The Great Gatsby: Summary

This article by experts contains all you need to know about the summary of The Great Gatsby: synopsis, a timeline diagram, and a detailed overview of the events by chapters. No summary machine would be able to provide you with this much in-depth information about The Great Gatsby plot.

❗ The Great Gatsby: Synopsis

The Great Gatsby is the most famous novel of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is also the most renowned book of the Jazz Age. The book tells about the unattainability of happiness, as the American Dream envisages it. Despite the wealth and fame, the route to the top led Jay Gatsby to a defeat.

📈 The Great Gatsby: Timeline

Below you’ll find an infographic that contains The Great Gatsby timeline. It describes the main novel’s events of 1922.

The Great Gatsby timeline describes the key novel's events of 1922.

📗 The Great Gatsby: Chapter Summaries

The Great Gatsby: Chapter 1 Summary

The novel starts with memories of Nick Carraway, the narrator, who recalls his father’s advice not to judge anyone, as they may not have the same advantages he has. This advice later helped Nick view Gatsby as a victim of his era and see the best in him.

Nick was the representative of the “prominent, well-to-do people” who lived in the same “mid-western city for three generations.” In 1922, Nick arrived in New York, hoping to settle there forever and reinvent himself. He stayed in West Egg village and once decided to visit his cousin, Daisy Buchanan, who lived in East Egg. She was married to Tom Buchanan, Nick’s peer at Yale.

His family were enormously wealthy—even in college his freedom with money was a matter for reproach – but now he’d left Chicago and come east in a fashion that rather took your breath away… It was hard to realize that a man in my own generation was wealthy enough to do that.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 1

Tom is an arrogant man with racist views on life. He is cheating his wife with Myrtle Wilson, who also has a blue-collar husband. Myrtle calls Tom from time to time, raising quarrels between him and his wife. Daisy and Tom have a two-year-old daughter who spends most of the time sleeping in her room. Daisy is doing her best to show that she is happy about her life.

At the Buchanans’, Nick met Jordan Baker, a beautiful golf player. She seemed to be bored all evening and “was incurably dishonest.” After dinner, Daisy and Tom advised Nick to start a romance with her.

On returning home, Nick noticed Mr. Gatsby standing on his lawn and stretching his hands toward the dark water. Tom “distinguished nothing except a single green light” far away.

…He gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone—he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 1

The Great Gatsby: Chapter 2 Summary

The chapter starts with describing “the valley of ashes… bounded on one side by a small foul river”. Above this dismal scene, one can see the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg on the billboard advertising his ophthalmological services.

The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic—their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 2

Nick saw this unpleasant view on his way to New York City with Tom. The latter decided to show Nick his mistress and took him to the auto garage of George Wilson, Myrtle’s husband. In the course of the visit, Tom invited Myrtle to join him on his trip to the city. And so she did, while George ignorantly thought that she would pay a visit to her sister.

Myrtle said she wanted a puppy on the train. Tom bought her one for ten dollars. Nick disapproved of the entire situation and wanted to leave the couple alone, but they did not allow him. They invited him to visit the apartment that Tom kept comfortable for his love affair. All three of them and some other people who came to the party got drunk. It was the only thing that made the evening fun. Myrtle used Daisy’s name too much. The party ended when Tom Buchanan broke her nose because he disapproved of her saying “Daisy” too many times.

‘Daisy! Daisy! Daisy!’ shouted Mrs. Wilson. ‘I’ll say it whenever I want to! Daisy! Dai——‘ Making a short deft movement Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand.’

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 2

The Great Gatsby: Chapter 3 Summary

On Saturday nights, Jay Gatsby arranges luxurious parties. Strangely enough, Nick was one of the few people invited, as all the rest came without invitation. Everyone was gossiping about the mysterious master of the mansion as they were “agonizingly aware of the easy money” he had.

The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music and the opera of voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier, minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 3

Nick felt awkward and did not enjoy the party, although he met Jordan Baker there. They wander around the house looking for Mr. Gatsby. They encountered a man in owl-like spectacles in the “high Gothic” library. The man, who had been drunk for about a week, admitted the “thoroughness” and “realism” of the library.

Nick and Jordan met Jay Gatsby by chance. They happened to be sitting at the same table. Gatsby introduced himself, pointing out that he was a bad host and smiling understandingly.

Nick liked that Gatsby was detached from the party as if watching the events brought him more pleasure than participating in them.

…my eyes fell on Gatsby, standing alone on the marble steps and looking from one group to another with approving eyes. His tanned skin was drawn attractively tight on his face and his short hair looked as though it were trimmed every day.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 3

Later on, Gatsby had a private chat with Jordan, where she learned some “tantalizing” news.

Then the narrator describes his everyday life. He mostly worked, had a short-term relationship with a girl from New Jersey, but then left her to be with Jordan. Although he was attached to Jordan, he disliked her dishonest nature.

The Great Gatsby: Chapter 4 Summary

Nick provides the reader with a short description of people attending Gatsby’s parties. The list gives us a general image of the Roaring Twenties society.

Gatsby visited Nick to take him for lunch. He came in a fancy cream-colored car, wearing a caramel-colored suit. Nick had started to get used to that Gatsby had little to say. But during the ride, the rich mansion owner wondered about Nick’s opinion about him. He didn’t want Nick to “get a wrong idea” about him. That was how Nick learned about Gatsby’s past: he was a son of rich Midwesterners and received his education at Oxford. Nick has doubts about the story, but when he was shown a photo made at Oxford and a medal “Major Jay Gatsby,” he got convinced.

‘I am the son of some wealthy people in the middle-west—all dead now. I was brought up in America but educated at Oxford because all my ancestors have been educated there for many years. It is a family tradition.’

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 4

Still, this vague story made Nick even more curious about who Gatsby really is, which he later discussed with Jordan.

During lunch, they met Gatsby’s partner, and their conversation made Nick think that Gatsby was doing something criminal. Gatsby disappeared as soon as Tom Buchanan arrived.

Later, Nick met Jordan, and she revealed the story of Gatsby’s love for Daisy. Gatsby had bought the house to stay closer to his beloved. Jordan asked Nick to arrange a meeting for Gatsby and Daisy.

The Great Gatsby: Chapter 5 Summary

This chapter contains one of the major events in The Great Gatsby – Jay’s meeting with Daisy. It starts with Gatsby waiting for Nick on his front lawn. He was very excited about the oncoming meeting with Daisy, still trying to hide it. Then Nick was offered to participate in some “confidential sort of thing,” but he disagreed. Unwillingly, Gatsby had to leave.

On the big day, Gatsby was very nervous. He ordered to decorate Nick’s house with flowers. They met, but the conversation dragged. Nick remarked that Daisy was “embarrassed,” and left the two of them alone. On his return, Gatsby was glowing with happiness, and Daisy was crying.

They explored the mansion, and it became evident that all those expensive things and decorations were purchased to impress Daisy. Gatsby’s bedroom was the most low-key room, which supported this assumption.

‘My house looks well, doesn’t it?.. It took me just three years to earn the money that bought it.’

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 5

When Jay asked her opinion about the house, Daisy meaningfully replied: “‘I love it, but I don’t see how you live there all alone.”

Meanwhile, Nick was wondering if Daisy would be able to align with Gatsby’s idealized image of her. After all, he had always been devoted to his love while she opted for comfort and money.

‘They’re such beautiful shirts,’ she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. ‘It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such—such beautiful shirts before.’

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 5

The chapter events came to an end when Nick felt out of place and left them, walking into the rainy night.

The Great Gatsby: Chapter 6 Summary

Reporters started visiting Gatsby’s place as they heard the rumors about the lavish parties. However, they had to leave with more questions than answers.

To disambiguate the rumors that were far from the truth, Nick told the reader more about Gatsby’s life. It was a classic rags-to-riches story. James Gatz was the son of poor farmers in North Dakota. When he was 17, he started calling himself Jay Gatsby.

I suppose he’d had the name ready for a long time, even then. His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people—his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 6

50-year old Dan Cody, a multimillionaire, hired him as an assistant on his Tuolomee boat and eventually became his best friend. It was him whom Nick saw on the portrait in Gatsby’s bedroom in the previous chapter. Mr. Cody left $25,000 for Gatsby after his death, but some legal issues prevented the protagonist from collecting the money. Then Jay decided to become rich and famous.

After a few weeks of silence, Gatsby reappeared at Nick’s place. Tom also turned up with some of his friends. Gatsby said that he knew his wife. Next Saturday, Tom and Daisy came to Jay’s party. Daisy danced with Jay but seemed not to enjoy the party.

Gatsby was depressed by the evening. He thought that Daisy underestimated his feelings for her. But he decided to return her love.

He wanted nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to Tom and say: ‘I never loved you.’ After she had obliterated three years with that sentence they could decide upon the more practical measures to be taken.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 6

The Great Gatsby: Chapter 7 Summary

Next Saturday, there was no party. It turned out that Gatsby had dismissed all his servants and hired new ones “who wouldn’t gossip.”

It was the hottest summer day when Daisy arranged dinner for Gatsby, Nick, Tom, and Jordan. While Tom left the room, she kissed Jay and confessed her love to him. At that moment, the nurse and her little daughter entered the room. Although Gatsby was looking at the girl, Daisy kept ignoring her.

Tom discovered that Daisy and Jay are in love. Her remark that Jay resembled “an advertisement of a man” was too revealing, just as her glance.

‘Self control!’ repeated Tom incredulously. ‘I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that’s the idea you can count me out.’

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 7

Tom suggested that the whole company went to the city. It was the day when Gatsby started noticing Daisy’s corruption: “Her voice is full of money.”

Tom, Nick, and Jordan went by Gatsby’s luxurious yellow car, which Tom called a “circus wagon.” Daisy and Gatsby went by Tom’s blue coupe. Tom had to refill Gatsby’s car with gas and drove into Wilson’s garage. Wilson had learned that his wife was cheating on him, but he did not know with whom. Thus he decided to move to another place.

In the city, Gatsby revealed that Daisy had never loved Tom and that it was he whom she loved. Tom wanted to protest, but Daisy confirmed it. Finally, she said that she loved both of them.

‘Oh, you want too much!’ she cried to Gatsby. ‘I love you now—isn’t that enough? I can’t help what’s past.’ She began to sob helplessly. ‘I did love him once—but I loved you too.’

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 7

Meanwhile, Myrtle quarreled with Wilson, ran into the street, and was hit by a car to death. Daisy was driving that car.

Later, Nick saw the reconciled couple.

Daisy and Tom were sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table with a plate of cold fried chicken between them and two bottles of ale… They weren’t happy,.. and yet they weren’t unhappy either. There was an unmistakable air of natural intimacy about the picture and anybody would have said that they were conspiring together.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 7

The Great Gatsby: Chapter 8 Summary

Gatsby was waiting under the window all night, but Daisy did not go out to him. The next morning, Nick told him it would be better to forget Daisy and leave the place.

Then Jay filled Nick in on the details of his and Daisy’s past. He admired her wealth, and even the fact that other men loved her attracted him. Jay lied to Daisy that he was from the same social class. They spent a night together, and “he felt married to her.”

He had intended, probably, to take what he could and go—but now he found that he had committed himself to the following of a grail. He knew that Daisy was extraordinary but he didn’t realize just how extraordinary a ‘nice’ girl could be.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 8

But then he was sent to WWI, and Daisy got married to Tom.

Before he left, Nick told Gatsby that he was much better than all that “rotten crowd.” It was “the only compliment” Nick ever gave him, and he was glad he did.

The next day Nick had an unpleasant telephone conversation with Jordan. Last night’s events made him decide to cease communication with Tom and Daisy and break up with Jordan.

Then the reader learns what happened after Myrtle’s death. Wilson knew his wife was leading a double life. He suspected that the driver that killed her was her lover and promised to get revenge. The car was Gatsby’s, and he came to the mansion and killed the car owner, and then shot himself. Nick found Gatsby dead in the pool.

The Great Gatsby: Chapter 9 Summary

Two years passed. Nick recalled the first days after Gatsby’s death. The reporters were relishing the so-called love affair between Gatsby and Myrtle. They visited the mansion to find something worth writing about.

Nick was the only person interested in finishing Gatsby’s affairs. Daisy and Tom disappeared. He tried to get in touch with his family, but only his father, Mr. Gatz, replied. It became clear that nobody was interested in Jay as a person. He was needed only as a source of fun and entertainment. Henry Gatz, Nick, and Owl Eyes, the drunk man from the library, were the only people who attended Gatsby’s funeral.

During Nick’s last meeting with Jordan, she said she was engaged with another man. He did not believe her but left “angry, and half in love with her.”

Nick met Tom in New York once again. Tom said it was he who told Wilson that Gatsby ran over Myrtle in his car. However, Nick did not tell Tom it was Daisy’s fault. They destroyed people’s lives and went on with their careless existence, as Nick noted to himself.

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 9

Once again, Nick wanders near Gatsby’s mansion, looking at the far green light of Daisy’s house. It reminded him of the “green breast of the new world” for the Dutch sailors. Just as they, “Gatsby believed in the green light,” as the American Dream envisages it.

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—tomorrow 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.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 9

We hope that the above summary of The Great Gatsby is useful. If you want to learn more about the novel, check out both Themes and Symbols sections. And if you’re looking for exciting essay ideas on the story, feel free to use our topics list. And don’t forget that if you’re going to write a paper on this topic, you can use a Chicago cover page generator (or any other style of your choosing) to quickly create the title sheet and go straight to the creative process.

🔗 References

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