The Great Gatsby Summary
Our narrator, Nick Carraway, begins The Great Gatsby by giving us some advice of his father's about not criticizing others. (But—but what if they're lying, possibly sociopathic murderers?) And now it's time to meet our cast of characters: Nick's second cousin once removed Daisy Buchanan; her large and aggressive husband, Tom Buchanan; and Jordan Baker. Jordan's a girl, and she quickly becomes a romantic interest for our narrator. Probably because she's the only girl around who isn't his cousin.
While the Buchanans live on the fashionable East Egg (we're talking Long Island, NY in the 1920's, by the way), Nick lives on the less-elite but not-too-shabby West Egg, which sits across the bay from its twin town. We (and Nick) are soon fascinated by a certain Mr. Jay Gatsby, a wealthy and mysterious man who owns a huge mansion next door to Nick and spends a good chunk of his evenings standing on his lawn and looking at an equally mysterious green light across the bay. Ookay.
Tom takes Nick to the city to show off his mistress, a woman named Myrtle Wilson who is, of course, married. Myrtle's husband, George, is a passive, working-class man who owns an auto garage and is oblivious to his wife's extramarital activities. Nick, who has some good old-fashioned values from his childhood growing up in the "Middle West," is none too impressed by Tom. Check out our Gatsby themes for more on that.
Back on West Egg, this Gatsby fellow has been throwing absolutely killer parties, where everyone and his mother can come and get wasted and try to figure out how Gatsby got so rich. Nick meets and warily befriends the mystery man at one of his huge Saturday night affairs. He also begins spending time with Jordan, who turns out to be loveable in all her cynical practicality.
Moving along, Gatsby introduces Nick to his "business partner," Meyer Wolfsheim. Hm. This is starting to sound fishy. Next, Gatsby reveals to Nick (via Jordan, in the middle school phone-tag kind of way) that he and Daisy had a love thing before he went away to the war and she married Tom, after a serious episode of cold feet that involved whisky and a bathtub. Gatsby wants Daisy back, and he enlists Nick to help him stage an "accidental" reuniting.
Nick executes the plan; Gatsby and Daisy are reunited and start an affair. Everything continues swimmingly until Tom meets Gatsby, doesn't like him, and begins investigating his affairs. Nick, meanwhile, knows all about it: Gatsby grew up in a poor, uneducated family until he met the wealthy and elderly Dan Cody, who took him in as a companion and taught him how to act rich. But Dan isn't the one who left him the money.
The big scene goes down in the city, when Tom has it out with Gatsby over who gets to be with Daisy; in short, Gatsby is outed as a bootlegger and Daisy is unable to leave her husband. Everyone drives home, probably in a really bad mood, and Tom's mistress, Myrtle, is struck and killed by Gatsby's car (in which Gatsby and Daisy are riding). Gatsby tells Nick that Daisy was driving, but that he's going to take the blame for it. Tom, meanwhile, feeds Gatsby to the wolves—or at least the ticked-off husband—by telling Myrtle's husband George where to find him. Bang-bang, and George Wilson and Gatsby are both dead.
Daisy and Tom take off, leaving their mess behind. Nick, who by now has had just about enough of these people, ends things off with Jordan in a way that's about one step up from breaking up via text message. He arranges Gatsby's funeral, which is very sparsely attended—although Gatsby's dad does show up with some more info about his past. Standing on Gatsby's lawn and looking at the green light (which, BTW, turned out to be the light in front of Daisy's house across the bay), Nick concludes that nostalgia just ends up forcing us constantly back into the past. Here is a deeper analysis if you're intrigued.
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- We meet our narrator, Nick Carraway. Hello, narrator!
- First thing he does is pass along some of his father's advice: "Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had" (1.2).
- Great, we love a book that begins with a lecture.
- We learn that our narrator is non-judgmental. As a result, people tell him their life stories like he's a bartender on Cheers.
- We find out that he is "a Carraway," which apparently means that he's got wealth and class. And he went to Yale.
- Ooh, fancy.
- This Carraway fellow introduces us to the setting: New York City and the twin villages of West Egg and East Egg in Long Island.
- Please note that West Egg, where Carraway lives, is not as fancy-shmancy as East Egg. But it's still pretty fancy-shmancy compared to the rest of the world.
- On this "less fashionable" Egg, Nick Carraway lives next to a huge mansion inhabited by a mysterious Mr. Gatsby. More on him later.
- By the way, Nick Carraway is "bond man." Not, like, posting bail, but trading stocks and bonds. In other words, he's a stockbroker/ financier type.
(Click the summary infographic to download.)
- Nick heads over to East Egg to have dinner with Daisy, his second cousin once removed, and her husband, Tom Buchanan, an old college buddy.
- The Buchanans have tons of money, and Nick likes to tell us all about it.
- We see that Tom is a rather large and "aggressive" former football player. In other words, this guy is not the sensitive, lyric-writing type.
- We then meet two women dressed in white – Daisy, of course, and her friend, Jordan Baker.
- Daisy and Tom have a child, who spends the majority of her two-year-old time sleeping in the other room.
- How convenient.
- When, in friendly cocktail conversation, Nick casually mentions Gatsby, Daisy gets particularly interested.
- In general, Daisy spends Chapter 1 being happy and excited about life and having a bruise that Tom accidentally gave her.
- There's also talk of the peculiar qualities of her excited little voice.
- The following is a rather dramatic scene: Tom gets a phone call, Daisy freaks out and goes to yell at him, and Jordan reveals that Tom is messing around on the side.
- Not only that, but he's messing around with a woman tactless enough to call his house all the time to ask what's up. We get the feeling that the tactless bit is the real problem.
- Daisy comes back and talks about when her daughter was born: Tom wasn't there, and she wished that her daughter would be a "beautiful little fool"—i.e., too dumb to know any better.
- It turns out that Jordan is an athlete (golf). Nick feels like he's heard about her before, but he can't remember the story. You guess it: more on that later.
- Daisy then jokes about Jordan and Nick getting together. LOL!
- When Nick finally gets home to West Egg, he notices that his neighbor, Mr. Gatsby, is out chilling on the lawn and maybe contemplating the addition of some plastic flamingoes to his "blue lawn." Why is the lawn always blue? Good question.
- Except that Gatsby is not just chilling and thinking about flamingoes. He stares across the water at a lone green light before stretching his arm out towards it oh-so-symbolically. (Really. Check out our "Symbols" section for more about that green light.)
- Nick describes the land that lies in between the Eggs and New York as a "valley of ashes" (2.1), which sounds really unpleasant.
- Above this dead land—er, "Waste Land," perhaps?—are the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, or rather, a billboard that features the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg.
- No, it's not socialite graffiti, just an advertisement for an eye doctor. But we get the feeling it's meaningful.
- In case you're interested in colors (and in this book, we recommend it), the eyes are blue and the spectacles yellow.
- Anyway, the whole reason we hear about these ashes and eyes is that Nick is traveling to the city with Tom, who insists on stopping to show Nick his mistress.
- We love show and tell!
- The mistress is the wife of an auto mechanic named George B. Wilson – at least, that's the name on the front of his repair shop.
(Click the summary infographic to download.)
- Tom acts like a jerk towards the husband (who is doing some sort of car work for him) and then sends the wife (Myrtle) a not-so-covert message to come with him to the city.
- George (Myrtle's husband) is blissfully ignorant. He thinks Myrtle just goes to the city to visit her sister.
- On the train on the way to the city, Myrtle wants a puppy.
- So Tom buys her a puppy. Obviously.
- This whole situation is so wrong that Nick tries to jump ship. But the happy couple doesn't let him.
- In the city, they head to the adulterous sex apartment and meet up with others, including a Mr. McKee and Myrtle's sister, Catherine.
- They drink a lot of Tom's whiskey, and Nick gets drunk for the second time in his life.
- When Nick reveals that he lives in West Egg, one of the drunken revelers goes on and on about the fabulous parties that this guy Gatsby throws.
- Myrtle's sister whispers to Nick that Myrtle and Tom both hate their spouses. So, apparently, Tom has told Myrtle some lies to string her along without having to divorce Daisy.
- There is some discussion of not marrying below your social caste, which apparently Myrtle did.
- Tom tells Myrtle to stop saying Daisy's name.
- Myrtle, of course, says "Daisy, Daisy, Daisy."
- ... and then Tom breaks her nose.
- Nick gets too drunk to remember how he got into bed.
(Click the summary
infographic to download.)
- Nick describes the elaborate parties (orchestra and everything) that Jay Gatsby throws most nights throughout the summer. Hordes of people arrive to get their collective grooves on.
- Many of them never meet Gatsby, and most were not invited.
- But Nick is invited--via Gatsby's chauffer.
- He meets Jordan at the party, we're reminded she is a golfer, and everybody gossips about the mysterious Gatsby and how he might be a murderer or in the CIA or something.
- (Well, probably not the CIA, founded in 1947. But you get the point.)
- Nick wanders into the library (you can tell he's not a big party aficionado) and meets a man with owl-eyed spectacles who is in awe that all these books are real – pages and everything!
- Owl-eyed man also utters one of the famous Fitzgerald lines: "I've been drunk for about a week now, and I thought it might sober me up to sit in a library."
- Back outside, Nick meets an unknown man who gives him the old "you look familiar" line. They chat about having both been in the war (WWI).
- Turns out, the mysterious man is the mysterious Gatsby. Who'd have thought? Certainly not Nick, who expected Gatsby to be older than him. (Nick's about 30.)
- Gatsby leaves to take a phone call, and later sends his butler to get Jordan for a private chat.
- Inside the house, Nick watches a woman with red hair singing along to a piano and weeping black mascara tears.
- Everyone is fighting with his or her spouse. The men are mad because they're not being allowed to talk to the hot young things, and the women are mad because their husbands are trying to talk to the hot young things.
- Presumably the hot young things are enjoying themselves just fine.
- Jordan comes back from the chat with Gatsby; she taunts Nick (and us) about the "tantalizing" news without revealing any of it. She then tells Nick to come and visit her at her aunt's house.
- Gatsby says goodnight to Nick with his signature "old sport" usage. They have plans to go up in his "hydroplane" tomorrow.
- BUT the excitement isn't over yet. Nick sees that a coupe leaving the driveway has hit a wall and lost a wheel.
- The driver? None other than the owl-eyed man himself.
- No, wait – moments after that we find out he was not, in fact, the driver. There was someone else in the car. We suggest you dog-ear this page for later reference.
- That's it for the night of the party.
- Nick falls into his work-eat-sleep routine and Jordan doesn't pop up again until mid-summer, when they start hanging out together.
- Nick tells us it isn't love, but that it's curiosity.
- Sure, dude. Whatever you need to tell yourself.
- When Jordan lies about leaving the top down in a borrowed convertible, it jogs Nick's memory about that "story" he had been trying to remember regarding Jordan: she may have cheated in a professional golf tournament once.
- Yet another classic Fitzgerald line: "Dishonesty in a woman is something you never blame deeply." Ha.
- She's also a horrible driver, but we're not making any women jokes about that—especially since it's not true.
- Nick tells her to be careful, but Jordan says no, it's fine, as long as other people are careful drivers. She says she hopes that she never meets a person as careless as herself. "I hate careless people," she tells Nick. "That's why I like you."
- Nick is sold. He realizes he needs to break things off with a certain girl back in Chicago, and then congratulates himself on being one of the few honest people he has ever known.
- We hear some more guesses as to Gatsby's occupation. (Murderer? Bootlegger? Movie critic?)
- Apparently, background matters: Nick goes on and on about the names, occupations, and personal histories of all the people who come to Gatsby's parties.
- Gatsby comes to get Nick for lunch in his huge and fancy yellow Rolls-Royce (got to show off that wealth).
- He explains to Nick his own personal history: he's the son of wealthy Midwesterners and he was educated at Oxford.
- Nick recalls that the general public, and more specifically Jordan, has some doubts about Gatsby's Oxford claim.
- Gatsby says he's from San Francisco (which doesn't exactly seem like the Middle West to us, but whatever). He also talks about the war and shows Nick a medal that says "Major Jay Gatsby."
- If that were not enough, he shows a photograph of him with the old Oxford gang.
- Nick is sold. He believes Gatsby.
- But FYI, if you ever need to see photographic proof to believe your friends' stories, it's probably a bad sign.
- AHA! Turns out Gatsby was just buttering him up to ask for a big favor; he wants Nick to talk with Jordan about something. Something vague. Nick isn't too happy about being used.
- When he's pulled over by a policeman, Gatsby simply reveals his identity and gets off the hook, Tony Soprano style.
- Once they get to the city, Gatsby introduces Nick to his business partner, Mr. Wolfsheim.
- Nick instinctively knows that there is something fishy about the working partnership.
- We're starting to think this is more Enoch Thompson-style than Tony Soprano-style.
- Supposedly, Mr. Wolfsheimfixed the World Series of 1919. We don't even have to tell you whose style that is.
- Oh, we forgot to mention: Mr. Wolfsheim's cufflinks are made of human molars. (Kurtz-style from Heart of Darkness.)
- And then Nick sees none other than Tom Buchanan across the room. He goes to introduce Gatsby, but Gatsby has bolted.
- They meet Tom by accident, but when Nick turns to introduce Gatsby to Tom, Gatsby has disappeared. Again. The plot thickens.
- Jordan later tells Nick the story of how Gatsby and Daisy met in October, 1917. Jordan herself saw them together; Daisy (all dressed in white – get used to that) was eighteen and the Queen Bee of high society, and Gatsby was a young officer head-over-heels in love with her.
- By 1918, Jordan had her own boyfriends and had begun to play in tournaments. We don't think this is relevant, but Jordan clearly did.
- Daisy's family, meanwhile, had prevented Daisy from going to say good-bye to this solider. Daisy responded with a teenage "I hate you! I'm never leaving my room again!" which lasted until the next fall, when she was once again Queen Bee'ing her way around town. This time, though, she was running in "older" circles with a more sophisticated crowd.
- By June of 1919, Daisy was married to Tom, whose massive wealth probably helped with the proposal.
- BUT, Jordan saw Daisy the night before her wedding, completely drunk. She was waving a letter about in the air and saying she's "chang' her mine!" which is drunk Daisy for "I don't want to marry Tom because I still love Gatsby and also Tom's kind of a jerk and potentially abusive."
- Apparently Jordan failed to deliver Daisy's sloshed message, because by the following April, in 1920, Daisy had given birth to a little girl.
- Daisy, it seemed, was crazy about her husband by the time she got back from the honeymoon. We'll let you speculate about why.
- Whether Tom felt the same way about Daisy is up for grabs, since shortly after their honeymoon it is suggested that he was fooling around with a hotel maid.
- Also, Daisy doesn't drink. Well, at least since that wedding eve incident.
- Jordan continues the story. Six weeks ago, when Daisy first heard of Gatsby again, she started to ask questions and realized it was the man she had loved so long ago.
- That's it for Jordan's history of Daisy. Jordan then explains to Nick that Gatsby only bought his house so he would be near Daisy.
- She also proposes Gatsby's plan: that Nick invite Daisy over for tea (without Tom) and then have Gatsby casually drop by.
- Nick says, "Sure, but let's stop talking about them so we can make out." Roughly speaking.
(Click the summary infographic to download.)
(Click the summary infographic to download.)
- When Nick arrives home after his talk with Jordan, Gatsby is waiting for him, excited as a little kid on Christmas morning. But he tries to hide it and play Mr. Cool.
- Gatsby offers Nick the opportunity to make some money on the side…very suspicious. Nick says no, playing it off as though he's just too busy.
- On the big day, Gatsby is all nerves. He's afraid that she's not coming, that the food isn't right, that the sky is too blue, etc.
- When Daisy gets there, as usual, we hear all about her voice and how special and excited it is.
- Nick tries to leave the two alone for a minute but even the silence sounds awkward, so he joins them again.
- Gatsby gives Nick the old "can I see you for a minute?" and in the other room flips out about how badly things are going.
- Nick suggests Daisy might feel less uncomfortable were they NOT speaking about her in clearly audible tones in the next room. Right.
- Nick runs outside and chills in the rain while the two do their thing.
- When he finally comes back, Gatsby is glowing, and Daisy is crying. We'll let you deduce what transpired in the interim. (But really, all they did is talk.)
- While Daisy is powdering her nose, Nick and Gatsby look with awe on Gatsby's house. Gatsby slips up a little when he says it took him three years to earn the money for it, and when Nick questions his earlier statement that he inherited the money, Gatsby gets suddenly defensive. Hmm!
- As they explore Gatsby's house, Nick thinks he hears the ghostly laughter of the owl-eyed man in the library.
- It becomes painfully obvious that Gatsby only has such a fine house and such fine things for the purpose of impressing Daisy.
- When Daisy sees Gatsby's collection of expensive shirts, she cries about how beautiful they are.
- Nick muses that, since Daisy is now here with Gatsby, the green light loses its magical mystery significance. The present, it seems, doesn't really live up to the past ideals.
- OK, this is important: While they're perusing his house, Gatsby explains that a large framed picture is one Mr. Dan Cody, supposedly an "old friend." Keep this in mind.
- They go downstairs and have this man Klipspringer play "The Love Nest" on the piano.
- Nick heads home, leaving Gatsby and Daisy alone together.
- A newspaper man from the city has heard the great rumors about this mysterious Mr. Gatsby who throws lavish parties. He comes (in vain) to get information from Jay.
- Nick decides to tell us the truth about Gatsby's past, since apparently, the man lied about everything. Even his name. So here's the real deal:
- Gatsby was born "James Gatz." (It is kind of cute how he just played around with the "y" sound.)
- And he didn't grow up wealthy; he grew up poor.
- "Jay Gatsby" was born the day James Gatz, at 17, rowed out to meet Dan Cody's yacht, to tell him that a "wind might catch up and break him up in half an hour." Dan Cody (sound familiar?) became his mentor and best friend. He spent the next five years as Cody's steward, mate, skipper, secretary, and, sometimes, when Cody got too drunk, jailor--and probably vomiting-head-holder, too. There's a reason Gatsby drinks so little.
- Nick recalls the portrait of the man in Gatsby's bedroom. We're a step ahead of you, Nick.
- According to Cody's will, Gatsby was supposed to inherit his money – but Cody's mistress intervened and kept it for herself.
- And that's the real deal. Nick says he didn't find this out until much later, but he wants to dish it to us now.
- Back to the story at hand. Nick is chilling at Gatsby's place when this man Sloane and the girl he's with stop by – with Tom Buchanan.
- Gatsby goes about entertaining these unannounced and rather presumptuous guests.
- Now that Gatsby has, in his mind, secured Daisy, he's rather aggressive to Tom, taunting subtly, "I know your wife."
- Tom, who hates to be out-manned by anyone, takes an instant dislike to Gatsby. Can't blame him.
- Sloane's girl invites Gatsby to come to dinner, even though the guys clearly don't want him—and the girl might have just been Mean-Girling it up a little. Gatsby decides to join anyway.
- As Gatsby goes to get dressed, the trio leaves without him. Ooh, burn.
- The next Saturday, Tom and Daisy both come to Gatsby's party, apparently just asking for trouble.
- Daisy and Gatsby sneak over to Nick's house to have some couple time on his front steps.
- At dinner, Tom leaves to eat at another table. Daisy knows what it's all about – she tells Nick that the girl is "common but pretty" and even goes so far as to give Tom her "little gold pencil" in case he needs to write anything down (like a phone number, for instance, or a "let's meet here to have an affair" address).
- Nick tells us that the tone of this party is different from the others; everyone is hostile, drunk, and kind of rude.
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- There is some general fascination with a movie star who is there with her director. Said director has been staring at her loveliness and finally goes to kiss her on the neck. This woman, sitting under a—wait for it—WHITE tree, is clearly the object of this man's fascination. Hmm.
- Aside from the pretty actress, Daisy doesn't like the crudeness of the crowd, or of West Egg in general. But she pretends to be impressed with it when Tom starts knocking the party.
- Tom wants to find out "the truth" about Gatsby – mostly how he got his money, which to a mind like Tom's is pretty much your defining feature.
is extremely certain that Gatsby's money came from drugstores, but we're still not sure.
- Nick stays until the bitter end. He talks with Gatsby, who is concerned that he "can't make Daisy understand."
- "Understand what?" you might be thinking. And rightly so. Nick tells us that Gatsby wants the impossible out of Daisy: "He wanted nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to Tom and say: 'I never loved you.'"
- Nick cautions Gatsby that he can't repeat the past.
- Gatsby isn't buying it.
- Nick imagines Gatsby as a younger man courting the eighteen-year-old Daisy. Gatsby wanted to "gulp" down everything that surrounded her – her life, the culture of the wealthy, the wonder. It's all very poetic and lovely. You should definitely check out the full passage in your book.
- Nick says he is "reminded of" something that he has long forgotten – but it escapes his mind. Very curious, indeed.
- The next Saturday night rolls around, but Gatsby has locked himself up in his house like an angry curmudgeon on Halloween. No party tonight, folks.
- He has also fired all his servants and hired new ones—suspiciously mean ones--who won't gossip.
- You see, Daisy has started coming around often in the afternoons. And yes, what you think is happening on those afternoons is indeed happening.
- Nick is instructed to go over to East Egg and hang at the Buchanan's house with everyone.
- Fittingly, it is the hottest day ever.
- Nick enters the house to see Daisy and Jordan doing what they do best: wearing white dresses and listening to Tom talk on the phone to his mistress.
- Nick tries to pretend it isn't Tom's mistress on the phone, but he's not fooling anyone.
- Gatsby shows up. Daisy sends Tom into the other room to make a drink and kisses Jay wildly, declaring that she loves him.
- Daisy's daughter makes a minor appearance before being taken back into the care of the Nurse (or nanny).
- Gatsby is slightly upset (although he tries to hide it) at the existence of the child. It's an unpleasant little reminder that this isn't the same Daisy he used to love.
- Tom comes back with drinks, and they all have an extraordinarily strained cocktail time with one another.
- Daisy utters yet another famous Fitzgerald line: "What'll we do with ourselves this afternoon? And the day after that, and the next thirty years?"
- Good question. Maybe get a job? Start a charity? Write a novel?
- Despite the heat, Daisy tells Gatsby: "You always look so cool."
- Don't worry – Nick interprets for us. This is Daisy-speak, he tells us, for "I love you," and since Tom speaks Daisy-speak, the cocktail hour strain increases tenfold.
- To break this tension, they all decide to go into town.
- They bring whiskey, because that helps everything. Not.
- While everyone is getting ready, Nick and Gatsby are alone to discuss Daisy's voice, which Gatsby decides is "full of money." Nick agrees.
- Daisy and Gatsby go in the Buchanans' car (blue) and Tom drives Gatsby's car (yellow) with Nick and Jordan as passengers.
- Tom realizes two things: First, his wife is having an affair with Gatsby. Second, Jordan and Nick know about the whole thing.
- They pass the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg and stop for gas at Wilson's station. Tom's mistress's husband Wilson? Yes, that very one.
- Wilson, who now knows about his wife's affair but doesn't know it's with Tom, reveals that he needs money because he and his wife are going to move out West.
- Nick makes the astute observation that both men (Tom and Wilson) have recently discovered their wives are cheating on them, and that such a discovery can make one physically ill.
- Well, that and the oppressive heat.
- Nick again sees the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg keeping "their vigil," and compares them to another set of eyes: Myrtle Wilson watching from an upstairs window.
- The person she's staring at is Jordan, who she thinks is Tom's wife.
- Tom realizes he's losing control – of his wife and of his mistress.
- The two cars finally stop to figure out where exactly they are going, which is a nice thing to know when you're trying to get there.
- They end up at a suite in the Plaza hotel in an attempt to cool off.
- Tensions increase (yes, it is possible) between Gatsby and Tom. Tom accuses him (again, in the subtle Mean Girls way) of lying about being an Oxford-educated man.
- Gatsby clarifies that he was at Oxford, but only for a few months.
- Tom finally explodes and explicitly calls out the affair. Interestingly, he doesn't seem so much bothered by the infidelity as by the fact that Gatsby is "Mr. Nobody from Nowhere."
- Gatsby waits for Daisy to say her line, but she doesn't, so he tells Tom, "Daisy never loved you."
- Tom says that she does love him, and that in fact he loves her too, even though he's been with everything that walks since they got married.
- Daisy tells Tom he's "revolting" and asks how she could possibly love him now. She has a really hard time saying she never loved him, but she does eventually, after much internal deliberation.
- Tom gets all puppy-dog sad, asking if she loved him here, or there, or that time when he carried her over all those puddles so it wouldn't ruin her favorite pair of shoes.
- Daisy breaks down and admits that, aw, fine, she did at one point love him. But not anymore.
- Gatsby has a major freak out about this. He insists to Tom that Daisy is leaving him.
- Tom reveals that Gatsby is a bootlegger, and Gatsby tries to deny it, but he is so totally busted.
- Daisy begs to go, and they head home with Daisy and Gatsby together in Gatsby's car.
- Nick realizes it is his birthday. He's thirty.
- Everything is progressing quite skippily, if somewhat tensely, until Nick narrates, "So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight."
- Things are pretty much downhill from there.
- Tom, Jordan, and Nick stop at the Wilsons' place again, and it's obvious a tragedy has occurred.
- Michaelis, Wilson's neighbor, reveals that Myrtle came running out when she saw a yellow car. The car struck and killed her, and then sped off without stopping.
- It is obvious to Nick and company that the car was Gatsby's.
- Tom converses with a policeman at the scene of the crime about how the guilty car is YELLOW, but his own car is BLUE.
- As they drive away, Tom whimpers that Gatsby is a "god-damned coward" because he didn't even stop.
- When they get back to Long Island, Nick finds Gatsby waiting outside the Buchanans' house to make sure Tom doesn't get violent with Daisy.
- Gatsby reveals that Daisy was driving the car when it struck Myrtle – but he is prepared to sacrifice himself, to let everybody think that he was the one driving the car.
- Observing a scene of intimacy between Tom and Daisy, Nick realizes that the couple has reconciled. When he leaves, Jay Gatsby is still watching the house, which in Nick's words is "watching over nothing."
(Click the summary infographic to download.)
waits all night but nothing happens. (Good call, Nick.)
- The next morning, Nick warns Gatsby that he should go away for a while. Gatsby can't imagine leaving Daisy at this moment, so he stays.
- Nick tells us that this was the first moment he learned of Gatsby's history – the history he revealed to us back in Chapter Six.
- But we get a few more details, courtesy of the Nick grapevine:
- Daisy was the first "nice" girl Gatsby had ever known or met. His initial plan was to get some backseat action, but then he accidentally fell in love. (It happens.)
- There's a great discussion of class and wealth here. Gatsby felt uncomfortable in Daisy's house – she was simply from a finer world than he. When he finally "took" her (in the sexual sense of the word), it was because he wasn't dignified enough to have any other relationship.
- Nick reveals that Gatsby misled her, too, making her believe he was in a position to offer her the safety and financial security of a good marriage, when in fact all he had to give was some lousy undying love.
- In the war, Gatsby did well for himself (medals and such). He tried to get home as soon as the war was over, but through some administrative error or possibly the hand of God, he was sent to Oxford.
- Meanwhile, Daisy got tired of waiting for him and married Tom (right after the drunken sobfest we heard about earlier).
- Gatsby, desperate, tries to figure out what will happen "now." He tries to reassure himself that Daisy does still love him and that the two of them can live happily ever after.
- In an ominous moment, one of Gatsby's servants details that he's going to have the pool drained. Gatsby comments that he hasn't used the pool all summer.
- We suspect that's going to become important in about half a chapter.
- As he leaves, Nick reveals his feelings for Gatsby when he says, "They're a rotten crowd […]. You're worth the whole damn bunch put together." And YET, Nick reminds us that he "disapproved" of Gatsby "from beginning to end."
- Once he's at work, Jordan calls him on the phone. They are both sort of cold to each other. Their status just changed from "in a relationship" to "it's complicated."
- No, wait, they are both now officially "single." Nick is just sick of the entire crowd and doesn't want to have anything more to do with them.
- Back to the Myrtle death story. We find all of this out from Nick who found out from Michaelis (or possibly some other intermediary):
- Wilson, in the midst of his grieving, revealed that he had recently started to suspect his wife of having an affair. He had found an expensive dog collar in her room (from Tom) and huge bruises on her face one day (also from Tom).
- Wilson came to the sudden conclusion that whoever was driving the car was the same man having an affair with his wife.
- Before she died, Wilson had taken his wife over to the window and told her that she couldn't fool God – that God was always watching. Conveniently, the large eyes of T.J. Eckleburg emerged visible from the fog.
- And that's the end of that menacing little story.
- Back in present time, Wilson goes on a crazy vengeance mission to find out who owns that yellow car. He, of course, ends up at Gatsby's house.
- Gatsby, meanwhile, has decided that it's time to use that pool of his.
- Shots are fired.
- Nick ends up at Gatsby's house, and together with the staff discovers that Wilson has shot Gatsby and then himself. Both are dead.
(Click the summary infographic to download.)
- After dealing with police, photographers, and rubberneckers,Nick tries to get in touch with Daisy. He finds that the Buchanans have gone and left no forwarding address.
- Nick tries to track down friends and family for Gatsby, but no one wants to come and pay their respects.
- There's a mysterious phone call at Gatsby's house that is obviously intended for Gatsby; it confirms that Jay was indeed involved in illegalities.
- Nick is able to delay the funeral, however, until Gatsby's father arrives.
- Mr. Gatz (the father) has typical parental misconceptions; he believes his boy was going to help "build up the country," had he lived.
- A man who knew Gatsby calls. He's too busy to come to the funeral, but he wants a pair of shoes back that he left at the house.
- We feel good about the fact that Nick hangs up on him.
- Nick begins to feel "shame" for Gatsby, who was so generous to so many people but ultimately had only one friend – Nick.
- Nick can't even get Gatsby's business partner, Meyer Wolfsheim, to show up.
- From Gatsby's father, Nick learns how Gatsby wanted always to improve himself as a child – how he wanted to rise above the life of the poor, uneducated family into which he was born.
- He even wrote out little schedules and "resolves" for himself like another young American upstart.
- When we finally get to the funeral, it's a terribly rainy day.
- One other person does show up. Three guesses who it is?
- Fine, we'll just tell you. It's the man with owl-eyed glasses.
- He agrees that it's horrible how hundreds of people came to Gatsby's parties but none came to his funeral.
- Nick is reminded of waiting in train stations on holiday vacations during his youth.
- He goes on about the train stations in the Midwest, and concludes that he and the whole crowd – Daisy, Tom, Jordan, Gatsby – were all westerners who just couldn't cut it in the East.
- He has a vision of something out of an El Greco painting – a drunken woman in white being carried on a stretcher, a woman whose name no one knows or cares about. Those carrying her then bring her into the wrong house.
- After this little vision, Nick decides to go back home. He's had enough of this East business.
- But before he goes, he meets up with Jordan, who accuses him of being "dishonest" after all. She says she trusted him, but it turned out he was as "careless" a driver as she is.
- Nick's cryptic response? "I'm thirty. I'm five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor." He then remarks that he's "half in love with her" and "tremendously sorry" when he leaves.
- Some time later (it seems he's taking it slow with the moving back home bit), Nick runs into Tom Buchanan.
- Tom reveals that he's the one who told Mr. Wilson that the car belonged to Gatsby.
- Nick can't bring himself to utter the truth – that Daisy was the one driving. He doesn't even know anymore whom to believe.
- In the end, Nick realizes that Tom and Daisy were "careless people," people who made messes and then left others to clean them up.
- Deeper analysis of the ending.
the summary infographic to download.)
- Outside of Gatsby's large, empty house, Nick wanders the "blue lawn" and gazes at the "green light" across the bay – the light on Daisy's house.
- He thinks of what the island must have looked like years ago to the first sailors that came to "the new world."
- Gatsby was trying to run towards his dream, without realizing it was in the past behind him.
- We end with one of the most famous passages in American literature: "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter – to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…And one fine morning--So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past" (9.151).