The Great Gatsby - Summary

F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby Book Cover


“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a classic American novel that explores themes of wealth, love, and the pursuit of the American Dream. Set in the 1920s, the story follows the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his obsession with the beautiful Daisy Buchanan. Through vivid descriptions and compelling characters, Fitzgerald paints a vivid picture of the Roaring Twenties and the dark underbelly of the Jazz Age. This book summary will provide an overview of the plot, delve into the major themes, and highlight key examples and anecdotes from the novel.

The Plot

The story is narrated by Nick Carraway, a young man who moves to New York in the summer of 1922 to pursue a career in the bond business. He rents a small house in West Egg, a wealthy suburb of Long Island, and becomes neighbors with the enigmatic Jay Gatsby. Gatsby is known for his extravagant parties and his opulent mansion, but his true identity and the source of his wealth remain a mystery.

As Nick becomes acquainted with Gatsby, he learns of his deep love for Daisy Buchanan, Nick’s cousin and the wife of the wealthy Tom Buchanan. Gatsby and Daisy had a brief romantic relationship before Gatsby went off to fight in World War I, and he has spent the years since then amassing his fortune in the hopes of winning her back.

Gatsby enlists Nick’s help in reuniting him with Daisy, and the two begin an affair. However, their relationship is ultimately doomed by the corrupting influence of wealth and the shallow values of the society they inhabit. The novel reaches its tragic climax when Daisy accidentally kills Tom’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson, and Gatsby takes the blame for her death. In the end, Gatsby is betrayed by those around him and is left to face the consequences of his actions alone.


1. The Illusion of the American Dream

One of the central themes of “The Great Gatsby” is the illusion of the American Dream. Gatsby, born into a poor family, reinvents himself as a wealthy and successful man in pursuit of his dream of winning Daisy’s love. However, his wealth and extravagant lifestyle are ultimately hollow and unfulfilling. Fitzgerald uses Gatsby’s story to critique the idea that material wealth can lead to happiness and fulfillment.

2. The Corruption of Wealth

Fitzgerald also explores the corrupting influence of wealth and the pursuit of pleasure. The characters in the novel are obsessed with wealth and social status, and their actions are driven by a desire for material gain. This obsession leads to moral decay and the destruction of relationships. The Buchanans, for example, are portrayed as shallow and morally bankrupt, using their wealth and privilege to manipulate and control others.

3. The Decline of the American Dream

“The Great Gatsby” also reflects the decline of the American Dream in the 1920s. The Roaring Twenties were a time of excess and decadence, but beneath the surface, there was a sense of disillusionment and moral decay. Fitzgerald captures this sense of disillusionment through his portrayal of the characters and their empty pursuit of wealth and pleasure.

Examples and Anecdotes

1. Gatsby’s Extravagant Parties

One of the most memorable aspects of the novel is Gatsby’s extravagant parties. These parties, held at his mansion in West Egg, are attended by the rich and famous of New York society. The parties are described in lavish detail, with scenes of excess and decadence. However, despite the grandeur of the events, they are ultimately empty and devoid of meaning. Gatsby throws these parties in the hopes that Daisy will attend, but she never does, highlighting the emptiness of his pursuit.

2. The Green Light

Throughout the novel, Gatsby is fixated on a green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. The green light represents Gatsby’s hopes and dreams, his longing for a better future. It is a symbol of the American Dream and the pursuit of happiness. However, the green light is also unattainable and elusive, just like Gatsby’s dream of winning Daisy’s love. This symbolizes the illusory nature of the American Dream and the futility of Gatsby’s pursuit.

3. The Valley of Ashes

The Valley of Ashes, a desolate and industrial wasteland located between West Egg and New York City, serves as a symbol of the moral decay and social inequality of the era. It is a place of poverty and despair, contrasting sharply with the wealth and opulence of West Egg and East Egg. The Valley of Ashes represents the dark underbelly of the American Dream, where the pursuit of wealth and pleasure has led to the destruction of lives and the degradation of society.


“The Great Gatsby” is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that explores themes of wealth, love, and the decline of the American Dream. Through vivid descriptions and compelling characters, Fitzgerald paints a vivid picture of the Roaring Twenties and the dark underbelly of the Jazz Age. The novel serves as a cautionary tale, warning against the empty pursuit of wealth and the corruption of moral values. “The Great Gatsby” continues to resonate with readers today, reminding us of the dangers of unchecked ambition and the fleeting nature of the American Dream.

Read other book summaries