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Author:  F. Scott Fitzgerald


full title   The Great Gatsby

author   F. Scott Fitzgerald

type of work   Novel

genre   Modernist novel, Jazz Age novel, novel of manners

language   English

time and place written   19231924, America and France

date of first publication   1925

publisher   Charles Scribner’s Sons

narrator   Nick Carraway; Carraway not only narrates the story but implies that he is the book’s author

point of view   Nick Carraway narrates in both first and third person, presenting only what he himself observes. Nick alternates sections where he presents events objectively, as they appeared to him at the time, with sections where he gives his own interpretations of the story’s meaning and of the motivations of the other characters.

tone   Nick’s attitudes toward Gatsby and Gatsby’s story are ambivalent and contradictory. At times he seems to disapprove of Gatsby’s excesses and breaches of manners and ethics, but he also romanticizes and admires Gatsby, describing the events of the novel in a nostalgic and elegiac tone.

tense   Past

setting (time)   Summer 1922

settings (place)   Long Island and New York City

protagonist   Gatsby and/or Nick

major conflict   Gatsby has amassed a vast fortune in order to win the affections of the upper-class Daisy Buchanan, but his mysterious past stands in the way of his being accepted by her.

rising action   Gatsby’s lavish parties, Gatsby’s arrangement of a meeting with Daisy at Nick’s

climax   There are two possible climaxes: Gatsby’s reunion with Daisy in Chapters V–VI; the confrontation between Gatsby and Tom in the Plaza Hotel in Chapter VII.

falling action   Daisy’s rejection of Gatsby, Myrtle’s death, Gatsby’s murder

themes   The decline of the American dream, the spirit of the 1920s, the difference between social classes, the role of symbols in the human conception of meaning, the role of the past in dreams of the future

motifs   The connection between events and weather, the connection between geographical location and social values, images of time, extravagant parties, the quest for wealth

symbols   The green light on Daisy’s dock, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, the valley of ashes, Gatsby’s parties, East Egg, West Egg

foreshadowing   The car wreck after Gatsby’s party in Chapter III, Owl Eyes’s comments about the theatricality of Gatsby’s life, the mysterious telephone calls Gatsby receives from Chicago and Philadelphia



  • Fitzgerald’s drinking increased.  Although he was by now (1923) an alcoholic, he wrote only when he was sober.  Zelda regularly drank to forget her problems, as well, but she was not an alcoholic.  The couple had frequent domestic arguments, usually triggered by bouts of drinking.
  • By the time the stock market crashed in 1929, Fitzgerald had begun to crumble, as well.  His marriage was in threads.  Zelda had suffered her first nervous breakdown in 1930. Zelda suffered a relapse in February, 1932.  She entered Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and spent the rest of her life as a resident or outpatient of various sanitariums.
  • By the mid-thirties, Fitzgerald's health was fragile, his alcoholism had taken a toll, and he had, what he called a "crack-up".Fitzgerald stopped drinking during the last year of his life.
  • Zelda was heartbroken at the loss of the man whom she considered her best friend. In the next few years, she lived in her mother's home in Montgomery, returning periodically to Highland Hospital in North Carolina (Asheville).She had become very religious in her last years.
  • When aspiring author F. Scott Fitzgerald arrived in Manhattan, he wrote a letter to his sweetheart Zelda declaring: "I am in the land of ambition and success." He was as enchanted with the city as he was with her. In a short time, Scott and Zelda would become extremely rich and would take on a symbolic role as the king and queen of the decadent 20s, also known as the "Jazz Age."

Characters  In The Great Gatsby

  • Nick Carraway Nick is narrator of the story. Part of a wealthy family & originally living in the Midwest, he moves to West Egg, which is outside of New York, to become a Stock broker. His house is next to the home of Jay Gatsby.
  • Jay Gatsby Jay Gatsby, the protagonist of the novel, is a very rich man who fought in World War I. Before he went off to war, he had a very romantic relationship with Daisy. However, when he was off at war Daisy married Tom.
  • Daisy Buchanan  Daisy is Tom's wife and Nick's second cousin. Before World War I, she dated Jay Gatsby, but they broke up when he went off to war. She married Tom because he bought her love with a $300,000 necklace. He had the money that Gatsby couldn't provide.
  • Tom Buchanan  Tom is definitely the antagonist in the story. While Gatsby is at war, he uses his money to win Daisy over and marry, knowing very well of her relationship with Gatsby. He then has an affair with Myrtle, George's wife and makes no effort to hide it from Daisy.
  • Jordan Baker  Jordon is a smaller character in the story, but she makes a big impact.She introduces Nick to Gatsby. This in turn brings Daisy and Gatsby together. Jordon is professional golf player.Jordon and Nick have an unclear relationship throughout the story.
  • Myrtle Wilson  Myrtle is married to George, but she has an affair with Tom. She is having this affair because she knows that Tom is very wealthy. She, like Daisy, enjoys having money.She lets Tom push her around and treat her horribly. She has always regretted marrying George.
  • George Wilson  George is a poor man who runs a gas station and lives in the poorest part of New York. He is married to a woman who doesn't love him anymore and is having an affair right under his nose. He is oblivious to the whole situation.
  • Meyer Wolfsheim  Wolfsheim helped Gatsby making money in the bond business when he first came to New York after he returned from the war. Wolfsheim seems to have a dark past.He supposedly is the one who fixed the World Series of 1919.

Reading Guide Questions for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”

  • Chapter 1-2

1.         In the beginning of the novel, the narrator—later introduced as Nick Carraway—gives the reader several dates to place the story in time.  When did he graduate from college?  When did he come East to live?

2.         Where are the twin villages of East Egg and West Egg located?  What large city are they near?

3.         Nick’s story begins when he drives to East Egg one night to have dinner with three people.  Who are these people and what relationship does he have to each?

4.        What were Tom Buchanan’s two claims to fame in college?

5.        After telling us about Tom’s college career, Nick describes his personality.  List at least three adjectives that show what he thinks of Tom.

6.        Besides her personal beauty, what is it about Daisy that attracts personal attention?

7.         What private information about Tom does Jordan Baker reveal to Nick during the dinner party?

8.         Whom does Nick see on the darkened lawn when he gets home at the end of Chapter 1, and what is that person doing?

9.         Chapter 2 describes a desolate area of land that nick calls “a valley of ashes,” located on the road about halfway between west egg and New York City. What is painted on a large sign board there?

10.     Why does tom pull nick off the train at the beginning of chapter 2?

11.     Most of Chapter 2 describes a party. Catherine, Myrtle Wilson’s sister, tells Nick, “Neither of them can stand the person they’re married to.” To whom is she referring?

12.     With what act of violence does the party end?

  • Chapters3-4

1.        List three examples of Gatsby’s elaborate, expensive preparations for the party described in chapter 3?

2.        What fact makes Nick unusual among the many guests at the party?

3.        Looking for Gatsby, Nick and Jordan encounter a drunken man in the library. What has this man just discovered about the books?

4.        To Nick’s astonishment, the man who shares wartime memories with him and then invites him to fly in a hydroplane turns out to be who?

5.        Later in the party Gatsby’s butler appears at Jordan Baker’s elbow. What surprising message does he bring?

6.        Toward the end of chapter 3, after Jordan lies about leaving the top down on a borrowed car, nick realizes something about her character. She is …? By contrast, how does he describe himself in the last sentence of the chapter?

7.        At the beginning of chapter 4, Nick mentions three rumors about the mysterious Gatsby that his guests have passed around at the parties. What are they?

8.        Driving into the city, Gatsby tells Nick about himself. Where does he claim to have gotten his money? Where does he claim to have been educated?

9.        Whom does Nick meet at lunch with Gatsby? What remarkable fact does Nick learn about this man afterward?

10.     Later that afternoon, Jordan tells Nick how Daisy came to marry tom. Whom did Jordan see sitting in a car with Daisy in October 1917? In what way did Daisy come to marry Tom?

11.     What favor does Gatsby want from Nick?

  • Chapters 5-6

1.        What special preparation does Gatsby make for having tea with Daisy at Nick’s house?

2.        Cite two or three details about Gatsby’s appearance and behavior that show how nervous he is whiles waiting for Daisy to arrive at Nick’s.

3.        During their tour of Gatsby’s house, at what point does daisy seem most deeply affected? How does she express her emotions at that point?

4.        In the last three paragraphs of chapter 5, Nick reflects on Gatsby’s state of mind. Complete the quotation: “There must have been moments even that afternoon when daisy tumbled short of his dreams-not through her own fault, but because of…”

5.        In chapter 6, we learn the truth about Jay Gatsby’s origins. Where did he come from? Who were his parents? What was his real name?

6.        What was Gatsby doing to earn a living when he met Dan Cody?

7.        Dan Cody was the most important influence on Gatsby as he grew up. How has Cody gotten his money?

8.        How long did Gatsby work for Cody? What jobs did he do?

9.        How much money did Cody leave to Gatsby? Who actually received this money?

10.     Who comes to Gatsby’s next party with Daisy?

11.     Toward the end of Chapter 6, we discover what Gatsby really wants from Daisy, besides her leaving Tom and marrying him. What does he want her to tell Tom?

12.     When Nick warns him not to expect too much of Daisy, saying, “ You can’t repeat the past,” what is Gatsby’s reply?

  • Chapter 7

1.        At the beginning of Chapter 7, Nick finds that Gatsby has replaced all of his servants. What is Gatsby’s explanation to this action?

2.        After Gatsby calls, Daisy calls on Nick too. What do they both want him to do?

3.        What is the weather like on the day of the luncheon party?

4.        After the lunch, Tom Buchanan sees with astonishment that his wife is in love with Gatsby, because of something she says in a certain way. Quote the words by which Tom realizes Daisy loves Gatsby.

5.        A page or so later, Gatsby explains to Nick the extraordinary quality of Daisy’s voice: “Her voice is full of……”

6.        The Buchanans and their guests decide to go to New York. Who drives Gatsby’s car? Who rides with Gatsby in the other car?

7.        On the way to town, Tom stops by to get gas at George Wilson’s garage. What has Wilson recently discovered about his wife, Myrtle?

8.        At the Plaza Hotel, the quarrel between Gatsby and Tom comes out into the open. How does Gatsby describe Daisy’s feelings for Tom?

9.        Still at the hotel, Tom exposes Gatsby as “one of that bunch that hangs around with Meyer Wolfshiem.” Then Tom accuses Gatsby of various shady activities. How does Daisy feel about this information?

10.     They all leave the hotel. When Nick, Tom, and Jordan pass the gas station on the way home, we learn that George Wilson has locked his wife, Myrtle, in the house. What happens to her as soon as she escapes?

11.     George Wilson says, “You don’t have to tell me what kind of car it was! I know what kind of car it was!” Whose car is he talking about?

12.     Nick speaks with Gatsby in the Buchanan grounds-toward the end of the chapter. Who does Nick now realize was driving the car?

  • Chapters 8-9

1.        Who watches all night outside of Daisy’s house? What time does this person come home?

2.        Where was Gatsby when Daisy married Tom? Where does Gatsby go when he returned to the United States?

3.        Before leaving to go to work, Nick shouts to Gatsby, “They’re a rotten crowd. You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.” To what bunch was he referring?

4.        At his office, Nick speaks on the phone to Jordan Baker. What does he say to her proposal that they meet that afternoon?

5.        Alone with Michaelis, the grieving George Wilson points out an expensive leather and silver dog leash, apparently new. Who probably gave it to his wife?

6.        The next-to-last paragraph of Chapter 8 speaks of “the laden [i.e., loaded] mattress.” Where is this air mattress found? What is its load, “its accidental burden?”

7.        Whose body is found, “a little way off in the grass”? How did this person probably die?

8.        Who is responsible for Gatsby’s funeral arrangements? Besides Nick, the minister, the postman, and some servants, who comes to the funeral?

9.        Before leaving the East, to go back home, Nick says he wants “to leave things in order.” To whom does he have to talk?

10.     Later Nick meets Tom Buchanan in New York. What had Tom told George Wilson the day after his wife, Myrtle, was killed?

11.     “They were careless people….they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…” Who are they? Which “other people” or person cleans up their mess?