesson he learned from his father. He introduces Gatsby, the titular character, as someone who embodies everything he dislikes yet remains exempt from his criticism, calling Gatsby's personality strikingly "gorgeous." In 1922, Nick moves to New York to work in finance, settling in the newly wealthy neighborhood of West Egg on Long Island. West Egg, home to the nouveau riche, is less refined and less socially connected than its counterpart, East Egg. Nick lives next to Gatsby's grand, over-the-top mansion in a relatively modest house. Despite residing in West Egg, Nick stands apart from his neighbors due to his Yale education and social connections in East Egg. He spends an evening with his cousin Daisy, her husband Tom Buchanan, and their friend, professional golfer Jordan Baker. Tom, a large and commanding man, introduces a racially charged book to the group, which he seems to agree with. Daisy mocks the book, but the conversation is interrupted by a call for Tom, who Jordan reveals is from his mistress in the city. Following an uncomfortable dinner, the evening ends. Jordan retires early for a golf event the next day, and Daisy and Tom make it clear they hope Nick will pursue a relationship with her. Upon returning home, Nick spots Gatsby on his lawn, reaching towards the distant, faintly glowing green light at the end of a dock. Nick recalls Daisy's wish for her daughter to be a "beautiful little fool," suggesting that ignorance is bliss in their society.

chapter 2

Situated midway between West Egg and New York City is a barren, ash-gray valley, a dumpsite for the city's ashes. The men residing here spend their days shoveling the ash. High above, an enormous sign featuring two colossal blue spectacle-rimmed eyes, a relic of an old ad from an extinct eye doctor, gaze over this bleak landscape. These relentless eyes, belonging to Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, overlook all the happenings in the ash valley. The train commuting between West Egg and New York passes through this valley, halting at several stations. One day on this train, Tom coerces Nick to disembark with him at one of these stops. He guides Nick to a garage at the fringe of the ash valley, owned by George Wilson and home to Tom's mistress, Myrtle, who is also Wilson's wife. Wilson appears dull yet attractive, his color influenced by the airborne ashes. Myrtle exudes an urgent vitality despite her plump physique, leaving an impression on Nick. Mocking Wilson, Tom commands Myrtle to accompany him on the train. The trio head to an apartment in New York City's Morningside Heights where Tom keeps his affair. Here, they host an unplanned party with Myrtle's sister, Catherine, and a couple, the McKees. Catherine, with her vibrant red hair and excessive makeup, shares with Nick a rumor she's heard about Jay Gatsby being related to Kaiser Wilhelm, Germany's ruler during World War I. The McKees, residing downstairs, are an unpleasant pair; Mr. McKee is effeminate and pale, while Mrs. McKee is screechy. The group indulges in heavy drinking, leading to Nick getting drunk for the second time in his life. Nick is repulsed by the flashy demeanour and talk of the others at the party and makes an attempt to leave. However, he is simultaneously drawn to the gaudy spectacle they present. As Myrtle drinks more, she becomes louder and more annoying. After receiving a puppy from Tom, she starts mentioning Daisy, which angers Tom, leading him to harshly forbid her from mentioning his wife. When Myrtle defies him and repeats Daisy's name, Tom reacts violently, breaking her nose and abruptly ending the party. A drunk Nick leaves with Mr. McKee, and eventually finds himself on the 4 a.m. train back to Long Island.

chapter 3

Gatsby's fame in New York is largely due to his grand weekend parties at his mansion, which are coveted invitations. When Nick receives an invite, he attends the party and finds himself amidst strangers sharing rumors about Gatsby. No one seems to know the real story of Gatsby's wealth or past. He bumps into Jordan Baker, a friend, who hears that Gatsby might have been a German spy and has an Oxford education. Gatsby's party is extravagant, with guests in awe of his Rolls-Royce, swimming pool, fresh fruits, overflowing feast, and live music. Alcohol is abundant, leading to a rowdier crowd. Nick and Jordan, curious about Gatsby, meet a man with large glasses, nicknamed Owl Eyes, engrossed in Gatsby's untouched books. Nick and Jordan encounter a charming young man who served in the same war division as Nick. This man introduces himself as Gatsby. His language is formal and he often refers to everyone as "old sport". Gatsby stands out to Nick because he doesn't drink and remains distant from the party, observing his guests in silence. Late in the night, a butler informs Jordan that Gatsby wishes to see her. After their meeting, Jordan shares that Gatsby told her something remarkable. Nick bids Gatsby goodbye, who is taking a call from Philadelphia. During his walk home, he sees Owl Eyes stuck in a ditch with a car, who then gives up on the situation in his drunken state. Nick also mentions his daily life, emphasizing that it's not just parties. He works in New York City and goes on long walks. He meets a girl from Jersey City and later dates Jordan Baker, as per Daisy and Tom's advice. Despite knowing Jordan's dishonest nature, he is attracted to her. He prides himself on being one of the few honest people he has ever known.

chapter 4

Nick details the high-profile attendees of Gatsby's summer parties, featuring the country's richest and influential people. He also narrates a trip to New York with Gatsby for a meal. En route, Gatsby shares his seemingly fabricated past, including claims of being a wealthy orphan from the Midwest, an Oxford graduate, a big game hunter, and a decorated World War I veteran. He substantiates his claims with a medal and a photograph. Despite Nick's disbelief, their journey continues. Gatsby navigates through the valley of ashes into the city, getting away with speeding by showing a white card to the policeman who stops him. During lunch, Gatsby introduces Nick to Meyer Wolfsheim, a person involved in dubious activities. Nick speculates that Gatsby's wealth may have questionable origins, possibly tied to organized crime like Wolfsheim. Post-lunch, Nick encounters Jordan Baker, who discloses her prior cryptic chat with Gatsby. She reveals Gatsby's love for Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby and Daisy shared a romantic past, but Daisy married Tom while Gatsby was at war. She spent her pre-wedding night in a drunken stupor following a letter from Gatsby. Jordan reveals that Gatsby purchased his West Egg mansion to be near Daisy. Recalling an earlier sighting of Gatsby reaching towards a green light, Nick understands it was the light at Daisy's dock. Jordan reveals Gatsby's request for Nick to arrange a meeting between him and Daisy. Gatsby plans to surprise Daisy at this meeting, forcing her to confront their past.

chapter 5

Nick returns from a date with Jordan to find Gatsby's mansion brightly lit yet eerily quiet. Gatsby approaches him and, in a flustered manner, invites him to various activities. Nick quickly understands that Gatsby's anxiety is due to his wish for Nick to invite Daisy over for tea. Nick agrees to this plan, causing Gatsby to react joyfully and offer to take care of Nick’s lawn and involve him in a side business. Nick declines these offers but confirms he will invite Daisy. Despite a downpour, Gatsby sends over gardeners and flowers on the day of the meeting, anxious about his reunion with Daisy. Daisy arrives and Gatsby temporarily vanishes, returning wet from a walk in the rain. The initial reunion is uncomfortable, with Gatsby even knocking over a clock and expressing regret over the meeting. However, after Nick leaves them alone, he returns to find Daisy and Gatsby significantly happier. Gatsby then invites them both to his house, showcasing his wealth. Daisy is moved to tears by his collection of expensive shirts. Gatsby shares his pastimes of dreaming about their happy future, often gazing at the green light at the end of her dock. Nick ponders whether the real Daisy can ever meet Gatsby’s lofty expectations of her. Gatsby’s idealized image of Daisy seems bound to lead to disappointment. However, their love seems to revive fully in the present. Gatsby calls upon Klipspringer, a peculiar resident of his mansion, to play a popular tune on the piano. As Gatsby and Daisy become engrossed in each other, Nick discreetly leaves them alone.

chapter 6

Gossip about Gatsby is rife in New York, so much so, that a reporter attempts to interview him at his mansion. Nick, knowing the truth about Gatsby’s past, shares it. Gatsby, originally James Gatz of North Dakota, left St. Olaf college because he despised his job as a janitor. During a summer working on Lake Superior, he encountered Dan Cody, a wealthy copper magnate. After warning Cody of an oncoming storm, Cody, in gratitude, took Gatz on as his assistant. While traveling with Cody, Gatsby developed a fondness for affluence and comfort. Cody's drinking problem made Gatsby wary of alcohol. After Cody's death, Gatsby was denied his $25,000 inheritance by Cody's lover. This propelled Gatsby to commit himself to achieving wealth and success. Nick doesn't see Gatsby or Daisy for some time after their meetup at his home. While visiting Gatsby, he finds Tom Buchanan with the Sloanes. Gatsby nervously tells Tom that he knows Daisy. He invites them to dinner, but they decline, offering a deceptive invitation in return which Gatsby naively accepts. Tom disapproves of Gatsby's lack of sophistication and Daisy's visits to Gatsby's house. He's suspicious but unaware of Gatsby and Daisy's affair. Tom and Daisy attend Gatsby’s party the next Saturday. Tom's dislike for Gatsby spurs him to keep tabs on Daisy. Nick finds the party distasteful and notices Daisy isn't enjoying herself. Tom agitates Daisy by accusing Gatsby of being a bootlegger, to which Daisy retorts that Gatsby's wealth comes from his drugstore chain. Gatsby confides in Nick after the party, upset that Daisy didn’t enjoy herself. He wishes to return to how things were in Louisville, with Daisy leaving Tom for him. Nick warns Gatsby that he can't redo the past. Gatsby disagrees, believing his wealth can make anything possible. Nick reflects on the impact of the moment Gatsby kissed Daisy for the first time, which became the driving force in his life. Now that Gatsby has Daisy, his dream has effectively ended.

chapter 7

Gatsby, smitten with Daisy, stops hosting his extravagant parties previously meant to attract Daisy. He also dismisses his employees to avoid rumors and hires dubious ones linked to Meyer Wolfsheim. Nick visits Tom and Daisy's house in East Egg on a sweltering summer day, where he encounters Gatsby and Jordan Baker. Gatsby is astonished when he meets Daisy's baby girl, while Daisy herself appears indifferent towards her. As the day progresses, Gatsby and Daisy's affection for each other becomes increasingly apparent. Daisy, bored, proposes they all go to the city, and her suggestion doesn't go unnoticed by Tom. Sensing a brewing conflict, Tom decides they should all indeed head to New York. Nick, Jordan, and Tom ride in Gatsby's car, while Gatsby and Daisy use Tom's. During a pit stop at Wilson's garage, they learn that Wilson has found out about his wife's affair but doesn't know who the man is, and intends to move west. Amidst this, Nick sees a parallel between Tom and Wilson's situations. In the stifling heat of New York City, they rent a suite at the Plaza Hotel. Tom confronts Gatsby, sarcastically picking on his constant use of "old sport" and accuses him of lying about being an Oxford alumnus. Gatsby admits he did attend Oxford, but only for five months as part of an army program. Tom further questions Gatsby's intentions with Daisy, to which Gatsby reveals Daisy loves him, not Tom. Tom retorts that their shared history is something Gatsby can't understand and accuses him of being a bootlegger. During the argument, Daisy, initially infatuated with Gatsby, finds herself drawn towards Tom. Seeing he has the upper hand, Tom sends Daisy home with Gatsby to display his lack of concern. As the argument cools down, Nick realizes he's turned thirty. On their drive back, Nick, Tom, and Jordan come across a horrifying scene. Someone was hit by a car. A nearby restaurant owner named Michaelis informs them that the victim was Myrtle who was struck by a car coming from New York City. Nick deduces that Myrtle was hit by Gatsby and Daisy's car. Tom believes that Wilson will identify the yellow car from earlier and assumes Gatsby was driving. At Tom's house, Nick finds Gatsby hiding in the bushes, watching over Daisy to ensure her safety. Gatsby admits that Daisy was driving when the accident happened, but he's willing to take the blame. Gatsby sends Nick to check on Daisy who finds her and Tom reconciled, sharing a meal. Nick departs, leaving Gatsby alone in the moonlight.

chapter 8

Nick spends a sleepless night reflecting on the day's unnerving incidents before deciding to check on Gatsby at his mansion. He finds Gatsby lingering at Daisy's house until the early hours of the morning, with nothing consequential happening. Nick advises Gatsby to move on from Daisy and leave Long Island, but Gatsby adamantly refuses. In a sorrowful conversation, Gatsby shares his love story with Daisy dating back to 1917 in Louisville. He loved her youthful energy, her status, wealth, and popularity. Gatsby confesses that Daisy was his first love and he falsified his background to appear worthy of her. The relationship blossomed into intimacy, which made him feel bound to her. Although she pledged to wait for him when he went to war, she broke her promise and married Tom, who was socially stable and had her parents' approval. Their conversation is interrupted by Gatsby's gardener, who wants to drain the pool in anticipation of falling leaves. Gatsby asks for a day's delay as he wishes to swim in the pool, which he has never used before. After a prolonged chat, Nick departs for work, assuring Gatsby that he is more valuable than the Buchanans and their circle of friends. Nick tries to focus on work, but the recent happenings leave him restless and he even cancels his date with Jordan Baker. The narrative takes a detour to describe the aftermath of Myrtle's death. Nick learns from Michaelis that George Wilson spent all night discussing Myrtle and her affair, asserting that she couldn't escape divine judgment. The next day, Wilson is profoundly affected by the gaze of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg's billboard eyes, which he interprets as God's eyes. He concludes that Myrtle's killer must be her lover and sets out to seek vengeance. He connects with Tom, knowing he's acquainted with the car's owner. He determines that Tom couldn't be the driver since he arrived at the accident scene in a different car with Nick and Jordan. Wilson ends up at Gatsby's house, finds him relaxing in the pool, and shoots him dead before turning the gun on himself. Nick rushes back to find Gatsby dead in his pool. He imagines Gatsby's final moments filled with disillusionment about life without Daisy and his shattered dreams.

chapter 9

Two years post Gatsby's death, Nick recounts the ensuing chaos after the murder, as reporters and gossip spreaders flocked to Gatsby's mansion, spinning wild, false tales about Gatsby's connections to Myrtle and Wilson. Despite Nick's attempts to organize a grand funeral, Gatsby's old acquaintances, including Tom and Daisy, either vanish mysteriously or decline to attend. Only Nick, Owl Eyes, a few servants, and Gatsby's father, Henry Gatz, show up for the funeral. Henry Gatz, who traveled from Minnesota, expresses his pride in his son, showing Nick a picture of Gatsby's house and a book featuring Gatsby's childhood self-improvement plans. Fed up with the hollow values of the East, Nick opts to return to the Midwest. His relationship with Jordan ends as she announces her engagement to another man. Before leaving, Nick crosses paths with Tom in New York. Reluctantly, he shakes Tom's hand, who admits to telling Wilson that Gatsby was the owner of the car that killed Myrtle. Disgusted by Tom's lack of remorse and belief that Gatsby deserved to die, Nick concludes that Tom and Daisy are selfish, destructive individuals protected by their wealth. Nick reflects that the story is, in essence, a tale of the West, as all main characters are originally from there, and their behaviors have been influenced by the wild East Coast lifestyle. He nostalgically recalls the idyllic Midwest and finds the East grotesque in comparison. Before leaving West Egg to return to Minnesota, Nick visits Gatsby's now deserted mansion, erasing an offensive word written on the steps. He spends his last night there imagining the unspoiled landscape the first explorers must have seen. He likens America to the green light at Daisy's dock, the symbol of Gatsby's dreams. Just like Gatsby, he reflects, people are driven by their dreams and the desire to progress, albeit they are pulled back into the past like boats against a current.

Enjoying this summary?
Buy the book! (it's better)