The Great Gatsby

The Author:

His Biography

born September 24, 1896 in Saint Paul, Minnesota F. attended but never graduated from Princeton University where he got in contact with rich peoples from the eastern seaboard in 1917 he left Princeton and went to the army in 1920 he married the beautiful Zelda Sayre Together they enjoyed a rich life of endless parties Within two years they became the most notorious young couple in America, symbolizing what Fitzgerald called the Jazz Age to maintain their lifestyle F. wrote more books an lots of stories for the popular magazines of the time in 1925 Scott, Zelda and their daughter Scottie moved from New York City to Great Neck, Long Island (the model for West Egg in Gatsby) - eventually on to Paris and the Riviera and finally back to the United States great stock marked crash in 1929 which ended America's decade of prosperity F. could not finish another novel, and he could not make Zelda happy. She became more and more depressed, and finally in April 1930, Zelda had a complete breakdown and had to be hospitalized He kept on writing but during 1935 and 1936 he had his own breakdown in 1940 he died of a heart attack in Hollywood

His works:

in 1920 Scott Fitzgerald's first novel This Side of Paradise was published and made him famous and rich The Beautiful and the Damned, his next novel was published in 1922. It's a mood piece chronicling the anxieties and dissipations of a rich couple. In only five months he completed The Great Gatsby (1925) which is generally regarded as his masterpiece It was not until 1934 that his fourth novel appeared. Tender is the night which was a almost confessional story of his life with Zelda The experience that he became a screenwriter in Hollywood inspired his final and most mature novel, The last Tycoon (1941) which remained unfinished

The Story

Nick Carraway, the narrator, is a young Midwesterner who, having graduated from Yale in 1915 and fought in World War I, has returned home to begin a cereer. Like others in his generation, he is restless and has decided to move East to New York and learn the bond business. The vovel opens early in the summer of 1922 in West Egg, Long Island, where Nick has rented a house. Next to his place is a huge mansion complete with Gothixc tower an marble swimming pool, which belongs to a Mr. Gatsby, whom Nick has not met. Directly across the bay from West Egg is the more fashionable community of East Egg, where Tom and Daisy Buchanan live. Daisy is Nick's cousin, and Tom had been in the same senior society as Nick in New Haven. Like Nick they are Midwesterners who have come East to be a part of the glamour and mistery of the New York City area. They invite Nick to dinner at their mansion, and here he meets a young women golfer named Jordan Baker. During dinner Mrs. Myrtle Wilson rings. She lives in a strange place between West Egg and New York City that F. calls the "valley of ashes." One day Tom takes Nick to meet the Wilsons but the party breaks up as Tom breaks Myrtles nose with a blow of his open hand. Some weeks later Nick finally gets the opportunity to meet his mysterious neighbour Mr. Gatsby. Gatsby gives huge parties and people come from everywhere to attend these parties, but no one seems to know much about the host. Nick becomes fascinated by Gatsby and he begins watching him and notices that he does not drink or join in his own parties. One day Nick and Gatsby drive to New York together. Gatsby tells Nick that he's from a wealthy family in the Midwest, that he was educated at Oxford, and that he won war medals from many European countries. Nick isn't sure what to believe. At tea that afternoon Nick finds out from Jordan Baker why Gatsby has taken such an interest in him: Gatsby is in love with Daisy Buchanan and wants Nick to arrange a meeting between them. It seems that Gatsby, as a young officer in 1917, had fallen in love with Daisy. He had been sent overseas, and she had eventually given him up and married Tom. So Gatsby decided to win Daisy back. His first step was to buy a house in West Egg. From here he could look across the bay to the green light at the end of Daisy's dock.

A few days later, in the rain, Gatsby and Daisy meet for the first time in five years. Gatsby is at first terrified, then very excited. He takes Daisy and Nick on a tour of his house and grounds and shows them all his possessions, even his shirts. Then he insists Klipspringer to play the piano for them. K. plays "Ain't We Got Fun," and Nick leaves.

Then Nick gives us some information about who Gatsby really is. He was originally James Gatz, the son of farm people from North Dakota. After beeing dropped out of his college, Gatsby ended up on the south shore of Lake Superior earning money by digging clams and fishing for salmon. One day he saw the beautiful yacht of the millionaire Dan Cody and borrowed a rowboat to war Cody of an impending storm. Cody took the seventeen year old boy on as steward, mate, and secretary. When Cody died, he left the boy, now Jay Gatsby, a legacy of $25000, which the boy never got because of the jealousy of Cody's mistress.

Then Nick goes on to tell us more about the happenings in the summer of 1922. Daisy and Tom come to one of Gatsby's parties but both don't have a good time. Though Gatsby has been seeing Daisy, he's increasingly frutrated by his inability to recreate the magic of their time together in Louisville five years before. The affair between Daisy and Gatsby now comes out into the open. Tom, Daisy, Gatsby, Nick and Jordan all meet for lunch at the Buchanans and then decide to drive to New York. Tom, Nick and Jordan drive in Gatsby's yellow Rolls Royce. The five arrive in the city where they rent a suite at the Placa Hotel. Tom, drunk by now starts attacking Gatsby about his past and for his habbit calling people "old sport". Gatsby reacts by telling Tom that Daisy is going to leave him. They fight with words until Tom wins. Daisy will not go away with Gatsby. Tom sends Daisy and Gatsby home together in the RR, knowing that he has nothing more to fear. A couple of hours later Tom follows with Nick and Jordan. When they reach the valley of ashes, they see crowds of people and police cars. Myrtle Wilson was struck by a car coming from NY and the car had to be Gatsby's yellow RR. When Nick gets back to East Egg, he finds Gatsby hiding outside the Buchanans house because he is in fear that Tom could hurt Daisy. Gatsby tells Nick that Daisy was driving, but that - of course - he will take the blame. Nick goes to work the next morning, but is too worried about Gatsby to stay in NY. But when he arrives at Gatsby's house he sees the body of his friend lying in the swimming pool and George Wilson's body, revolver in hand, lies nearby on the grass. The crazed husband did spent the entire morning finding out the driver of the yellow RR. He found out before Nick did. Nick tries to phone Daisy and Tom, but is told that they've left without leaving an address. When he calls to Meyer Wolfheim he has similar results. Nick it, it seems, is Gatsby's only friend. The news of Gatsby's murder are printed in all newspapers all over America and so Mr. Gatz arrives for the funeral, which is only attended by Nick and three other persons. Mr. Gatz, who loves his son very much shows Nick a book which Jimmy owned as a boy. In this Gatsby has written a schedule for self improvement: exercise, study, sport and work.

Disgusted and disillusioned by what he has experienced, Nick decides to leave NY and return to the Midwest. He ends his relationship with Jordan Baker and Tom Buchanan tells him, that it was he, Tom, who told Wilson where Gatsby lived. Before Nick leaves the East, he stands one more time on the beach near Gatsby's house looking out at the green light that his friend had worshipped. Here he pays his final tribute to Gatsby and to the dream for which he lived - and died!


Nick Carraway

- narrator of the Great Gatsby and is also a character in the novel

- he is Fitzgerald's custom to make the story more realistic - he is telling us about the events in his own words

- he is a pretty solid young man who has graduated from Yale University

- comes from a solid Midwestern family (like the author)

- honest, tolerant and understanding

- he's in a perfect position to tell the story. He is a cousin of Daisy Buchanan and was in the same senior society as Tom at Yale and he has rented a house right next to Gatsby

- He both admires Gatsby and disapproves of him and he is the only person that understands Gatsby. At the end he is also the only friend of him

- represents the author

Jay Gatsby

- neither great nor Gatsby

- has committed crimes in order to buy the house he feels he needs to win the woman he loves

- his dream is not really what is known as the American Dream of Success - the belief that every man can have success no matter what his beginnings - it's a kind of romantic idealism

- Gatsby is not interested in power for it's own sake or money or prestige. He just want's his dream ⇒ Daisy

- Gatsby is a mistery. Who is he?

Tom Buchanan

- famous football player

- also very wealthy and strong

- he believes in his own superiority by telling Nick about a book he believes in. The book warns that if white people are not careful, the black races will rise up and overwhelm them

- He is having an affair with Myrtle Wilson the wife of George Wilson. This woman seems to have a dark sexual vitality that attracts Tom. He bought an apartment for her in NY.

- There he shows how little he thinks of anyone beside himself when he breaks Myrtle's nose with the back of his hand, because she is shouting "Daisy, Daisy!" in a vulgar way

- he also tells George Wilson that Gatsby was the killer of Myrtle

Daisy Fay Buchanan

- described in almost fairytale languag. (Fay = fairy)

- "she is the princess in the tower, the golden girl that every man dreams of possessing" She is also beautiful and rich and innocent and pure (at lest on the surface)

- but has also the bad manners that money cause

- She is the sort of person who is better to dream about than to possess

- represents Zelda

- uses her money to protect her from reality

Jordan Baker

- a tough and aggressive woman who is willing to do anything to win (ball moved)

- she symbolizes a new type of woman that was emerging in the Twenties: hard and self-sufficient

- wears the kind of clothes that suit her; she smokes, she drinks, and has sex because she enjoys it

- masculine name, hard, athletic and small breasted body, cynical and bored style

- can supply Nick with information - also moving between East Egg and West Egg

Interpretation and Comments


- Dialogues represent what is happening

- cinematic technique

- lot's of images

- reflective style - Nick stops his narration of any event and reflects on the meaning of the action


- is very important in The Great Gatsby because in Fitzgerald's world setting reveals character

- F. devides the world of the novel into four major settings: 1. East Egg; 2. West Egg;...3. The valley of ashes;... 4. New York City

- Each of these settings stands also for the values of the people who live or work there

The Jazz Age

The Jazz Age began in May 1918. It ended with the stock marked crash of 1929. The Jazz Age brought about one of the most rapid and pervasive changes in manners and morals the world has ever seen, changes that we are still wrestling with today. It was a period when the younger generation - men and women alike - were rebelling against the values and customs of their parents and grandparents. After all, the older generation had led thousands of young men into the most brutal and senseless war in human history. People of Fitzgerald's age had seen death, and when they came back, they were determined to have a good time. "How you gonna keep'em down on the farm, now that they've seen Paree" was one of the most pupular songs of the day.

And have a good time they did. The saxophone replaced the violin; skirt hemlines went up; corsets came off; women started smoking; and Prohibition, which was supposed to stop drinking, only reshaped it into secret fun. The public saloon, now illegal, was replaced by the private cocktail party, and men and women began drinking together. Parties like the ones given by Gatsby began to thrive, and hoodlums became millionaires in a few months by controlling the bootleg liquour business.

Scott and Zelda not only chronicled the age, they lived it. They rode down Fifth Avenue on the tops of taxis; they drove into the fountain in front of New Yorks famous Plaza Hotel: Scott fought with waiters, and Zelda danced on tabletops. They drank too much and passed out in corners; they drove recklessly and gave weekend parties, which were not too different from the ones Gatsby gives in the novel and which lasted until the small hours of Monday morning.

In the midst of all this, Fitzgerald tried to write. Part of him believed in work and tried repeatedly to discipline himself, to go "on the wagon," to give up parties.

Short Interpretation

In principle, Gatsby is a symbol for the whole American experience. Two classes are portrayed in the novel The Great Gatsby. The rich people are represented by Jay Gatsby, Tom and Daisy Buchanan. The human relationships in this society are superficial, they do not feel anything for each other. They feel superior to the working-class, men feel superior to women. Real friendships are very rare. Nick and Gatsby are the exception of the rule. But Jay Gatsby is an impostor, because of his criminal past he becomes guilty. His parties have only one reason, to arrange a meeting with Daisy. His dream is a life with Daisy and his love for her. On the one hand Gatsby is heroic, but on the other he is trivial and common. The best example for this superficiality is Tom. Daisy's husband represents the brutality and moral carelessness of the established rich. He has no scruples.

The life of the working-class is shown by the Wilsons, Myrtle and George. In the novel the two classes get in contact because of the relationship between Myrtle and Tom. They are speaking a different kind of English. Their brutality is physical (George kills Gatsby), while the upper class uses psychological brutality (Tom hates Gatsby too, but he uses George to kill him).

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