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The Great Gatsby chapter summaries

The Great Gatsby
Chapter 1 Summary
Chapter one of The Great Gatsby introduces the narrator, Nick Carraway, and establishes the
context and setting of the novel. Nick begins by explaining his own situation. He has moved from
the Midwest to West Egg, a town on Long Island, NY. The novel is set in the years following WWI,
and begins in 1922. Nick served in the army in WWI, and now that he is home has decided to move
east and try to become a bond trader on Wall Street. Nick is a graduate of Yale, and grew up in a
wealthy family. He is what is considered "old rich," and feels he is superior to those who have
recently earned great fortunes, the "new rich."
Nick has rented a small house that is nestled between many large mansions. The mansion next
door to his house belongs to the title character, Jay Gatsby. There is a large bay in front of Nick's
house, and across that bay live Nick's cousin, Daisy and her husband Tom Buchanan.
Nick is invited to Tom and Daisy's for dinner. He discovers that Daisy's husband, Tom, is still as
aggressive and assertive as he was when they went to college together. He also learns that Tom is
a racist, as he explains a book about white supremacy he's recently read. Nick is happy to see his
cousin, Daisy, however, whom he hasn't seen since before the war, and to hear about her life. A
fourth character, Jordan Baker, is introduced. Jordan is a professional golfer and she and Nick
share a mutual attraction.
The dinner is interrupted several times, however, by the ringing telephone. Tom's mistress calls
repeatedly to speak with him, causing him to leave the table several times. At one point Daisy
follows after Tom and the couple quarrel.
When he gets back to his own house after dinner, Nick spies his neighbor, Gatsby, for the first
time. Gatsby is standing on the lawn, looking at a small green light at the end of the dock at Daisy
and Tom's house. Gatsby's arms are stretched out, as though he is reaching for the light.
Chapter 2
Nick is taking the train into New York City with Tom Buchanan. He begins the chapter by describing
an area he calls a valley of ashes. It is an area where ashes from coal burning furnaces are
deposited. Everything is gray and lifeless, even the people who work and live in the area. Nick
describes an old billboard for an optometrist, Doctor T.J. Eckleburg. The billboard features a pair of
giant eyes that seem to be gazing down on the people below. This billboard is an important
feature of the novel, and is intended to suggest that God is watching this area.
As the train slows down in the Valley, Tom announces that they are getting off so that Nick can
meet his mistress. Nick explains that everyone in New York knows about Tom's mistress and that
Tom makes no effort at all to keep it a secret that he is cheating on his wife. The two man leave
the train and walk to a car repair garage. The owner, George Wilson, seems to know Tom and asks
him about a car he may be selling and other business matters. Wilson's wife, Myrtle, is Tom's
mistress. She is in her mid-thirties, plump or fleshy, and a bit loud. Tom manages to tell Myrtle that
he wants to see her, without Wilson finding out. Nick and Tom leave the garage and get back on a
train. Myrtle lies to her husband, telling him she is going to visit her sister and also gets on the
Once they get into New York, Nick learns that Tom keeps an apartment for Myrtle. Myrtle calls her
sister and some friends and a liquor-fueled party develops in the apartment. Nick, Tom, Myrtle,
Myrtle's sister Catherine, and Myrtle's neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. McKee spend the afternoon
drinking alcohol and becoming intoxicated. Myrtle grows combative and, while arguing with Tom
about his wife, begins to show "Daisy" as loud as she can. Tom hits her, breaking her nose. The
guests leave, and the chapter ends with Tom heading back home.
Chapter 3
Nick describes the elaborate party preparations that go on at his neighbor, Gatsby's house every
week. For example, cases of oranges are delivered, caterers appear and set up elaborate
decorations and tables of food, and a huge bar is installed. This last detail is particularly interesting
because the novel is set during Prohibition, a time in the United States when buying and selling
alcohol was illegal.
Nick finally receives an invitation to one of Gatsby's parties. He is very impressed that he is one of
the few people at the party to have been formally invited. He learns that most people simply arrive
at Gatsby's house, expecting there to be a party in progress.
Once he arrives at the party, Nick spends quite a bit of time trying to find Gatsby. No one seems to
know Gatsby, even though they are all guests in his home. Nick unexpectedly runs into Jordan
Baker, Daisy's friend whom he met at the dinner party in Chapter 1. He and Jordan spend time
together and overhear and share several rumors they and others have heard about Gatsby. There
are rumors that Gatsby killed a man and that he is a bootlegger, or someone who produces and
markets alcohol illegally.
Nick strikes up a conversation with a man, and after a while realizes he is actually talking to his
host, Jay Gatsby. He is embarrassed to have not recognized him, but Gatsby puts him at ease, and
invites him to go up in his hydroplane in the morning. Gatsby asks Jordan if he can speak with her
privately. While he waits for Jordan, Nick wanders into Gatsby's library and meets a man who
notes how impressive Gatsby's efforts to project a certain image are. The books in the library are
real. They have never been read, but the man is impressed that Gatsby went to the trouble of
buying real books.
When Jordan returns to Nick, she won't tell him what they discussed, but does reveal that is "the
most amazing thing." Jordan asks Nick to come and see her at her aunt's house before leaving with
the friends she arrived with. Nick says good night to Gatsby and walks home, noting a drunken
party that has put their car in a ditch near Gatsby's house.
Nick ends the chapter buy describing some of the other things he's done in the summer: he's
worked, made friends with some of the other clerks, and had a short affair with a girl from work,
until her brother started giving him dirty looks. He spent time at the Yale Club and at the library.
He also spent some time trying to learn more about Jordan Baker, and discovered that she had
been accused of cheating at golf, and that she was actually quite dishonest
Chapter 4
Chapter four opens with Nick attending another of Gatsby's parties. Nick uses this as a starting
point and begins recounting some notes he claims to have taken, listing some of the more notable
people he encountered that summer. His point is to prove that Gatsby's party attract the most
notable people of the time. He also describes one man, Klipspringer, who never seems to leaves
Gatsby's parties and has come to be known as the "boarder," which suggests he is living in the
Gatsby's mansion.
One morning Gatsby goes to Nick's house and tells him they are having lunch together in New
York. Nick agrees and the two drive into the city in Gatsby's car. During the drive, Gatsby gives Nick
an overview of his background. Gatsby claims he was born into a wealthy Midwestern family who
lived, oddly, in San Francisco (which is on the West coast and not in the Midwest). He says he was
educated at Oxford, a very prestigious British college, and that after he toured Europe, he served
in the military during WWI, where he was promoted quickly to a major. He claims to have dealt in
jewels and to have had many adventures. Nick considers it almost laughable how far-fetched
Gatsby's story is, but Gatsby produces a medal he was awarded for valor and picture of himself at
Oxford, which, momentarily quells Nick's doubts.
When they get to the city they meet Gatsby's friend, Meyer Wolfshiem. Wolfshiem is an unsavory
character whose cufflinks are real human teeth. Gatsby reveals that it is rumored that Wolfshiem
"fixed" the 1919 World Series, meaning he paid players on one team to lose the game. Woflshiem
is also linked to organize crime, which provides Nick with more information about the source of
Gatsby's wealth. Gatsby also tells Nick that he has a favor to ask, but that Jordan will tell him about
Later, Nick sees Jordan, and she tells him the story of Daisy's and Gatsby. The two met when
Gatsby, who was not wealthy then, was stationed near Daisy's home in Louisville, KY. They were
very much in love, but Gatsby was called to New York to sail to Europe for the war. He vowed he
would return when he was a wealthy man. The war ended, but Gatsby did not return. Tom
Buchanan wooed Daisy, notably with a string of pearls worth thousands of dollars. On the day
Daisy married Tom, she received a letter from Gatsby and almost called the whole thing off.
Ultimately, she destroyed the letter, and married Tom, who was never faithful to her.
Gatsby, Nick discovers, bought his large house to be close to Daisy and threw his lavish parties
hoping she'd attend. Seeing that she was not likely to attend, Gatsby asked Jordan to ask Nick to
invite Daisy to tea and arrange a meeting. Nick agrees to do so.
Chapter 5
Nick returns to his house after visiting with Jordan and sees that Gatsby has turned on every light
in his house and his walking over to visit Nick. Nick tells Gatsby that he will invite Daisy for tea and
the two agree on a time. In return, Gatsby offers Nick a business opportunity to "pick up a bit of
money," but Nick declines and assures Gatsby he is making the invitation as a favor and wants
nothing in return.
Nick calls Daisy the next day and asks her to visit, but not to bring Tom. Daisy agrees. Gatsby
becomes obsessed with making everything perfect for the meeting. He sends a man to cut Nick's
lawn and has flowers delivered. Gatsby arrives at Nick's house an hour before Daisy is expected
and Nick is surprised by how nervous he is. Finally Daisy arrives, but when Nick comes back from
the front door with her, Gatsby has disappeared. He has gone out a back door and shows up again
at the front door, as though he has just stopped by. After the initial meeting, Nick decides he is
getting in the way of the reunion and he leaves the house for a while.
When Nick returns, Gatsby and Daisy are getting along famously. Gatsby invites Daisy and Nick to
his mansion, where he gives Daisy a grand tour of his home, showing her how wealthy he has
become. Daisy is delighted by all of the luxury and fine things at Gatsby's house. She respects
material wealth, and Gatsby has achieved it. He shows her his furniture, his art, and his finely
tailored clothes. At one point Daisy cries, claiming she is overwhelmed by how beautiful Gatsby's
shirts are.
Despite how joyous this reunion seems to be, at the end of the chapter, Nick suggests that the
experience is disappointing for Gatsby because he has been motivated by wanting to impress Daisy
for all these years. Now that she is in his house and duly impressed, he may not have anything to
work toward anymore.
Chapter 6
Nick begins the chapter by describing an incident in which a reporter showed up at Gatsby's door,
asking for a comment - he didn't suggest that there was an issue that Gatsby should comment on;
the reported only wanted to get some, or any, information. This opening reminds the reader that
Gatsby is the subject of speculation and gossip throughout New York.
After describing the incident, Nick notes that he spent some away from Gatsby, and then goes on
to recount the true facts of Gatsby's biography. In the chronology of the novel, Nick did not know
these details yet, but in looking back on the incidents as the narrator of something that occurred in
the past, he did.
Nick provides the following details about Gatsby's "real" background:
- Gatsby's real name is James Gatz
- He was born in North Dakota to "shiftless, unsuccessful farm people"
- He left home when he was young and moved around the west.
- One day he was "loafing" along the shore of Lake Superior when he spotted a yacht in some
trouble. In a borrowed rowboat, he went out to the boat and helped its drunken owner, Dan Cody.
- Cody was about 50 years old, and "new rich" from his silver mines. He took Gatsby under his wing
and hired him as "steward, mate, skipper, secretary" to protect Cody from his drunken self.
- Cody was Gatsby's mentor and showed him how the wealthy class lived.
- When Cody died he left Gatsby $25,000, but Cody's family cheated him out of it.
- When he met Cody, James Gatz changed his name to Jay Gatsby.
Nick explains that during this time, while he was away from Gatsby, he was spending time with
Jordan, and trying to charm her aunt, with whom she lived. One day, however, Nick did go to see
Gatsby for tea. While he was there, three people arrived on horseback, including Tom Buchanan,
Daisy's husband. Gatsby betrays the fact that he is "new rich" by greeting them overly
The visitors settle down for drinks and Gatsby tells Tom that he knows his wife, Daisy. The woman
in the riding party drinks two alcoholic drinks and tells Gatsby she'd like to come to one of his
parties and then invites Gatsby to supper. Gatsby accepts, not realizing that she has had too much
to drink and that the invitation is not in earnest. The other man in the party announces that they
must be leaving, but the woman invites Gatsby again. When Gatsby excuses himself to get his car
to follow them, the man is amazed that Gatsby really thinks he's been invited. The three visitors
end up leaving before Gatsby returns.
The following Saturday night, Tom and Daisy arrive at one of Gatsby's parties. Gatsby tries to
impress them by pointing out celebrities and insists on introducing Tom as "The Polo Player,"
which annoys Tom. When it is time for dinner, Tom excuses himself to sit with another woman.
Daisy sarcastically offers Tom a pencil, in case he needs to take down her address. Nick relates
watching the celebrities at the party through Daisy's eyes. She seems simultaneously impressed by
a famous actress and director, and disgusted by the number of people who were obviously not
invited. When Tom returns he questions Nick about Gatsby, and suggests he is a bootlegger.
Eventually Daisy and Tom leave. Nick waits to visit with Gatsby when the party ends, and Gatsby
confesses he feels very far away from Daisy. Nick tells Gatsby, "You can't repeat the past," to
which Gatsby replies, "Of course you can."
Chapter 7
Gatsby has fired all of his servants and replaced them with associates of Wolfshiem. Gatsby was
concerned that the old servants were gossiping in town about Daisy's visits to his mansion. The
new servants may not actually be servants. They are rude, and the house is in disarray. Nick
thought, initially that Gatsby had moved away.
Gatsby calls Nick to invite him to Daisy's house for lunch. Jordan Baker and Gatsby will be there, as
well as Daisy and Tom. Nick agrees.
The day of the lunch is the hottest day of summer. Everyone moves slowly. Gatsby arrives at
Daisy's to the sound of the phone ringing and Tom talking to who is obviously Myrtle. Daisy and
Jordan are stretched out on the sofa, both dressed in white. Tom claims the phone call was a
business deal and Nick, inexplicably, confirms this as fact.
After making conversation about the terrible heat, and briefly introducing her daughter to the
group, Daisy proposes that they all go into town, meaning that they should go to Manhattan. After
she makes the suggestion, she exchanges a few words with Gatsby, and Tom, watching the couple,
realizes they are having an affair. Tom becomes angry, but hides it by agreeing that they should all
go to New York. Gatsby and Daisy drive Tom's car. Tom, Nick, and Jordan take Gatsby's bright
yellow car.
On the way to New York Tom stops at Wilson's garage with Gatsby's car. Wilson presses him again
to sell him a car, adding that he needs the money because he and his wife, Tom's mistress, Myrtle,
are moving away. This information upsets Tom. As Tom is talking to George, Myrtle watches from
the window. She sees Jordan waiting in the car and assumes Jordan is Daisy, which makes her
angry and jealous.
Finally everyone arrives at the suite they've taken at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Tom begins
challenging Gatsby. First he suggests that Gatsby has lied about attending Oxford. Gatsby
successfully defends himself. Tom then asks Gatsby what is going on between him and Daisy.
Gatsby replies that Daisy loves him, has never loved Tom, and that she plans to leave Tom and
marry Gatsby. Daisy, however, refuses to confirm that she never loved Tom. Tom, buoyed by
Daisy's uncertainty, tells Gatsby that Daisy would never leave him for a "bootlegger." The party
breaks up and heads home. Daisy and Gatsby leave in Gatsby's car. Tom, Jordan, and Nick follow in
Tom's car.
As Gatsby and Daisy drive by Wilson's garage, Myrtle runs out to the car. Daisy and Gatsby do not
stop. Tom, Jordan, and Nick come on the scene next, and stop to see what is going on. Tom is
distraught to learn that Myrtle has been killed, and when George describes the yellow car, he is
certain Gatsby has killed her.
When everyone returns to Tom and Daisy's house, Nick waits outside for a cab, and talks to
Gatsby, who tells him that it was Daisy, not he, who was driving. Nick leaves Gatsby outside of the
Buchanan's house, where he is standing by, in case Daisy needs him.
Chapter 8
In the morning , after a sleepless night, haunted by Myrtle's death, Nick hears Gatsby returning
from having spent the night standing outside Daisy's house. He goes to talk to Gatsby and learns
that Daisy never came out of the house and nothing happened. Nick tells Gatsby he should go
away, before the police trace his car, but Gatsby holds on to his dream of being with Daisy. He tells
Nick the story of how they met, when he was poor, and how he was drafted into the war and had
to leave her. He explains that Daisy believed they were of the same social class, and he let her
believe it. At the end of the war, Gatsby didn't return immediately to Daisy, but was sent to
Daisy, in the meantime, needed some decision or movement in her life. She wrote Gatsby that she
was going to marry Tom. When he finally returned, he went to Louisville to find her, but learned
that she had, indeed, married Tom and was on her honeymoon. He says he should have tried
harder to find her and get her back.
The gardener comes in while the two are talking and tells Gatsby he is going to drain the pool, as
summer is over. Gatsby tells him to do it later because he wants to swim once before the summer
ends, and he has never used the pool. Nick leaves him for the last time saying, "They're a rotten
crowd…you're worth the whole damn bunch put together. "
Nick goes into the city to go to work. Jordan calls, angry that he left her at Gatsby's house. They
talk for a while, then listen to silence on the phone, then they hang up. He tries to call Gatsby, but
can't get through. He leaves his office and heads home.
The scene switches to George Wilson and his neighbor Michaelis, in George's garage all night.
Michaelis leaves George, but returns a few hours later. Wilson has left the garage and traveled to
West Egg, and to Gatsby's house, where, sure that Gatsby hit his wife with his car, Wilson shoots
and kills Gatsby as he swims in his pool.
Nick arrives to find Gatsby's body in the pool. The gardener finds Wilson, dead, off in the grass
near the pool.
Chapter 9
The police and bands of reporters arrive at Gatsby's house when news of his death gets worried.
Nick waits for someone to take charge of the funeral arrangements, but, when no one steps
forward to do so, he takes charge. He calls Daisy to tell her what happened. He's surprised to learn
that she and Tom have left. Nick makes several phone calls, trying to gather Gatsby's friends
together for his funeral. Myer Wolfshiem, who had professed his great affection for Gatsby, sends
a letter explaining that he won't attend the funeral. He goes to visit Wolfshiem in person, and he
responds, "Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive, not after he is dead,"
and refuses to "get mixed up" with Gatsby's death.
Three days after Gatsby's death a telegram arrives from Henry C. Gatz, Gatsby's father, who lived
in Minnesota and saw in the news of Gatsby's death in a Chicago paper. He asked that the funeral
be postponed and announced he was coming at once. Henry Gatz was an old man with a sparse
beard who seemed very weak. Gatz remains impressed with his son, telling Nick that Gatsby was a
smart man who could have been great had he lived. Gatz is impressed by Gatsby's house, an
obvious sign of his success. He shows Nick a copy of a children's book called Hopalong Cassidy in
which a young Gatsby, still Jimmy Gatz had scribbled his daily schedule for self-improvement.
Late that night Klipspringer, the piano-playing boarder, calls. Nick is relieved that he has found
someone who will attend the funeral, but Klipspringer tells Nick he won't be attending as he's
promised to go on a picnic with his hosts the next day, and he was only calling about a pair of
shoes he'd left behind. Nick hangs up on him.
The morning of the funeral, the only attendees are a few servants, Nick and Mr. Gatz, and the mail
carrier. Just as they are about to end, the party guest called "Owl Eyes" shows up at the gate. Owl
Eyes can't believe that no one else of all of Gatsby's many guests bothered to come.
Nick decides he will leave West Egg and move back West. He runs into Tom in New York and learns
that the day Gatsby was killed George Wilson showed up at Tom and Daisy's house. Tom told him
that Gatsby was the man who owned the yellow car, and told him where he lived. Tom doesn't
seem to realize the role he played in Gatsby's death, or if he does, he is not bothered by it.
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