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The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

Main Characters

Nick Carraway - The “truly honest” narrator of the novel whose experiences in the East leaves him jaded and disillusioned.

Jay Gatsby - Fascinating character who tries futilely to make his dreams a reality through a fabricated life.

Daisy Buchanan - Shallow, yet charming girl who is the embodiment of Gatsby’s dreams.

Tom Buchanan - A powerful and cruel man whose lives life irresponsibly,  shielded from consequences by his wealth.

Minor Characters

Jordan Baker - Cynical and conceited woman who is seemingly unaffected by the characters around her.

Myrtle Wilson - Tom has an affair with this pitiful married woman, and then abandons her after he becomes bored with her.

Settings

West Egg - The “less fashionable” side of Long Island where Gatsby and Nick live.

East Egg - The “fashionable” side of Long Island where the Buchanans and other “old   money” people live.

Valley of Ashes - The desolate wasteland-like place where the Wilsons live.

Plot

 Nick Carraway travels to New York from the mid-west in order to become a bondsman.  He takes residence in West Egg, next to a huge mansion which belongs to a mysterious Mr. Gatsby.  Nick is reacquainted with Daisy and Tom Buchanan, a wealthy couple who lives across the bay from him.  Nick befriends Gatsby, who is revealed to be infatuated with Daisy.  Nick arranges for them to meet, and they began to have an affair.  Tom, who is also having an affair with a married woman, confronts Daisy and Tom, and Daisy is forced to return to Tom.  As Daisy and Gatsby drive off afterwards, they run over and kill Myrtle Wilson, Tom’s mistress.  Tom lies to Myrtle’s husband, and tells him that Gatsby was the driver, when in reality, Daisy was driving.  Wilson shoots Gatsby at his home afterwards, and then commits suicide.  Nick is disillusioned with the life he planned for in New York, and returns west to his home town.

Symbols

Green Light - The light across the bay that Gatsby was fixated on was an embodiment of his sole goal in life, which was reunification with Daisy.

Dan Cody - He symbolizies self-destruction since that’s all his newfound wealth brought him.

Style

 The Great Gatsby is written sophisticatedly, using intelligent and even poetic phrases.  Foreshadowing and symbols are utilized subtly and figurative language is used skillfully throughout the entire novel.

Philosophy

 The Great Gatsby is the story of one man’s futile quest of finding happiness through wealth, and the disillusionment that inevitably follows.  It also deals with the dangers of creating an embodiment of one’s dreams in a fallible person.

Quotations

“No - Gatsby turned out all right at the end; 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.” - pg 8, chapter one, Nick sums up the message of the novel.

“Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.” - pg 23, chapter one, Nick comments on Tom’s tendency to spout faux-intellectual ideas.

“She never loved you, do you hear?” he cried.  “She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me.  It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart she never loved any one except me!” - pg 117, chapter 7, Gatsby passionately defies Tom’s marriage to Daisy.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us.  It eluded us then, but that’s no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . . And one fine morning - ” - pg 159, chapter 9, Nick comments on the futile quest of happiness that Gatsby was engaged in.