Read a summary of The Great Gatsby
The story begins with the narrator, Nick Carraway, a Yale graduate from a middle-class Midwest family, and a veteran of the Great War, going east and arriving in New York, to pursue a career as a bond salesman. It is the spring of 1922. He rents a bungalow in Long Island, in the village of West Egg. The bungalow is next door to a large stately house owned by a reclusive multi-millionaire, Jay Gatsby. Gatsby hosts sumptuous weekend parties but never appears at them, and is subject to various rumours and conspiracy theories about who he is and what he is about.
Nick’s second or third cousin, Daisy Buchanan, lives in the fashionable town of East Egg, across the sound from West Egg. She is married to Tom Buchanan, whom Nick knows from Yale, where Tom was a football star. He is now a famous polo player. The couple has recently moved from Chicago and bought a sumptuous colonial mansion directly across the bay from Gatsby’s mansion.
The Buchanans invite Nick to dinner one evening. Also invited is Jordan Baker, a flapper girl and golf champion, and a childhood friend of Daisy’s. While he is there Tom receives a phone call and Jordan confides in Nick that Tom has a mistress who has no compunction about phoning him at home. The woman, Myrtle, is married to a garage owner, George Wilson, and they live in a large refuse dump known as the valley of ashes.
When Nick gets home he sees his neighbour, alone on his lawn, gazing at a flashing green light across the bay.
Nick doesn’t like Tom Buchanan much but a few days later Tom persuades him to go to New York with him. On the way there they stop at Wilson’s garage. Without Wilson knowing about the affair between his wife and Tom, Tom signals to Myrtle to join them on their visit to New York. She does and the three go to a small New York apartment that Tom has rented for his meetings with Myrtle. Guests start arriving and soon there is a party going. It ends with a drunken Tom hitting Myrtle and breaking her nose.
One day a chauffeur arrives from the mansion next door, with a formal invitation to a party at the mansion. Nick goes to the party. He’s disappointed to find that he doesn’t recognise anyone, but then he encounters Jordan Baker. As they sit together other guests gossip about Gatsby, reciting conspiracy theories about him. One of those introduces himself to Nick as Jay Gatsby. He insists that they both served in the 3rd Infantry Division during the war. As he leaves Nick notices that Gatsby is watching him.
One morning in July Gasby arrives at the bungalow in an expensive car and invites Nick to lunch in New York. They go to a speakeasy, where Gatsby talks about his war experiences and his Oxford days. Nick doesn’t know what to believe as there are so many rumours about him. In the speakeasy Nick meets one of Gasby’s associates, Meyer Wolfsheim, clearly a gangster,
Gatsby explains that after the war servicemen were given scholarships to Oxford, England, and he was one of them. Later, Jordan tells Nick that while Gatsby was an officer in the American expeditionary forces, and still in the States Gatsby and Daisy met and fell in love, and courted even though she was from a rich family and he was penniless. But when he was deployed to Europe Daisy married Tom Buchanan, who came from a wealthy family.
Gatsby hopes that Daisy’s cousin, Nick, will facilitate a meeting between himself and Daisy, and one day he asks Nick to stage it by inviting them both to tea at his bungalow. Nick agrees and the two meet there and Gatsby invites them both to a tour of his mansion. He shows off his wealth to Daisy who abandoned him because, as she put it, “rich girls don’t marry poor boys.” Daisy and Gatsby then embark on an affair.
In September, Tom discovers the affair when Daisy carelessly displays affection for Gatsby at a lunch at the Buchanan’s house where Nick and Gatsby are guests. After lunch, they decide to go to New York, rent a hotel suite, and sit the hot afternoon out there. They swap cars, with Tom driving Gatsby’s and Gatsby driving Tom’s. At the hotel, Gatsby and Tom argue about the affair. Gatsby insists that Daisy declare that she never loved Tom. Daisy says she loves both Tom and Gatsby. Both men are upset. Tom claims that he has investigated Gatsby and found that he is a bootlegger and that his money has come from his illicit dealings in alcohol. Tom scornfully tells Gatsby to drive Daisy home, presuming that she will never leave him.
On their way home Gatsby and Daisy, now in Gatsby’s car, drive past Wilson’s garage. Myrtle sees the car coming, thinks it’s Tom, and runs out in front of it, thinking it is Tom in the car because he was driving it when they had stopped briefly on their way to town. She is killed. They drive on without stopping.
Nick is distressed to think that Gatsby has been a hit and run driver and confronts him. Gatsby reveals that it was Daisy who was driving the car, but that to protect her he intends to take the blame for the accident. Nick urges Gatsby to flee but he refuses.
Tom has told Wilson that Gatsby owns the car that struck Myrtle. Wilson assumes the owner of the vehicle must be Myrtle’s lover. He goes to Gatsby’s house, fatally shoots him in his swimming pool, and then commits suicide.
A few days later Gatsby’s father arrives to attend the funeral, where the only other mourner is Nick. He fills Nick in with details of his son’s life, in which Gatsby rose from being poverty-stricken to being very wealthy. Nick decides to leave New York and go back West. Before he leaves, though, he bumps into Tom and Daisy in a New York department store and very reluctantly shakes Tom’s hand. He is disgusted by both of them. At home, he goes next door for the last time and stares across the bay at the green light at the end of the dock of the Buchanan mansion.
That’s our The Great Gatsby summary. Make sense? Any questions? Let us know in the comments section below!