The Great Gatsby is a 1925 novel written by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald that follows a cast of characters living in the fictional town of West and East Egg on prosperous Long Island in the summer of 1922. The story primarily concerns the young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his quixotic passion and obsession for the beautiful former debutante Daisy Buchanan. Considered to be Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, The Great Gatsby explores themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval, and excess, creating a portrait of the Roaring Twenties that has been described as a cautionary tale regarding the American Dream.
Fitzgerald—inspired by the parties he had attended while visiting Long Island’s north shore—began planning the novel in 1923, desiring to produce, in his words, “something new—something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.” Progress was slow, with Fitzgerald completing his first draft following a move to the French Riviera in 1924. His editor, Maxwell Perkins, felt the book was vague and persuaded the author to revise over the following winter. Fitzgerald was repeatedly ambivalent about the book’s title and he considered a variety of alternatives, including titles that referred to the Roman character Trimalchio; the title he was last documented to have desired was Under the Red, White, and Blue.
First published by Scribner’s in April 1925, The Great Gatsby received mixed reviews and sold poorly; in its first year, the book sold only 20,000 copies. Fitzgerald died in 1940, believing himself to be a failure and his work forgotten. However, the novel experienced a revival during World War II, and became a part of American high school curricula and numerous stage and film adaptations in the following decades. Today, The Great Gatsby is widely considered to be a literary classic and a contender for the title “Great American Novel”. In 1998, the Modern Library editorial board voted it the 20th century’s best American novel and second best English-language novel of the same time period.
In the summer of 1922, Nick Carraway, a Yale graduate and veteran of the Great War from the Midwest—who serves as the novel’s narrator—takes a job in New York as a bond salesman. He rents a small house on Long Island, in the fictional village of West Egg, next door to the lavish mansion of Jay Gatsby, a mysterious multi-millionaire who holds extravagant parties but does not participate in them. Nick drives around the bay to East Egg for dinner at the home of his cousin, Daisy Fay Buchanan, and her husband, Tom, a college acquaintance of Nick’s. They introduce Nick to Jordan Baker, an attractive, cynical young golfer. She reveals to Nick that Tom has a mistress, Myrtle Wilson, who lives in the “valley of ashes”, an industrial dumping ground between West Egg and New York City. Not long after this revelation, Nick travels to New York City with Tom and Myrtle to an apartment that Tom uses like a hotel room for Myrtle, as well as other women whom he also sleeps with. At Tom’s New York apartment, a vulgar and bizarre party takes place. It ends with Tom physically abusing Myrtle, breaking her nose in the process, after he gets annoyed by the fact that she says Daisy’s name several times.
Nick eventually receives an invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties. Nick encounters Jordan Baker at the party and they meet Gatsby himself, an aloof and surprisingly young man who recognizes Nick from their same division in the Great War. Through Jordan, Nick later learns that Gatsby knew Daisy through a purely chance meeting in 1917 when Daisy and her friends were doing volunteer services’ work with young officers headed to Europe. From their brief meetings and casual encounters at that time, Gatsby became (and still is) deeply in love with Daisy. Gatsby had hoped that his wild parties would attract an unsuspecting Daisy, who lived across the bay, to appear at his doorstep and allow him to present himself as a man of wealth and position.
Having developed a budding friendship with Nick, Gatsby uses him to arrange a reunion between himself and Daisy. Nick invites Daisy to have tea at his house without telling her that Gatsby will also be there. After an initially awkward reunion, Gatsby and Daisy begin an affair over the summer. At a luncheon at the Buchanans’ house, Daisy speaks to Gatsby with such undisguised intimacy that Tom realizes she is in love with Gatsby. Though Tom is himself an adulterer, he is outraged by his wife’s infidelity. He forces the group to drive into New York City and confronts Gatsby in a suite at the Plaza Hotel, asserting that he and Daisy have a history that Gatsby could never understand. In addition to that, he announces to his wife that Gatsby is a criminal whose fortune comes from bootlegging alcohol and other illegal activities. Daisy decides to stay with Tom, and Tom contemptuously sends her back to East Egg with Gatsby, attempting to prove that Gatsby cannot hurt her.
On the way back, Gatsby’s car strikes and kills Tom’s mistress, Myrtle. Nick later learns from Gatsby that Daisy, not Gatsby himself, was driving the car at the time of the accident. Myrtle’s husband, George Wilson, falsely concludes that the driver of the yellow car is the secret lover he suspects she has. He learns that the yellow car is Gatsby’s, fatally shoots him, and then turns the gun on himself. Nick stages an unsettlingly small funeral for Gatsby which none of Gatsby’s associates attend and only one of his partygoers (besides Nick) attends. Later, Nick runs into Tom in New York and finds out that Tom had told George that the yellow car was Gatsby’s and gave him Gatsby’s address. Disillusioned with the East, Nick moves back to the Midwest.
In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write “something new–something extraordinary and beautiful and simple + intricately patterned.” That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald’s finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s–and his country’s–most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic 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–” Gatsby’s rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.It’s also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby’s quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means–and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. “Her voice is full of money,” Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel’s more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy’s patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.
“Although it is hard to believe this novel could improve, it has. Considering the book’s significance to American letters, the Cambridge edition of The Great Gatsby could very well be the literary publishing event of the year.” Library Journal
“Now we have an American masterpiece in its final form: the original crystal has shaped itself into the true diamond. This is the novel as Fitzgerald wished it to be, and so it is what we have dreamed of, sleeping and waking.” James Dickey
The only thing I knew about this book before I started reading was that it was a shallow love story that ends with the girl dumping the poor, innocent guy….or something. And yes that is the plot, but I think the story can also be about the American dream and who it’s really available to. What is the American dream? Is it just getting money and it doesn’t matter how? Did we really get away from social inequality? I hadn’t really thought about any of that before reading this book. It made me wonder what my American dream is. Do I just want to get lots of money, a big house, and tons of stuff? Or is there more to it than that? Without spoiling the end, I feel like Mr. Fitzgerald’s opinion on the matter is that some people are born to live the American dream and some aren’t – and there isn’t much you can do to change it. The fate of Daisy and Gatsby really brings that tragic idea home.The parties were unreal. I was drooling over the mention of all the food. I couldn’t help but imagine the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey coming to Gatsby’s house and being appalled at what Americans called “a dinner party.” My mind was buzzing with all the practical details and sheer amount of money that it would take to feed two dinners and tons of alcohol to that many people… But the parties and glamour are just covering up the fact that most of these people are shady, immoral, hypocritical and just plain unhappy. Especially Tom and his wife Daisy.I loved the writing. It was simple, charming, and witty – an interesting contrast to the much deeper story going on. The last line about how we can’t escape from the past points out that even though as Americans we say that anyone can achieve wealth, happiness and equality, the truth is we keep getting sucked into the rules of the past.
The only thing I thought was overdone was the symbolic Eye Doctor bilboard in the ash valley. Don’t let the symbolic Eye Doctor Ad/God’s Judgement fall on you on the way out.
Overall, a novel that got me really thinking about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the context of a beautiful, tragic, and romantic story.
The Great Gatsby is your neighbor you’re best friends with until you find out he’s a drug dealer. It charms you with some of the most elegant English prose ever published, making it difficult to discuss the novel without the urge to stammer awestruck about its beauty. It would be evidence enough to argue that F. Scott Fitzgerald was superhuman, if it wasn’t for the fact that we know he also wrote This Side of Paradise.
But despite its magic, the rhetoric is just that, and it is a cruel facade. Behind the stunning glitter lies a story with all the discontent and intensity of the early Metallica albums. At its heart, The Great Gatsby throws the very nature of our desires into a harsh, shocking light. There may never be a character who so epitomizes tragically misplaced devotion as Jay Gatsby, and Daisy, his devotee, plays her part with perfect, innocent malevolence. Gatsby’s competition, Tom Buchanan, stands aside watching, taunting and provoking with piercing vocal jabs and the constant boast of his enviable physique. The three jostle for position in an epic love triangle that lays waste to countless innocent victims, as well as both Eggs of Long Island. Every jab, hook, and uppercut is relayed by the instantly likable narrator Nick Carraway, seemingly the only voice of reason amongst all the chaos. But when those boats are finally borne back ceaselessly by the current, no one is left afloat. It is an ethical massacre, and Fitzgerald spares no lives; there is perhaps not a single character of any significance worthy even of a Sportsmanship Award from the Boys and Girls Club.
In a word, The Great Gatsby is about deception; Fitzgerald tints our glasses rosy with gorgeous prose and a narrator you want so much to trust, but leaves the lenses just translucent enough for us to see that Gatsby is getting the same treatment. And if Gatsby represents the truth of the American Dream, it means trouble for us all. Consider it the most pleasant insult you’ll ever receive.