Book Summary: The Wonderful World of the Great Gatsby

Francis Scott Fitzgerald is an American writer who vividly depicted the wealth and carelessness of the 1920s in the United States. The author was a product of the golden era known as the “Jazz Age.” While those eccentric and lavish times have passed, readers can still enjoy the legacy of his books, which evoke the spirit of freedom, joy, and selfishness. The most well-known of his novels is “The Great Gatsby.” It was written in 1925 during Dry Law, gangster wars, lavish parties, and extravagant lifestyles.

The protagonist of this book, Jay Gatsby, has a life path similar to Fitzgerald’s. Fitzgerald has seen it all in his writing career, from admiration and acclaim for his first novel “This Side of Paradise” in 1920 to destructive indifference and harsh criticism for a number of his other works. Similarly, for Jay Gatsby, achieving the American dream turned out to be a devastating life tragedy – his ascension to the top of society, despite the fame and wealth it brought him, led to disappointment and loss. After reading the book, the reader will realize that people truly desire not material goods but emotional ones – genuine, reciprocal, and eternal love.

But for now, forget about the shadows and imagine yourself in the American life of the 1920s, surrounded by beautiful women, endless joy, sweet jazz music, people having fun, and the waves breaking on the shore next to the lavish mansion of the famous Jay Gatsby, the king of all party hosts.

 

The Book’s Main Characters

The novel is far more complicated than two people’s relationships — protagonist Jay Gatsby and his beloved Daisy Buchanan.

 

Jay Gatsby

What is the identity of Jay Gatsby? Are you more interested in him as a mystery, a con artist, a killer, an extremely affluent man, or a low-income individual? At one point or another, he is all of those things, yet he is also none of those things at all. This man represents the collective image in which everyone can find traits with which they can identify. Gatsby is a romantic, a daydreamer who appreciates beauty and kindness. He fantasizes about spending time with his beloved, Daisy. But, at the same time, he is a product of his consumerist society; he defines his worth by the homage paid to him by others.

Fitzgerald focuses on Jay’s romantic side, which is the first facet of his personality that Fitzgerald explores. He devotes a substantial amount of time to searching for old ambitions and dreams that, in reality, turn out to be illusory and created in the first place. Daisy is the dream, but it is also Gatsby’s death. The fact that his image of her isn’t accurate exemplifies the book’s main point: a civilization whose morals can be manipulated by the desire for material goods cannot be humane or happy.

 

Gatsby’s image remains hazy and undefined throughout the novel, partly because his story is told through another person’s eyes – Nick Carraway. The people Gatsby surrounds himself with represent the two opposing aspects of his personality that coexist in his character. Nick is the ray of sunshine.

 

Nick Carraway

Nick embodies human kindness, the beauty of a man’s soul, honesty, and inner strength. His narration of the story sets its tone; while portraying both sides of the “lost generation,” the book reads optimistically and with a pleasant ring to its voice. Nick’s story unfolds alongside Jay Gatsby’s: he falls in love with Jordan while telling how Jay fell in love with Daisy. Nick and Gatsby share many characteristics, including courage, dignity, and genuine benevolence. Unlike Gatsby, however, Nick can resist the temptations and dark sides. After realizing Jordan’s shallowness, he finds the strength to end their relationship. At the same time, Gatsby continues his relationship with Daisy, trying to live the false dream he had created in his head.

Nick sees Jay Gatsby’s true intentions and, more importantly, predicts how they will play out. He is a good friend; in fact, he is the only person who stays by his friend’s side near the end of the novel after everyone else has abandoned him. Ironically, Nick is one of the few people who attend Gatsby’s funeral, even though hundreds attended his parties. Mr Carraway is a responsible man who isn’t afraid to challenge society. In the face of unfavourable circumstances, he is capable of making a moral decision. Because of people like Nick, the author believed his club could find moral ground in the complex American reality of the time.

On the other hand, the novel’s focus on the wicked American dream revolves around several characters with a strong “commercial” bent, most notably Daisy Buchanan, husband Tom Buchanan, and friend Jordan.

 

Daisy Buchanan

Daisy Buchanan is a wealthy woman by birth. She is a lovely lady with a beautiful voice. She’s a lot of fun and easy-going, but she’s a little challenging to get a hold of. Because of her inaccessibility, she becomes a target for Gatsby. At the end of the day, there has always been an acrimony between them: by the time Gatsby got affluent, Daisy had already married and given birth to a kid. Daisy left her husband for Gatsby, but their disparities in values kept the couple apart. Daisy’s initial image as a beautiful woman, wife, and mother shattered with each subsequent chapter of the book.

Daisy is a woman born in the wrong era; she is frivolous and dim-witted. For example, she is quickly enthralled by Gatsby’s mansion’s luxurious interior design, his large wardrobe, as well as his perceived eminence in the perspective of her immediate environment. When Gatsby hears her voice for the first time, he immediately recognizes it as the sound of money.. She is also a tragic woman, as she cannot live the life she truly desires. She initially rejects Gatsby when they are young (and thus betrays her true feelings), then she wants to be with him (because of his wealth), but is too afraid to leave her husband (where she betrays her feelings again).

 

Tom Buchanan

If Jay Gatsby is constantly battling two different personas, Tom is a personification of one of them. He is overly selfish, self-assured in his uniqueness, exudes physical strength, clings tenaciously to his individualistic views, and is not afraid to demonstrate his ignorance and limited mindset. Tom, like his wife, grew up with high social status and benefited greatly from his family’s financial situation. As a result, his morals and ideas about humanity are heavily influenced by his wealth. The horrors of other socioeconomic classes, in his opinion, as well as death (such as Myrtle Wilson’s death), are secondary concepts unworthy of his attention.

The Buchanan couple’s external beauty contrasts with their inner ugliness, emptiness, and selfishness. Tom can lose himself in the shop windows for hours, mesmerized by the sparkles from the diamonds. Despite this, he cannot hold a severe thought for more than a minute. Throughout the book, Tom’s lack of development and personal improvement is established in the first chapter, where the author describes him as “…one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savours of anti-climax.”

 

Jordan Baker

In the novel, Jordan is described as a dishonest, selfish, overly ambitious, and even cruel woman. She is undeniably attractive and puts a lot of effort into her appearance. But once the reader gets past her exterior, she is devoid of personality. Her romantic relationship with Nick ends when the young man sees into her soul and discovers her emptiness. The couple has a very different outlook on life. Nick takes care to consider how his actions may affect those around him. On the other hand, Jordan couldn’t care less about how she might influence others; she only cares about what others think of her.

Jordan is cynical and full of himself. She is competitive and does not always play fairly. The young lady is not as wealthy as her friend Daisy, which is why she is determined to do whatever it takes to enter the world of the rich and famous. The author emphasizes Jordan’s dishonesty – she is willing to go to any length to shape reality to her liking.

 

Meyer Wolfsheim

Mr Wolfsheim is a minor character in the novel to which the author does not give much attention. Meyer Wolfsheim, on the other hand, provides some helpful information about the past and present of other characters in the novel, such as Nick Carraway, through his lines. Meyer has had business dealings with Gatsby. Meyer is even thought to have played a significant role in the 1919 World Series. Mr Wolfsheim’s dealings are shady, casting doubt on the legitimacy of Gatsby’s wealth.

 

Plot summary of The Great Gatsby

Nick Carraway, 30 years old and comes from a wealthy family, narrates the story. After returning from the war, he begins his business in credit dealings, as described in Chapter 1. He rented a home in West Egg, across the bay from his second cousin Daisy’s house. Daisy Buchanan is married to Tom Buchanan. Nick knows Tom from college and has spent time with the couple in Chicago in the past. Tom is physically and financially well-built to the point where “… he left Chicago and came east in a manner that rather took your breath away: for example, he’d brought down a string of polo ponies from Lake Forest.” It was difficult to believe that a man in my generation could afford to do that” (Chapter 1). Tom began cheating on his wife shortly after their engagement; she is aware of this, but they both appear to ignore it. Tom introduces Nick to his lover Myrtle Wilson, who happens to be Tom’s friend Wilson’s wife. In Chapter 2, Tom explains Wilson’s ignorance:

“Wilson? He believes she is traveling to New York to visit her sister. He’s so naive that he doesn’t even realize he’s still alive.”

Jay Gatsby lives next door to Nick. His home is a massive villa overrun with people and parties every weekend. Nick receives an invitation to one of these parties one day. This is unusual; usually, people do not wait for an invitation; they show up. Most of the people who attend the parties have never seen the host; he is a mystery to the majority of them. However, Nick grows close to Gatsby over time, and one day Jay asks Nick to arrange an “accidental” meeting with his cousin Daisy.

Gatsby met Daisy when he was a lieutenant five years ago. The two fell in love, but their circumstances prevented them from being together. Daisy received a letter just before her wedding that almost caused her to call off the engagement. In chapter 4, one of her bridesmaids recalls:

“She couldn’t take her eyes off the letter, and she didn’t say anything else. We administered spirits of ammonia to her and applied ice to her forehead before hooking her back into her dress. Half an hour later, when we went out of the room, the pearls were around her neck, and the episode had come to a successful conclusion. Without a shudder, she married Tom Buchanan the following day at five o’clock and immediately embarked on a three-month journey to the South Seas.”

When the old lovebirds finally meet after so many years apart, they are both overcome with emotion. Jay shows Daisy his house, they exchange a few memories, and the feelings flare up once more. Daisy begins to attend Gatsby’s parties regularly. He wants her to abandon her husband and flee with him. Tom becomes embroiled in a battle for the sake of his wife. Wilson, Myrtle’s friend, discovers that she is unfaithful one day, but he is unaware that she is cheating on Tom. When Wilson informs Tom that he wishes to remove Myrtle from the city, Tom figures that he is losing not only his wife but also his mistress:

Chapter 7

“Tom was being whipped around by the searing whips of panic. While his wife and mistress had been safe and secure until an hour ago, they were now slipping precipitously out of his grasp and out of his control.”

Gatsby confronts Tom, telling him that Daisy had always loved him but married Tom only because Gatsby was poor when the two met. Daisy is persuaded to leave her husband in order to salvage his marriage when Tom informs her that Jay’s income is derived from a questionable source. They later go on a trip. Daisy rides in a car with Gatsby on their way home while everyone else rides with Tom. At the same time, Myrtle is arguing with her husband and runs into the beige Rolls-Royce, mistaking it for Tom’s. As a result, she is run over and killed—the car does not even come to a halt. After that, Jay informs Nick that Daisy is driving the vehicle.

Gatsby spends the next day outside Daisy’s mansion, wanting to talk to her. On the other hand, Daisy packs her belongings and flees with her husband, leaving no address. The reader learns more about Gatsby’s life story in Chapter 6: his real name is James Gatz. He changed his name when he was 17 years old because “he had the name ready for a long time… The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, arose from his Platonic self-conception” (Chapter 6). Jay tells Nick about all the hardships he had to endure to become wealthy and finally be with Daisy.

Wilson learns from Tom that Gatsby’s car that killed his wife belonged. With no hope of justice, he comes to Gatsby’s mansion, murders him, and then shoots himself. Nick invites everyone who attended Gatsby’s parties to the funeral, but only three people show up: Jay’s father, Nick, and one other partygoer. Everyone else avoids funerals because they aren’t as enjoyable to attend.

 

Themes in the Great Gatsby

The Roaring Twenties

Following World War I, the United States experienced rapid economic growth from 1919 to 1929, culminating in the Great Depression of the 1930s. To some extent, “The Great Gatsby” depicts the consequences of such rapid growth and the subsequent sudden fall. The book demonstrates how easily people forget and become careless about their past. People who took advantage of Gatsby’s hospitality, for example, repaid their host by failing to get to know him.

 

And that was fine with everyone because there was no demand or value in being sincere, attentive, or honest.

 

The American Dream

Jay Gatsby is the personification of the American dream – he is a self-made man who rose from extreme poverty to incredible wealth.

Chapter 6

“Because his parents were shiftless and failed farmers, his imagination had never accepted them as his biological parents at all.”

Nonetheless, through his hard work, he could advance to the upper echelons of society. But did achieving materialistic goals truly make him happy? The novel concludes with a philosophical quote that emphasizes the ephemeral nature of life:

Chapter 9

“So we go on, boats against the river, borne back into the past inexorably,” says the author.

Gatsby is not the last person to be swallowed and forgotten by a society obsessed with instant gratification and mass consumption. Still, he may be one of the better examples for teaching others to appreciate people for who they indeed are.

 

Love

Many books, movies, poems, and other works of art extol the virtues of love. When the reader meets Gatsby for the first time, love drives him to achieve the wealth and high status he has. However, there is another side to the theme of love in “The Great Gatsby” – love, it turns out, can be true or false. A person can fall in love with another person, but more often than not, we fall in love with an image or ideal of the person in whom we wish to believe. While Jay has genuine feelings for Daisy, he admits that she values money and comfort over him. Daisy thinks she loves Jay, but she is so overwhelmed by society’s artificial standards that she can’t even love herself.

 

Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money)

The novel demonstrates how much one’s social standing is influenced by social class. Tom and Daisy are both born into wealth, and its advantages shape their personalities. They are highly reckless individuals who wreck people’s lives and then hide behind a wall of wealth. Furthermore, there is a distinction between those born into wealth and those who earned it. To begin with, the author manages to demonstrate a plethora of positive characteristics in Gatsby’s character (precisely because he is of the “new money generation”). He understands the value of money and possesses the goodness that has enabled him to achieve his goals. On the other hand, there is an old-money prejudice against the new wealthy generation: Tom rushes to point out to Daisy that Jay is rich, but the sources of his wealth are different. It drains Daisy of the little courage she had gathered to leave her husband for Gatsby.

 

Past and Future

“The Great Gatsby” describes a happy period in American history that is distinct from the past (when there was war and horror) and the future of that period (when the Great Depression hit). This theme is reflected in characters who enjoy the present moment without considering the future or the consequences of their actions. Some characters, however, are stuck in the past, such as Gatsby, who adores the Daisy he met years ago but refused to notice how she’s changed. The novel also sends a message not to pass judgment on people too quickly—everyone has some hidden truth that has shaped the way we act today.

 

Symbolism in the Great Gatsby

 

The Green Light and the Color Green

In “The Great Gatsby,” the green light is associated with happiness, prosperity, and abundance. It has traditionally been interpreted as Gatsby’s desire to be with Daisy. However, this symbol can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Visitors would follow the flashing green light when arriving at Gatsby’s lavish parties. Daisy would frequently observe and listen to those parties while watching the green glow on the dock across the bay. Daisy associated green with wealth and desire. In Chapter 6, she says:

“These are the kinds of things that thrill me… If you want to kiss me at any point during the evening, Nick, just let me know and I’ll be happy to make the arrangements for you. Nick: Just be sure to include my name. Alternatively, a green card may be presented. I’m distributing green….”

The light also represents Gatsby’s birth and death: Jay Gatsby was reborn alongside the luxurious lifestyle he had created for himself, but this new life was short-lived. As Nick says in the first chapter:

“A single green light, minute and distant, was all that I could see when I looked seaward involuntarily…. When I went looking for Gatsby again, he had vanished, and I found myself alone in the unsettling darkness once more.”

The Eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg

The first appearance of Doctor Eckleburg’s eyes is in Chapter 2:

“Doc Eckleburg’s eyes are blue and enormous – their retinas are a yard high and his pupils are as big as a football field. They appear to be looking out of no face at all, but rather from a pair of giant yellow spectacles that cross over a non-existent nose.”

They are nothing more than the remains of a portrait or a painting, but in the novel, they represent the symbol of someone keeping an eye on the main characters. The eyes aren’t judging them, but the tension is palpable. The abandonment of these eyes demonstrates how uneasy Daisy and the other main characters felt while seeing them. It’s almost as if you’re looking in the mirror and don’t like what you see – but, after all, you’re the one who gives meaning to the image you see.

 

The Valley of Ashes

The Valley of Ashes is where the main characters pass through on their way from West Egg to New York. It is a long swath of devastated land that “hurriedly joins the railroad and runs alongside it for a quarter-mile” (Chapter 2). It connotes greyness, dullness, and boredom. The people, houses, and streets are so uninteresting and mundane that the author describes them as “ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air” (chapter 2). It is where all of the characters in The Great Gatsby want to avoid the most, but they must pass through it on their way to New York. As a result, The Valley of Ashes represents the bitter reality that so many people try to avoid in their lives.

 

East and West

The contrasts and dramatic differences between East and West in the United States are not new literary symbols. In this case, the East represents wealth, fame, and brightness. The West is associated with tradition, origins, and values. East Egg is the traditional home of the wealthy in the story. At the same time, West Egg is “the less fashionable of the two,” in Nick’s words (Chapter 1). Another interpretation of this symbol is that East and West represent old and new wealth or the characters’ actual and fictitious lives.

 

Gatsby’s Mansion

The majority of the action takes place in Gatsby’s mansion. It represents his wealth and his hard work to become wealthy or “worthy” – worthy of Daisy and her surrounding people. Gatsby purchased this mansion knowing that his love lives nearby:

Chapter 4

“His patience paid off when he purchased a home where he distributed starlight to passing moths so that he could “pop over” some afternoon to a stranger’s garden after waiting five years.”

The mansion is magnificent, but it is not where Jay Gatsby feels most at ease. As a result, it is similar to many of the characters in the book – they are attractive on the outside, but that doesn’t make them good people. Many of Gatsby’s guests are familiar with his mansion but have no idea who the owner is.