The Great Gatsby

Title: The Great Gatsby

Author: R. Scott Fitzgerald, published in 1925

Genre: Modernist novel, jazz age novel

Historical Information about this time period:

-during the 1920s

-prohibition era (drinking = illegal)

-a lot of smuggling and organized crime occurred due to the laws

-post-war economic boom (a lot of new wealth, which created the garish style of living in West Egg because they weren’t used to displaying their wealth moderately yet)

about author: -born in 1896, got his name from Francis Key Scott (who wrote the star spangled banner)

Plot summary:

Nick (an Yale-educated scholar) comes to NY for business and lives in WEst Egg, LI next to Jay Gatsby, a mysterious man who throws lavish parties. Nick has connections to East Egg through Daisy (Nick’s cousin) and her husband Tom, and his later girlfriend Jordan. We soon learn that Tom and Daisy have a very unstable marriage because Tom has a mistress, but Gatsby is in love with Daisy and Tom gets irrationally jealous about this. Nick often seems to be separated from the social action because he considers himself above many of the obnoxious and rowdy people at the parties he attends, especially at Tom’s New York apartment (reserved for his affair).  Nick observes Gatsby and his parties quite frequently, and one day he decides to go to the party with Jordan, meeting Gatsby on accident. The two of them become great friends and Gatsby tells Nick about his life-long plan of getting rich and being with Daisy.  Gatsby often finds himself looking out on his dock at the green light shining from Daisy’s dock at the end of the river, which represents his hopes for the future with Daisy. Eventually, Tom finds out about this and confronts Gatsby in an aggressive way in New York.  When Gatsby and Daisy are driving home from New York, Daisy is driving Gatsby’s yellow car back to Long Island and Daisy accidentally hits Myrtle with the car. Myrtle’s husband mistakes Gatsby for the murderer and kills Gatsby as he is sunbathing in the pool. Nick tries to set up a funeral but only a few people attend, probably because much of his life was devoted to the fortune that was accumulated through under ground crime and fake business relations, and he had no real friends or family. 

Characteristics of this genre:

Modernism (isolationism, fragments of time, presenting thought of character in nonlinear fashion-> Gatsby, declining belief in a higher power -> Gatsby is described as godlike, but the value of his accomplishments deteriorate quickly)

Describe the authors style:


-semi-colons provide wordy and action packed sentences 

-irony (for ex, the great Gatsby is the title, but was he really great?)

-comments a lot on society (rich vs. poor, standards)

Memorable quotes:

Daisy about her daughter: “I’ll hope she’ll be a fool, that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool”  significance: Daisy shows not only a lack of responsibility for her child, but it shows that he is aware of the social status of women at the time. Commenting on women’s small and superficial role in society

“Gatsby believed in the Green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us” 

significance: nick talking about Gatsby on his dock; Gatsby believed in his future and this showed his high hopes for Daisy. He reaches toward it in the darkness as a guiding light to lead him to his goal. Gatsby’s love for Daisy is associated with the American dream, so this green light is also a representation of that general idea.

“Rich girls don’t marry poor boys” (Daisy)

Significance: Shows how much Daisy is so absorbed and manipulated by the culture of money and women’s role. This is also shown when she is crying with tears of joy over Gatsby’s sweaters and possessions.


West Egg, LI (the garish, “new money” folks)

East Egg (known for being more classy and equally as wealthy)

-valley of ashes (where myrtle lives and dies, dumping ground that u have to pass through it to get into city, very depressing setting)

NYC – “Toms affair apartment, throws a rowdy party here

Symbols: green light, money, parties, cars, the weather, geography, the eyes/spectacles in the valley of ashes, marriage/ affairs, alcohol


Commenting on American dream in negative way (Gatsby achieved it through illegal activities and he still wasn’t happy when he was rich because he didn’t get Daisy)

-Preoccupation with wealth and status, hollowness of upperclass

-The lavish parties depict that moral-less ives on society during this era, they chose to fulfill their time with mindless activities

Opening scene:

Nick is introduced as narrator, we get a sense of his character (he seems to put himself on a pedestal from the others, but he claims to not be judgmental), he introduces Gatsby and describes him with praise.

ending scene:

After funeral and death, Nick visits Gatsby’s abandoned house as he imagines the dreams of the New World explorers (American Dream)


-Nick = narrator; good confidant for those with secrets. -Honest, tolerant

Jay Gatsby = main character; wealthy, in love with Daisy, doesn’t drink at parties, confident, lonely. We also learn a lot about Gatsby through Nick, and he seems like a compulsive liar trying to glorify his life because what he says usually does not add up. This makes him mysterious. 

Daisy = wife of tom. Emotionally needy (has a kid and bought a puppy but doesn’t take good care of them), doesn’t wait for Gatsby, un-committing, acts superficial to mask Tom’s infidelity, involved with money

Tom: powerful, educated, rich, self-centered and arrogant, hates Gatsby, very selfish, hypocritical about Daisy’s past love affair with Gatsby (even though he is currently having an affair)

Jordan: serves as a Foil character for Daisy because she represents one of the “doers” of the era, gets bored easily, boyish, dishonest, competitive golfer, dates Nick


-Myrtle, Owl Eyes, Klipsringer, Meyer Wolfsmein





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