The Great Gatsby Book Summary - The Great Gatsby Book explained in key points
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The Great Gatsby summary

F. Scott Fitzgerald

A Classic Novel on the American Dream of the Roaring Twenties

4.6 (132 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a classic novel set in the 1920s. It tells the story of the wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the married Daisy Buchanan, exploring themes of wealth, love, and the corruption of the American dream.

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    The Great Gatsby
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    A date with Jay Gatsby

    It’s spring of 1922 when Nick Carraway moves into a bungalow on Long Island, in the neighborhood of West Egg. Nick works as a bondsman in New York City. He is a veteran of World War I, and an alumnus of Yale University. During the day, he works his desk job and rides the commuter train back and forth. At night, he finds himself gazing toward the massive home of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. 

    Not far from Nick, just on the other side of the bay in East Egg, lives Daisy Buchanan, who is his distant cousin. Daisy is now married to Tom Buchanan, though it’s not what you’d call a happy marriage. Shortly after moving in, Nick goes to visit Daisy – and the tensions are obvious. Tom’s mistress is known to call the house frequently. It’s an open secret that no one talks about.

    At Daisy’s palatial home, Nick also meets Miss Jordan Baker. She’s a friend of Daisy’s and is a successful amateur golfer. Thanks to Jordan, Nick gains some insights into Daisy’s rocky marriage and hears the first rumors about his neighbor, the enigmatic Jay Gatsby.

    Is he a bootlegger? Did he kill someone? Is he a descendant of European aristocracy? This is some of the popular gossip that’s circling around Gatsby. The only thing everyone is certain about is that Gatsby throws the best, most glamorous parties. However, when Nick returns home the night after visiting the Buchanans for the first time, he sees Gatsby standing alone on the beach. He senses a deep longing as his neighbor stands there – looking across the bay, trembling, with his arms stretched out before him. It seems like Gatsby is focusing on a single green light that marks the end of a dock over in East Egg.

    Not long afterward, Nick is taken to a party by Tom Buchanan. Accompanying them that night is Tom’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson, and her sister, Catherine. Catherine tells Nick more about Gatsby – like the rumor that he’s a nephew or cousin to Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm. Nick also learns that Myrtle is in an unhappy marriage of her own, to George Wilson, who runs a gas station on Long Island.

    Nick’s curiosity about Gatsby begins to grow. He’s been watching the parade of people coming and going from the enigmatic man’s house. He’s seen the lights, the music, the mountains of citrus rinds that pile up as the night’s festivities continue and countless cocktails flow. Then, one day, Gatsby's chauffeur finally knocks on Nick’s door and hand-delivers a signed card inviting him to that night’s “little party.”

    Even though Nick is wearing his best white flannel attire for the party, he immediately feels out of place. There are a lot of young Englishmen milling about. He gets the sense that most of them are salesmen who are practically drooling over the money on display – and the promise of future sales. When he tries to ask the guests where the host might be, the responses are so barbed that Nick slinks away to the cocktail bar with embarrassment.

    Fortunately, Nick then spots a lifeline in the form of Jordan Baker, who is calmly attending to a couple of young female fans. Nick practically throws himself at her, and the conversation once again ends up on Gatsby and the many swirling rumors. Is he a German spy? A killer?

    No one knows where the host is, however, and so Nick and Jordan mix and mingle. Nick is finally beginning to loosen up and enjoy himself. At some point, they sit down at a table with a man who appears to be in his early thirties. The gentleman asks Nick, “Weren’t you in the Third Division during the war?” Nick confirms that he was, while the man explains that he was in the Seventh Infantry. Nick tells him it’s a strange party – that he lives next door but still hasn’t met the host.

    Now, as you might have guessed, that man who was in the Seventh Infantry is Jay Gatsby. Nick is taken aback, and Gatsby apologizes for not being a very good host, “old sport.” From their very first meeting, that’s what Gatsby likes to call Nick.

    Now that he’s finally face to face with Gatsby, the first thing Nick notices is his smile. It’s reassuring – the kind of smile you only come across a few times in life. It gives him confidence and makes him feel understood. Once the smile vanishes, however, things get fuzzier. Nick sees Gatsby as an elegant roughneck who chooses his words quite carefully. Questions and doubts persist.

    Gatsby arranges to meet Nick in the morning, so they can go for a ride in his hydroplane. He then gets up to take a phone call from Chicago, leaving Nick and Jordan to once again speculate about their mysterious host. Jordan has heard a rumor that he went to Oxford, but she still finds it hard to believe.

    As spring turns to summer, Nick and Jordan begin dating and spending more time together. Nick hasn’t seen much of Gatsby – until one late July morning, when he pulls up to Nick’s house in his beautiful Rolls-Royce automobile. 

    That day, Gatsby opens up to him. He explains that he’s from San Francisco, and that his parents had died and left him a fortune. After that, he traveled around Europe, attending Oxford for a while, went hunting, collected rubies, painted, and then became a decorated soldier during the war. Some, if not all of these details, sound suspect to Nick. The way Gatsby chokes on the word “Oxford.” The way every detail sounds so generic. But then Gatsby produces a ribboned medal of valor with his name inscribed upon it, and a photo of him and two other men taken at Oxford. Maybe it is all true.

    After this meeting, things slowly begin to get clearer. Gatsby says he’s aware that Nick is going to have tea with Jordan later that day – and that he’s allowed Miss Baker to reveal what she knows about himself and Daisy.

    You see, five years ago, Jordan visited Daisy while she was living with her family in Louisville, Kentucky. That day, there was a uniformed officer with Daisy. This man wasn’t just there for polite conversation. The way he looked at her, it was obvious he adored her. And yes, that officer was Gatsby. Later, when Jordan met Gatsby in Long Island, she didn’t recognize him at first. But then, at a party, Gatsby pulled Jordan aside – and all the pieces snapped into place. Daisy and Gatsby were in love. But when he went to war something happened. Daisy was miserable, and she married Tom and had a child. Upon his return, Gatsby – still in love – bought a mansion on Long Island where he could stare across the bay at the Buchanans’ home. 

    Now, Gatsby wants to know if Nick can arrange a date. He knows Daisy is a relative, so he hopes that Nick will invite her to his bungalow for tea – thereby setting up the possibility for Gatsby to stop by. Nick agrees to help.

    Analysis

    1. Let’s take a moment to briefly interrupt the narrative and have a look at what’s happened so far.

    The early chapters of the book offer a lot of world-building. Through Nick’s eyes, we see what life was like in and around New York City and Long Island in the early 1920s. We have the very wealthy clique, who are the Buchanans and Gatsby. We have Nick sitting in the white-collar middle class. And then we have the Wilsons, who live and work at their gas station, as representatives of the working class. Everyone, no matter their station in life, seems to long for the distraction that booze, music, and partying can provide.

    We also see how these different classes interact – often through romances, affairs, and what they covet. Tom is having an affair with Myrtle Wilson and basically takes advantage of her desire to be away from her husband and the gas station. Tom feels entitled, and the way he takes Daisy for granted is rather reprehensible.

    Meanwhile, just as Myrtle Wilson longs to be with Tom, Gatsby longs to be with Daisy. One of the strongest themes in the book is jealousy, which is often signified by the color green – jealousy is the green-eyed monster. Most significantly, there’s the green light that marks the dock behind Daisy's house. It represents that thing we all long for but can’t have.

    At this point, Gatsby is still something of a mystery, even though we’ve learned about his previous relationship with Daisy. Gatsby and Daisy were in love, but something kept them apart – what was it? In the next section, we’ll find out.

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    What is The Great Gatsby about?

    The Great Gatsby (1925) tells the tale of a tragic romance set against a Roaring Twenties backdrop of hedonism and excess. It's considered a defining work of America’s Jazz Age and the time leading up to the Great Depression. With sales surpassing 30 million copies worldwide, it’s among the twentieth century’s most enduring novels.

    The Great Gatsby Review

    The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald explores the decadence and disillusionment of the Roaring Twenties. Here's why this book is worth a read:

    • Immerse yourself in the lavish jazz age parties and the opulent lifestyle of the rich, as Fitzgerald vividly portrays the excesses of the time.
    • Through the mysterious and enigmatic character of Jay Gatsby, the novel delves into the themes of love, obsession, and the American Dream.
    • Fitzgerald's masterful storytelling and prose capture the essence of the era and transport readers to a world of glamour, ambition, and tragedy.

    Who should read The Great Gatsby?

    • Lovers of classic literature
    • Fans of 1920s glitz and glamour
    • Anyone interested in the mythology of the American Dream

    About the Author

    F. Scott Fitzgerald was an influential novelist and short story writer. His writing’s popularity declined during his lifetime, but there was a resurgence of interest following his death in 1940. Since then, his work has been widely celebrated by readers and critics alike. His other novels include This Side of Paradise and Tender is the Night.

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    The Great Gatsby FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Great Gatsby?

    The main message of The Great Gatsby is the allure and emptiness of the American Dream.

    How long does it take to read The Great Gatsby?

    The reading time for The Great Gatsby varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just a few minutes.

    Is The Great Gatsby a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Great Gatsby is definitely worth reading. It offers a compelling story and a haunting exploration of love, wealth, and the human condition.

    Who is the author of The Great Gatsby?

    The author of The Great Gatsby is F. Scott Fitzgerald.