It's fun to have a crush. Will he ask to borrow your pencil in Biology? Will she walk by you in the hall today? Did he really just ask for your phone number?
It's not so fun when the object of your crush is married with a two-year-old child. But Gatsby still acts like this is middle school: his crush on Daisy has driven him to bootleg alcohol, buy a house across the bay, throw lavish parties, and befriend Nick. Talk about anticipation! We sure hope it pays off.
Well, kind of. When Nick reunites Daisy with Gatsby, they fall back in love. For a few weeks, it's gravy: she spends her afternoons with him, and he thinks he's thisclose to getting her to leave her studly husband and run off with him. Dream until your dreams come true, Jay.
Oops. It turns out Gatsby has focused all his attention on an illusion, on a dream, rather than an actual person. The reality, of course, fails to live up to his expectations. Daisy isn't the same innocent teenager she used to be. She's a mom with a kid and a family, and no desire to upend her entire life. Talk about frustrating.
Tom challenges Gatsby's claim on Daisy, but it's not a straightforward mano-a-mano duel; it's a sneering battle of who has more social power. (Hint: it's not the up-by-his-bootstraps bootlegger.) Gatsby's dream starts to slip irretrievably away. He loses Daisy to Tom – in more ways than one.
Destruction or Death Wish Stage
Now for a classically tragic ending with a lot of people ending up dead. The thing to keep in mind here is that there are more "deaths" than the literal ones. Gatsby's image of Daisy is now completely dead in the mind of the reader (because she leaves Gatsby behind), and the fiction of Jay Gatsby dies with the arrival of the real James Gatz's father. Talk about tragedy.