THE GREAT GATSBY by F Scott Fitzgerald

THE GREAT GATSBYby F.Scott Fitzgerald

The author

Francis Scott Fitzgerald was was born in St. Paul / Minnesota on 4th September 1896. Because he was not so good at school he was sent to a boarding school in New Jersey. After his time in New Jersey he went to Princeton in 1913, but never graduated. Instead he enlisted in the army in 1917, shortly before the end of the 1st WorldWar.

He was stationed in Alabama where he fell in love with a 17-year-old girl, named Zelda Syre.

After a short time she agreed to marry him but her desire of wealth and fun was so powerful that they delayed their wedding several times until he could prove a success with his 1st publication "This side of Pardise". He became a literary sensation and earned so much money that he could marry Zelda.

His most famous novel "The Great Gatsby" was published in 1925.

Having become a celebrity he lived a wild life with parties and alcohol. But he also tried to please Zelda by writing to earn money.

During the Great Depression in 1929 his wife suffered from a nervous breakdown and he fought against alcoholism which hindered him writing novels.

In 1937 he moved to Hollywood to work on Screenplays. While working on his new novel

"The love of the last Tycoon" he died of a heart attack at the age of 44.


Nick Carraway :

He is the novel's narrator. Gatsby and most of what happens in the novel are described through his eyes.

He comes to NewYork to learn something about the stock business a fashionable job in the time before the Depression. He moves to West Egg the home of the newly rich, on Long Island. He is a newcomer to the world of enormous wealth and lives in a shabby bungalow next to Gatsby's impressive mansion.

Because he is the cousin of Daisy, Gatsby's old love, he has to play the role of a go-between for Gatsby  to "refresh" their old love and bring them together again.

Besides this he is a little bit in love with Jordan Baker, Daisy's best friend although he disapproves of her immorality.

Nick is a young, intelligent and clever man who has and wants to keep a distance to the rich people who come together  in Gatsby's house. In his eyes they are all superficial and amoral.

Jay Gatsby :

He is the protagonist.

He is very wealthy and famous for his parties on every Saturday night. The people at his parties belong to the high-society.

At the beginning he is very mysterious because none of his guests know where he comes from, what he works or how he has made his fortune, so there are many rumors about his life.

Gradually the readers get some information about his life, stories about different people and thus different perspectives. His real name is James Gatz and he comes from North Dakota. He worked for a millionaire who gave him the possibility to achieve s fortune. As an officer in Louisville he fell in love with Daisy, Nick's cousin. He wanted to marry Daisy then but as he was on a much lower  social level. Daisy decided to marry Tom. All his later life was determined by the wish to get Daisy back.

He got his fortune through criminal activities which he considered necessary to impress Daisy.

He is very optimistic and works hard and has great power to transform his dreams into reality.

Daisy Buchanan :

She is Nick's cousin and the woman Gatsby loves. She fell in love with Gatsby when he was an officier in Louisville. She promised to wait for him but then she decided to marry Tom Buchanan, obviously for financial reasons.

They both live across of Gatsby's mansion in East Egg. Daisy is not happy in her marriage she describes Tom as a "brute" of a man.

She knows about her husband's love-affairs and tries to hide her pain. She is intelligent, beautiful and belongs to the high-society.

Tom Buchanan :

He is Daisy's husband and so the antagonist of the conflict. He easily becomes aggressive, is very athletic and good looking. He is very dominating and superficial. It's normal for him to have a love affair but he goes mad when he suspects Daisy and Gatsby of having an affair.

He plays a big and tragic role in the end of the novel when he tells Wilson about the accident.

Jordan Baker :

She is the best friend of Daisy's. She represents the modern woman who is sportive, independent, rich.

She is very successful and beautiful and Nick loves her. She is also corrupt and amoral. We get to know this because she cheated in her 1st golf tournament to win the 1st place and she even does not have any scruples about it.

Myrtle Wilson :

She lives with her husband in a run-down garage and would like to be rich like the other women around Tom. She has a love-affair with Tom but Tom doesn't love her she is only a kind of sex-object or status-symbol for him. She wants to leave her husband, who locks her up in the house in the end, thus contibuting to her tragic death in the car accident.

George Wilson :

He is the husband of Myrtle. He owns a run-down garage and deals with cars.

He is fanatic about his wife and loves her more than anything else. Her love-affair with Tom makes him lose his mind. He seems to be exhausted by the difficulties of life. When his wife is killed he goes completely mad and tries to find  the murderer to take revenge.

The Story

Nick Carraway moves to New York to get a job as a stock brocker. He finds a small bungalow in West Egg, an expensive area where rich people live. Next to his home there is the big mansion of Jay Gatsby. Opposite the bay, in East Egg , Nick`s cousin Daisy lives with her husband Tom Buchanan. Tom is having a mistress and he doesn't make a big secret of it. He even introduces his lover Myrtle, who is married to the poor gas-station owner Wilson, to Nick.

Jay Gatsby seems to be a big mystery, everybody tells different stories about him. Most of the people think he got wealthy by illegal business. Although he gives big parties every weekend, he doesn't seem to have many friends. Most of the time he is not present at his own parties. One day Nick is invited to one of the famous parties of   Jay Gatsby.

After he and Gatsby have become friends Gatsby asks him to arrange a meeting with his cousin Daisy. The readers are informed that Gatsby and Daisy were in love some years ago and she had promised to wait for him because he had to take part in the 1st World War. But Daisy wasn`t able to wait for him and married Tom Buchanan, attracted by his money. When Gatsby heard about that, he started to believe that becoming as rich as possible would bring him Daisy back. He made his big fortune by bootlegging. Now, as they meet again, they continue their romance but they have to realize that it will never be the same as before because she is married with Tom who is against their romance although he has an affair of his own. 

It all ends in a big tragedy. Being together one afternoon with Jordan, Nick and Tom in the Plaza Hotel Gatsby tells Tom that Daisy has always loved him and not Tom. After a dispute between Tom and Gatsby about Daisy ,Daisy and Gatsby drive home from New York. Myrtle who has been locked in by her husband runs out of the house towards the car in which she expects Tom and the car runs over her. She is immediately dead. The car, that is driven by Daisy, leaves immediately. Wilson, who only knows the color of the car, begins to search the whole neighbourhood for it and its owner.

Finally he finds the car in Gatsby's garage and kills him and then himself. Afterwards the reader get to know that Tom has given him the information about the driver without knowing that Daisy was the "real" driver.

Although Gatsby had many parties with hundreds of guests nobody comes to his burial but Nick, his only friend and Gatsby's father. Even Daisy hasn't written a letter nor does she come, she has left New York with her husband.


On the one hand the novel "The Great Gatsby" is about the American Dream which had its origin in the 19th century with the opening of the American West. It is based on the idea that everbody no matter which background can achieve success by hard work and optimism."The Great Gatsby" is a novel about what happened to the American dream in the 1920s, a period when the old values made to the dream had been corrupted by the vulgar pursuit of wealth. The characters are Midwesterners who have come East in pursuit of this new dream for money, fame, success, glamour, and excitement. Tom and Daisy must have a huge house, a stable of polo ponies, and friends in Europe. Gatsby must have his enormous mansion before he can feel confident enough to try to win Daisy. Fitzgerald didn't criticize the American Dream itself. He criticized the corruption and the consequences of this ideal.

On the other hand Gatsby is a symbol for the whole American experience. Two classes are shown 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.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).

Language and Style

The so called "Jazz Age" is reflected in Fitzgerald's novel. It was a time of jazz and dancing, of the "modern" women who smoked and drank and of a romantic night-life.

The novel is told from the view of a first person narrator, from Nick's view.

Fitzgerald called "The Great Gatsby" a novel of "selected incident". Fitzgerald's stylistic method is to let a part stand for the whole. For example, he has three parties stand for the whole summer and for the contrasting values of three different worlds. He also presents small scenes of dialogue to represent what is happening at each party.

He also uses many images for example "godlike" eyes, the car as a symbol of wealth, the green light for Gatsby's dream and many colours like white for Daisy and Jordan or grey for Wilson and his area.

Sources :

The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by Kathleen Parkinson (Penguin critical studies)

The Great Gatsby erläutert von Hans-Joachim Esseln  (author) (characters)

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