The Great Gatsby Summary - Student Guide to Writing Essays
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Illusions and Reality in a Complete Summary of The Great Gatsby

Illusions and Reality in a Complete Summary of The Great Gatsby

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Melanie Jane


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The Great Gatsby is a masterpiece that has stood the test of time. Even after 100 years, the book still captivates thousands of readers annually. The book’s author is F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the story revolves around love, wealth, and moral decay. The book has sold over 30 million copies globally since its production in 1925, becoming one of modern literature's most popular read and studied books. The book has also received multiple awards; for instance, Modern Library declared that this book is one of the 100 best English-language Novels of the 20th century. Other notable works of Fitzgerald include Tender is Night, The Beautiful and Damned, and This Side of Paradise.

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Overview of The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby largely focuses on Jay Gatsby, a wealthy person irrationally obsessed with winning the love of Daisy Buchanan. It is based on the early 20th century and examines themes such as social class, love, wealth, and the American Dream. Gatsby lives an extravagant life so that Daisy and the upper-class society can like him. Unfortunately, his history and unethical business behaviors affect his goal of being accepted by the love of his life and society, which eventually brings his downfall.

Through intertwining diverse characters and an appropriate setting, the book impeccably touches on how the obsessive pursuit of wealth leads to darkness and emptiness.

The Great Gatsby Characters

Some pronounced characters in The Great Gatsby are:

  • Jay Gatsby
  • Nick Carraway
  • Daisy Buchanan
  • Tom Buchanan
  • Myrtle Wilson
  • Meyer Wolfsheim
  • Jordan Baker
  • George Wilson
  • Gatz

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Jay Gatsby

The central character in The Great Gatsby is Jay Gatsby. He is a wealthy, charismatic, and mysterious man who frequently holds lavish parties at his monstrous abode in West Egg. Other key features of this character are that he is tall and has piercing blue eyes. He has an excessive obsession with Daisy. Throughout the novel, Gatsby tries to win the love of Daisy by showcasing his massive wealth. Although he is wealthy, he is lonely and isolated as he is not able to receive Daisy’s love.

Nick Carraway

Nick Carraway is the narrator of this book. He is athletic and tall and has blond hair. He has a strong sense of integrity and honesty and is reserved and thoughtful. Nick moves from the Midwest to West Egg, New York, to do his bond business. He becomes entangled in the world of wealthy people and witnesses the tragic fate of Gatsby. Nick’s key motivation is to seek meaning and truth in a world riddled with corruptness and superficiality.

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Daisy Buchanan

One of the most beautiful and charming women in the story of The Great Gatsby is Daisy. She has a porcelain complexion with bright eyes. Her key personality traits are unfriendly, such as she is shallow and extremely selfish. Her romantic relationship with Gatsby and Tom, her husband, greatly drives the plot. Another crucial role of Daisy is her reckless driving which leads to Myrtle’s death.

Tom Buchanan

Tom Buchanan is the husband to Daisy who is a powerful and wealthy individual. He is muscular and consistently displays racism, aggression, and arrogance.  Some critical actions of Tom in the plot revolve around his domineering and controlling attributes, resulting in him mistreating Daisy and Myrtle, a woman with whom he has an affair.

Myrtle Wilson

Myrtle Wilson is George Wilson's wife and Tom Buchanan's mistress. She is a selfish woman that greatly desires a wealthy life. The affair between Tom and Myrtle causes a train of events that culminate in the book’s tragic ending. The story's climax happens when Daisy kills Myrtle in a car accident.

Meyer Wolfsheim

Meyer Wolfsheim is an influential and mysterious man heavily connected with Gatsby. One major gothic physical appearance about him is his cufflink made from human teeth. He is linked with illegal activities, such as fixing the 1919 World Series (keep in mind that this book is fictional though it touches on some real-world events, like the 1919 World Series), and rumored that he organizes crimes. Meyer’s motivation is power and money, and he will immorally use anyone to get his way.

Jordan Baker

Jordan Baker plays a huge role in The Great Gatsby by developing a romantic relationship with Nick. On top of being a confident and professional golfer, her uncontrollable desire for independence and success makes her dishonest and lacks empathy for others. These two wicked traits of hers clearly show the theme of the corruption of the American Dream.

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Illusions and Reality in a Complete Summary of The Great Gatsby

George Wilson

Although George Wilson is not one of the central characters, his actions lead to pivotal effects on the plot. His physical appearance depicts him as someone who lacks vitality and is “spiritless” albeit the author explicitly states that he is hardworking and an unassuming mechanic. He owns and manages a small garage in the Valley of Ashes. Wilson is driven by his love for Myrtle, his wife, and the desire to provide for her.

Mr. Gatz

Mr. Gatz is the father of Jay Gatsby. He first makes his appearance at the end of the book for Gatsby’s funeral. He is a generous person and proud of his son’s accomplishments. Mr. Gatz discloses Gatsby's humble origin and the gap between Gatsby’s private self and public persona. Gatz’s presence stresses the significance of familial connections and legacy in the novel.

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Setting in The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby setting is a dazzling and shameless world of the wealthy elite in the 1920s New York City society. Specifically, the scenes take place in the affluent localities of West Egg and East Egg as well as in the Valley of Ashes. Fitzgerald offers readers a vivid description of the setting by employing adjectives such as ostentatious, lavish, and opulent to explain the mansions, lifestyles, and parties the characters are involved in.

The setting shifts as the plot develops to align with the characters' relationships and fortunes. For instance, the lavishness of Gatsby’s mansion and parties indicate his desire to show off his wealth and win Daisy’s love. Contrary, the miserable and forsaken Valley of Ashes depicts the darker side of the American Dream. This darker side paints the picture of corruption and moral decay that is found deep in the glittering world of the wealthy.

The Great Gatsby setting significantly shapes the novel's plot and themes. It captures the intricacies of the American Dream and the trends that were happening in the early 20th century, such as the spirit of the Jazz Age.

The Plot of The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby Chapter 1 Summary

In this chapter, Nick Carraway, who is the narrator, moves from the Midwest to West Egg. One of his neighbors in West Egg is Gatsby. Nick is invited to a party by Gatsby, and as the night progresses, rumors about Gatsby's undying love for Daisy and his mysterious past start to spread.

The Great Gatsby Chapter 2 Summary

Nick and Tom travel to New York City, and on their way, they pay Myrtle a visit. Myrtle is Tom’s mistress, and these two go on with their affair when Nick is around. All three of them drink and party together with other Myrtle’s friends at Myrtle’s apartment. Tom becomes violent and breaks Myrtle’s nose. Later, Tom and Nick return to Long Island. This chapter perfectly displays the theme of moral decay and social class in addition to Tom’s volatile and abusive nature.

You may also like A Rose for Emily Summary.

The Great Gatsby Chapter 3 Summary

Nick attends another Gatsby’s party, together with Daisy and her husband, Tom. In this event, the guests show interest in Gatsby’s wealth. Gatsby searches for Daisy, and within the party’s fracas, Gatsby’s love is revealed to the public. This marks a pivotal point in the story as Gatsby’s true character is unearthed.

The Great Gatsby Chapter 4 Summary

In this chapter, Gatsby and Nick spend a lot of time together. In the midst, Gatsby shares much with Nick regarding his history. He mentions his wealthy upbringing, professional life, and how he knew Daisy before marrying Tom and is still in love with her. Gatsby invites Nick and Daisy back to his mansion, and as Gatsby and his lover reunite, Nick learns more about Gatsby’s mysterious past.

The Great Gatsby Chapter 5 Summary

Gatsby and Daisy continue their love affair as Nick tries to determine Gatsby’s true identity. Gatsby uses all means to showcase his ornate mansion to Daisy, making Nick realize the spendthrift lifestyle of Gatsby is mainly a ploy for luring Daisy. Also, Nick learns other aspects of Gatsby’s mysterious past. The chapter ends with the relationship between Daisy and Gatsby growing and Nick becoming increasingly curious to understand Gatsby’s true identity.

The Great Gatsby Chapter 6 Summary

Here, Gatsby explains to Nick how he got his wealth and how he has been trying to win Daisy’s love. Tom invites himself to Gatsby’s party, and Daisy doesn’t meet Gatsby’s expectations. However, the two continue with their affair without Tom knowing it. The key themes touched on in this chapter are social class, love, and illusion versus reality.

The Great Gatsby Chapter 7 Summary

Gatsby’s and Daisy's relationship deepens, which makes Tom suspicious. Tom and Gatsby eventually argue, and the resulting outcome is that Gatsby’s past and his true intentions with Daisy are revealed to Tom. At the end of this chapter, an accident happens where Myrtle is killed in a car accident.

The Great Gatsby Chapter 8 Summary

Gatsby finally tells Nick the truth about his past life. Wilson, Myrtle’s husband, kills Gatsby and then takes his own life. Wilson kills Gatsby because he believes Gatsby was Myrtle’s lover. The chapter concludes with the preparation for Gatsby’s funeral, highlighting the hollowness in the upper-class lifestyle and the tragic end of the American Dream.

The Great Gatsby Chapter 9 Summary

The last chapter of the book majors on Gatsby’s funeral. Nick tries to find Gatsby’s family but with little success. Nick concludes that his pursuit of the American Dream by Gatsby led to his doom. He also reflects on the moral decay and emptiness of the world he has encountered.

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The Great Gatsby Themes

The dominant themes in The Great Gatsby are:

  • Social class: Practically all aspects of the book revolve around class inequality. Gatsby keeps his humble past a secret; Daisy did not marry Gatsby because he did not belong to the upper class; and the book focuses on the affluent side of West Egg.
  • Love: Love is all over the book. The entire plot revolves around Gatsby’s unanswered love for Daisy. Also, we see a good number of affairs and romantic relationships that bring about significant developments.
  • Death: Death is prevalent in the book. Mostly in the last chapters. Myrtle, Wilson, and Gatsby die.
  • Moral decay: Many characters in The Great Gatsby exhibit excessive and unethical behavior. For instance, Gatsby and Meyer Wolfsheim's business dealings.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who Dies in The Great Gatsby?

Three key characters die in this book’s story. They are:

  • Myrtle Wilson
  • Jay Gatsby
  • George Wilson

2. Is Gatsby a Phony?

Yes, Gatsby is a phony. He deceives everyone about his past to fit within the upper class.

3. How Did Gatsby Die?

Gatsby is murdered by George Wilson, Myrtle’s husband. Wilson believes that Gatsby was the one having an affair with his wife and thus kills him.

4. What Is the Genre of The Great Gatsby?

The Great Gatsby genre is generally deemed to be a literary fiction novel. It can also be termed a tragedy as the protagonist, and other key characters, die.


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