Genre: Novel Title: The Great Gatsby Narrative Level: Characters


Type: Modernist, Jazz Age American Historical Published: 1925 Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald Time Period: 1920s (specifically 1922)

Nick Carraway- The narrator of the novel and the protagonist of the frame narrative. He is a conservative young man from the Minnesota who attended Yale and comes to New York to seek freedom and escape his small-town background via the bond business. He moves to West Egg (the “new money” area) and befriends his next-door neighbor, Gatsby. During the course of the novel, he turns thirty and decides to leave the East after the summer, judging the society to be shallow and meaningless. At the end of the book, he has decided to return home to the Midwest and marry the girl who has been waiting for him. Jay Gatsby (Protagonist)- The title character and central character of the novel. Originally a poor young man in the army, he falls in love with Daisy Fay, a wealthy and shallow “golden girl.” He spends the rest of his short life trying to win Daisy’s love. In order attract her attention, he amasses a fortune, earned from bootlegging and other illegal means, and builds a huge, gaudy mansion across the bay from the home of Daisy and her husband. His lavish Saturday night parties bake him a perplexing and mysterious icon to the upper-class New York society. He convinces Nick, Daisy’s cousin, to arrange a meeting between them in hope to win her back. Daisy, however, only uses Gatsby for entertainment, to break the boredom of her life. In the end, he is shot by Wilson, who believes that Gatsby was having an affair with his wife and was responsible for her accidental death. Daisy Buchanan- Daisy is an attractive, wealthy, and shallow woman whom Gatsby loves. She had a fling with Gatsby when he was stationed in the army in Louisville and promised she would wait for him. Soon bored and impatient, after Gatsby is sent to Europe she began to date other men of her same social class. She met and fell in love with the wealthy Tom Buchanan, whom she married. The young couple moved to East Egg, where they led a meaningless and shallow existence. When Daisy meets Gatsby again at Nick’s house, she fondly recalls their relationship but she will never leave Tom for Gatsby. Throughout the novel, Daisy is the object of Gatsby’s dream; even in the end, he does not realize that she is not worthy of his adoration. Tom Buchanan- Tom is Daisy’s wealthy husband who was a member of Nick’s social club at Yale. He is intimidating, strong, and hails from a socially important family. He is a symbol of the shallowness and carelessness of the very rich, as he is an arrogant and hypocritical bully. He plays with cars and race horses, has sordid affairs, and treats Daisy poorly and as if she is a commodity. She, however, will always remain with Tom, for he offers her security and the life style to which she is accustomed. Jordan Baker- Jordan is Daisy’s good friend. She is an attractive and wealthy young golfer whom Nick dates while he is in New York. A compulsive liar and a cheat, she is almost as shallow and careless as Daisy. Myrtle Wilson- The gaudy mistress of Tom Buchanan and the wife of George Wilson. Tom keeps an apartment for her in the city and buys Myrtle whatever she wants, a symbol of his absolute commodification. When George realizes she is having an affair, he locks her in her room and plans to move her out West. She is killed in a car accident by a hit-and-run driver, Daisy Buchanan. George Wilson- George is Myrtle’s husband and the owner of a run-down garage in the valley of ashes. He idolizes his wife and is consumed by grief and hysteria when she is killed. Thinking that Gatsby is responsible for her death, he shoots Gatsby and then himself. Meyer Wolfsheim- A shady business associate of Gatsby. He fixed the World Series and helped Gatsby make his money through bootlegging. Mr. Klipspringer- A frequent attendee of Gatsby’s parties who uses Gatsby for his money. He plays the piano. Owl Eyes- A whimsical drunk who attends Gatsby’s parties, but is impressed and astonished by Gatsby. He is one of the few people who attend Gatsby’s funeral.

Plot Outline: Nick Carraway having graduated from Yale and fought in World War I, has returned home to begin a career. He is restless and has decided to move to New York to learn the bond business. The novel opens early in the summer of 1922 in West Egg, Long Island, where Nick has rented a house. Next to his place is the Gatsby's mansion. Tom and Daisy Buchanan live in East Egg. Daisy is Nick's cousin and Tom had been in the same senior society at Yale. They invite Nick to dinner at their mansion, and he meets a young woman golfer named Jordan Baker, whom Daisy wants Nick to be interested in. During dinner the phone rings, and when Tom and Daisy leave the room, Jordan informs Nick that the caller is Tom's woman from New York. Myrtle Wilson, Tom's woman, lives is a section of Long Island known as the Valley of Ashes. In the Valley of Ashes is George Wilson's garage. Painted on a large billboard nearby is a fading advertisement for an optician with the eyes of a Doctor looking over them with a pair of glasses. One day Tom takes Nick to meet the Wilsons. The party breaks up when Myrtle starts using Daisy's name, and Tom breaks her nose with a blow of his open hand. Several weeks later Nick is invited to one of Gatsby's elaborate parties. Nick watches Gatsby and notices that he does not drink or join in the revelry of the party. At a luncheon with Nick in New York, Gatsby tells Nick that he graduated from Oxford. During lunch Gatsby introduces Nick to his business associate, Meyer Wolfsheim, who fixed the World Series in 1919. At tea that afternoon Nick finds out the Gatsby wants Nick to arrange a date between him and Daisy. Gatsby had loved Daisy five years ago, but he had been sent oversees by the army. Daisy had given up waiting for him and had married Tom. Gatsby decides to win Daisy back and his first step is to buy a house in West Egg. His house is across the bay from Daisy's house, and he can see a green light at the end of Daisy's dock. It represents his hope. Gatsby and Daisy meet for the first time in five years, and he tries to impress her with his mansion and his wealth. Tom, Daisy, Gatsby, Nick and Jordan go into the city where the truth is revealed about Gatsby and Daisy. Daisy will not go away with Gatsby and the five-year dream is over. Gatsby and Daisy go home together in a yellow Rolls Royce. On the way home they get into a car accident in which Myrtle was killed. Gatsby will take the blame for Daisy who was driving. George Wilson shoots Gatsby and then kills himself. Not many people showed to Gatsby's funeral except Nick, Mr. Gatz (his father), and a few servants. Nick returns to his hometown after his disappointment in the Eastern society.

Themes:  * Whether it is better to live in a perfect fantasy or an imperfect reality­ Gatsby’s obsessive quest to win Daisy back  presents the question of whether or not his fight it really worth the struggle. He is so absolutely consumed by the thought of  Daisy that he disregards all practicality around him hinting that his conquest is a lost cause. He lives and breathes his fantasy, to  the point that it is so prevalent that it becomes his reality. He can never accept that Daisy loves another man other than him and  his motivation of winning her back triumphs over all other endeavors in his life. Nick sees this madness and frequently  comments on the absurdity of Gatsby’s quest. Nick is the constant source of narrative reality and can logically see that Gatsby’s  pursuit is impossible. Nick also accepts the existence of an imperfect reality, which is why he leaves the Midwest and later West  Egg due to the hypocrisy and flaws in society. This contrast between Gatsby’s imagination and Nicks truth are foils within this  main theme.  * The degradation of the American Dream through reckless jubilance, decaying social and moral values, and   overarching cynicism and greed. – America in the 1920s is wholly represented throughout TGG. In an era of unprecedented  prosperity and material excess many people abused their wealth and social standings by consuming much more than was  necessary just because of pure greed. The corruption of the American Dream is presented in the lavish and decadent parties  Gatsby throws, where wild jazz music, elaborate party decorations, and excessive amounts of people are present. There is an  unrestrained desire for money and pleasure that far surpasses moral and noble agendas. TGG’s characters represent the extremes  in these social trends (ie. The corrupted millionaire Gatsby, the social climbers at the parties, and the clash between West and  East Egg).  The American Dream was transformed in the 1920s from discovery, individuality, and the pursuit of happiness, to  materialism, increasing status of wealth, and reckless greed. American dreams become no longer a road to happiness but a road  to value and status in their dreams. *Money cannot by happiness, especially when used primarily for success.­ The utter corruption and carelessness  created by the Upper Class depicts a society utterly obsessed with material things and commodities. Gatsby is a perfect  example, as he tries to win Daisy back through material possessions in order to prove his worthiness of her. Daisy, being the  shallow and gullible woman she is almost falls for Gatsby’s plan, as she is allured and impressed by his lavish parties,  extravagant wealth, and climbing social status. Although Gatsby and Daisy may have once loved each other, his game of trying  to buy her back is absolutely pathetic. Daisy is also pitiable as she temporarily subjects herself to Gatsby’s wealth, merely  because it is centered on her. All throughout the New York scene, bribery and excessive spending is scene as a way to move up  in status and achieve success. Tom buys Myrtle everything her heart desires from an apartment to new dresses and a puppy.  Excessive spending is seen as a way to attain instant gratification and pleasure rather than long lasting happiness. 

Motifs: *Seasons- The Weather and mentioning of the seasons in TGG parallels much of the narrative tone throughout the novel. Although the main narrative frame exists in one single summer, there are many suggestions to the changing of the seasons, as illustrated when Jordan exclaims, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall” (118). Jordan’s claim of change ironically coincides with the change that is soon going to occur in the novel after they leave the Buchanan’s (the climax of Myrtles death). In addition, the weather dramatically parallels the tone of events throughout the novel. It is a lazy, hot summer day when we first meet Daisy, similar to her languid beauty and blasé. It is raining when Gatsby and Daisy meet, implying that it is uncomfortable and gloomy. Gatsby is killed on a chilly day on the first of autumn and Gatsby and Tom’s fight happens on the hottest day of the summer. These minute details in the weather greatly parallel the tone of events that occur in the novel and changes in the external atmosphere are constantly modified to fit those in the internal atmosphere of the characters. * Alcohol­ Conspicuous and unneeded consumption of alcohol, as well as its prohibition in the 1920s are blatant factors  throughout much of TGG. The whole reason Gatsby is a newly rich millionaire, capable of owning a mansion in the prestigious  West Egg, is because of his involvement in the bootlegging of alcohol. Were it not for the prohibition, it would not have been so 

easy for Gatsby to make his money. Furthermore, the excessive amount of drinking and merriment occurring at Gatsby’s parties  reflects the utter recklessness and exuberance that the upper class New York society. These wild and crazy parties that are  fundamentally unnecessary (as they are used as a tool to get Daisy back) display the ridiculous consumption and materialism of  the time, and the temporary degradation of the American dream. Lastly, Nick’s drinking at Tom’s apartment, claiming it is the  second time drinking in his life, causes Nick to proclaim “everything that happened had a dim, hazy cast over it” (29). Nick  realizes the impairment involved with alcohol and infers that the reason everyone drinks so often is to reinstate that lazy and  lethargic feeling associated with those in the upper class who are free to bask in the summer and their money. CONTEXTUAL LEVEL: Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (named after his ancestor who wrote “The Star Spangled Banner”) was
born on September 24, 1896 and was an American writer of novels and short stories. He was raised in St. Paul, Minnesota with an upper-middle class Irish Catholic household. Although Fitzgerald was an intelligent child, he did poorly in school and was sent to a New Jersey boarding school in 1911. He attended Princeton in 1913, never graduating enlisting in the army in 1917. He met and fell in love with a wild seventeen-year-old beauty named Zelda Sayre while he was stationed in Alabama. Zelda finally agreed to marry him, but her overpowering desire for wealth, fun, and leisure led her to delay their wedding until he could prove a success. With the publication of This Side of Paradise in 1920, Fitzgerald became a literary sensation (later the most famous author of the Jazz Age), earning enough money and fame to convince Zelda to marry him. Fitzgerald’s own life is often compared to that of Gatsby’s. The Great Gatsby was published in 1925 and received wide critical acclaim, as it enveloped all the tragedy and excess of the twenties. Sadly, Zelda suffered a nervous breakdown and Fitzgerald battled alcoholism, which slowly weakened his writing. He published Tender Is the Night in 1934, and sold short stories to The Saturday Evening Post to support his lavish lifestyle. In 1937, he left for Hollywood to write screenplays, and in 1940, while working on his novel The Love of the Last Tycoon, died of a heart attack at the age of forty-four.

RHETORICAL LEVEL: The tone of TGG is demonstrated through Nick’s account. He is both doubtful and conflicting as times, as he disapproves of Gatsby’s excessiveness, but yet empathizes with and admires Gatsby for his romantic nature. The tone is seemingly sentimental and sorrowful because Nick sees Gatsby’s tragic downfall as well as the utter pathetic nature of the new conspicuous society. Nicks narrative additionally creates an intimate and earnest account of the 1922 summer he recollects. Although the reader does not know for sure whether or not Nick is a perfectly reliable narrator, we know that he preaches his honest and revealing secrets and opinions. We see the criticism of Gatsby’s society solely from the eyes of Nick and are subject to his disgust and pity. The style of writing used in TGG contains very adequate sentence structure. There are short abrupt sentences and longer, in depth accounts. This effect makes the book truer to the Nick’s intimate narrative, as it flows well and sounds like he is actually speaking. In addition, many of Fitzgerald’s description are extraordinarily brilliant as they are said through perfectly representative metaphors (ex. The boats against the currents, the rock on the fairy’s wings).

STRUCTURAL LEVEL: The Great Gatsby is presented in the frame narrative of Nick Carraway. The use of the limited first person point of view presents not only the mysterious character of Gatsby but in addition it gives the whole novel a greater air of realism. It is believed that these parties really happened because a real person named Nick Carraway is reporting what he saw. When Nick writes down the names of the people who came to Gatsby's parties on a Long Island Railroad timetable, it is believable that these people actually came to Gatsby's parties. The structure of the novel takes place over a short summer, which is revealed chronologically with minimal flashbacks. Fitzgerald uses Nick’s introduction of how he is telling the tale of Gatsby to provide the frame narrative for which the reader sees the story and is told the events that occur. All characters in the novel are important to either the symbolic nature of the story or the plot. Although many of the characters never change and develop, it is on purpose that they do not because it maintains their utter helplessness and trapped state within their society. SYMBOLIC LEVEL: Two extremely important symbols in The Great Gatsby are The Green Light and the eyes of Dr. T.J.

Eckleburg. The green light represents Gatsby's aspirations and hopes for the future. Daisy is the green light to Gatsby because she is in reach and easily seen but is an unattainable goal he will never win. In addition, the light represents the disassociation Gatsby has with reality. He is so distracted by that constant green light (Daisy) that he will never move past it or find something else. It is all he sees, and it is all he cares about as well. The Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg are representative of a god-figure watching down upon the characters. They may represent God staring down upon and judging American society in its moral degradation and they may represent God staring down on Gatsby, Tom, and Myrtle, as the eyes “see” Myrtles accident and brutal death. The eyes reiterate the upsetting wasteland society has become and makes it even more of a sin for them to partake in their excessiveness and horrendous actions, especially directly under his eyes.

IMPORTANT QUOTATIONS: 1. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that recedes before us. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” (180). 2. "I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool- that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool" (17). 3. "Can't repeat the past?... Why of course you can!" (110).