Jordan sees the seasons as a source of constant renewal.
The Great Gatsby Video
Watch the illustrated video summary of the classic novel, The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The Great Gatsby is a portrait of American society during the Roaring Twenties. It features Jay Gatsby, who journeys from rags to riches only to find that his wealth does not afford him the privileges of those born into the upper class. Gatsby hosts lavish parties at his ostentatious Gothic mansion in West Egg, near New York City. West Egg is home to the nouveau riche, or “new rich," people who lack established social connections and vulgarly flaunt their wealth. Gatsby is suspected of being involved in illegal bootlegging and other underworld activities.
Gatsby’s neighbor, Nick Carraway, narrates the novel. Nick comes from a prominent midwestern family, but has been educated at Yale and moved to New York to enter the bond business. Nick, like Gatsby, resides in West Egg.
Upon arriving in New York, Nick visits his cousin, Daisy Buchanan, and her husband, Tom. The Buchanans live in the more fashionable and posh Long Island district of East Egg. Like Nick, Tom Buchanan graduated from Yale, and comes from a privileged Midwestern family. Tom is a former football player, a brutal bully obsessed with the preservation of class boundaries. Daisy, by contrast, is an almost ghostlike young woman who affects an air of sophisticated boredom.
At the Buchanans’, Nick meets Jordan Baker, a beautiful but cold and cynical young woman who is a golf professional. The two later become romantically involved. Jordan tells Nick that Tom has been having an affair with Myrtle Wilson, a woman who lives in the valley of ashes—an industrial wasteland outside of New York City. Later that night, Nick goes home to West Egg where he sees Gatsby from his backyard gazing at a mysterious green light across the bay. Gatsby stretches his arms out toward the light, as though to catch and hold it.
Soon after, Tom decides to take Nick to New York City. They stop first at the garage owned by George Wilson, the husband of Myrtle Wilson. Tom and Myrtle have been having and affair and he tells Myrtle to join them later in the city. Nearby, on an enormous billboard, a pair of bespectacled blue eyes stares down at the barren landscape. These eyes once served as an advertisement; now, they merely brood over the valley of ashes.
In the city, Tom takes Nick and Myrtle to the apartment in Morningside Heights where he maintains his affair. There, they have a lurid party. The more Myrtle drinks, the more aggressive she becomes; she taunts Tom about Daisy, and he reacts by breaking her nose. The party, unsurprisingly, comes to an abrupt end.
Nick attends a lavish party at Gatsby's mansion, where he runs into Jordan. At the party, few of the attendees know Gatsby; even fewer were formally invited. Nick had never met Gatsby prior, but now sees him as a strikingly handsome, slightly dandified young man who affects an English accent.
At this point in the novel, Gatsby's origins are unclear. He claims to come from a wealthy San Francisco family, and says that he was educated at Oxford and claims to be a decorated veteran of the Great War.
At a lunch, Gatsby introduces Nick to his business associate, Meyer Wolfsheim, who is a notorious criminal; many believe that he is responsible for fixing the 1919 World Series.
Gatsby mysteriously avoids the Buchanans, but asks Nick to arrange a meeting between himself and Daisy. Upon their meeting, Gatsby gives Daisy a tour of his mansion, desperately exhibiting his wealth. Despite his stilted demeanor, the two begin an affair.
Jordan has explained to Nick that Gatsby first fell in love with Daisy when they met in Louisville before the war.
Eventually, Nick learns the true story of Gatsby's past. He was born James Gatz in North Dakota, but legally changed his name at the age of seventeen. The gold baron and voyager, Dan Cody, served as Gatsby's mentor until Cody’s death. Though Gatsby inherited nothing of Cody's fortune, the baron introduced Gatsby to world of wealth, power, and privilege.
To Tom Buchanan, however, Gatsby is part of the “nouveau riche" and thus poses a danger to the old order that Tom holds dear. When he accompanies Daisy to Gatsby's next party, he is exceedingly rude and condescending. Nick realizes that Gatsby wants Daisy to renounce her husband, Tom, and her marriage, wishing to recover the years they have lost. Gatsby worships Daisy, failing to see her flaws. He forgets that Daisy's small-minded cowardice initially caused their separation.
Meanwhile, Daisy invites Gatsby, Nick, and Jordan to lunch at her house. In an attempt to make Tom jealous, and to exact revenge for his affair, Daisy tells Gatsby that she loves him while Tom is in earshot.
Tom is furious. He forces the group to drive into the city: there, in a suite at the Plaza Hotel, Tom and Gatsby have a bitter confrontation. Tom denounces Gatsby for his low birth, telling Daisy that Gatsby has made his fortune through illegal activities. Daisy's true allegiance is to Tom; when Gatsby begs her to say that she does not love her husband, she refuses.
Tom permits Gatsby to drive Daisy back to East Egg, showing both his contempt for Gatsby, and his faith in his wife's complete subjection. Gatsby allows Daisy to drive to help calm her nerves. Passing George's garage, Daisy swerves to avoid another car and ends up hitting Myrtle; Myrtle is killed instantly.
George, driven nearly mad by the death of his wife, is desperate to find her killer. Tom tells him that Gatsby was driving the fatal car. George believes the driver must also have been Myrtle's lover. He shoots Gatsby before committing suicide himself.
After the murder, the Buchanans leave town. Nick is left to organize Gatsby's funeral, but finds that few people cared for Gatsby. Nick seeks out Gatsby's father, Henry Gatz, and brings him to New York for the very small funeral. From Henry, Nick learns the full scope of Gatsby's grandiose visions and his dreams of self-improvement.
Thoroughly disgusted with life in New York, Nick decides to return to the Midwest. Before his departure, Nick sees Tom once more. Tom tries to justify his past actions and elicit Nick's sympathy. Nick muses that Gatsby, alone among the people of his acquaintance, strove to transform his dreams into reality; it is this that makes him "great." Nick also believes, however, that the time for such grand aspirations is over; greed and dishonesty have irrevocably corrupted both the American Dream and the dreams of individual Americans.