The Great Gatsby Study Guide

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby is F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel of the roaring 20's, told from the perspective of Nick Carraway, who moves in next door to the eccentric millionaire Jay Gatsby. Over the course of the summer of 1922, Nick becomes drawn into Gatsby's world of excess, a world that also includes Nick's married cousin Daisy Buchanan, the object of Gatsby's obsession. Portraying a world of decayed social and moral values, The Great Gatsby serves as a critique of the Upper class and an exploration of the decline of the American dream.

Brief Summary

Gatsby tries to repay Nick for inviting Daisy to his house by offering him a chance to make money in a shady sideline business deal, but Nick declines his offer. Nick calls Daisy to ask her to tea, per Gatsby's request, and, when she accepts, advises her not to bring Tom. Gatsby is extremely nervous before Daisy's arrival, and wants everything to go perfectly. He sends flowers to Nick's house to use as decorations, and has a servant mow Nick's lawn.

Daisy arrives at Nick's house alone, in the pouring rain. Gatsby arrives at Nick's door shortly thereafter, pale with anxiety. He and Daisy are both at a loss for words. Initially, their reunion is embarrassing and awkward. Gatsby regrets orchestrating the meeting with Daisy, telling Nick, privately, that it was a mistake. Nick reassures him, and leaves him alone with Daisy.

When Nick returns, he finds Gatsby and Daisy sitting on the couch, without a trace of discomfort. Gatsby's face is bright with happiness, and Daisy's cheeks are streaked with joyful tears. Gatsby invites Daisy and Nick to his mansion, where he shows off his wealth and belongings to Daisy. She is impressed by the display, and cries inexplicably when she sees his expensive, tailored English shirts.

Gatsby strolls through his garden with Daisy and Nick, and notes that they could see the green light at the end of Daisy's dock, if it weren't for the mist. Back inside his mansion, Gatsby demands that Klipsringer play a tune on the piano for them, and Nick notices a photograph of an old man in a yachting costume, who Gatsby identifies as his former best friend, Dan Cody, who is now deceased. Gatsby and Daisy become enchanted with one another, and do not notice when Nick departs, leaving them alone together.

Detailed Summary

Nick arrives home at two o'clock in the morning from his date with Jordan to find Gatsby's mansion ablaze with light. Gatsby approaches Nick from across his lawn, and suggests that they take a ride to Coney Island together. When Nick declines, Gatsby counters with an invitation to swim in his pool, but Nick insists that he must go to bed. Before departing, Nick realizes that Gatsby wants to know about his conversation with Jordan,regarding the proposed reunion between Gatsby and Daisy. Nick informs Gatsby that he has spoken with Jordan about the matter, and that he has agreed to invite Daisy to his house, per Gatsby's request. Gatsby tries to interest Nick in a sideline business deal, one that Gatsby insists does not involve Wolfsheim, but Nick defers, offended that Gatsby would offer him compensation in exchange for inviting Daisy to his house.

Nick calls Daisy and invites her to his house for tea, warning her not to bring Tom. Daisy is unaware that Gatsby is using Nick to facilitate his reunion with her. On the day the of the reunion, it is pouring rain. Gatsby sends a servant to Nick's house to mow his lawn, and bouquets of stunning flowers with which to decorate his modest home. Gatsby grows exceedingly nervous as he awaits Daisy's arrival.

Daisy arrives at Nick's house and asks him, teasingly, why he has asked her to come alone. Just then, there is a knock at the door. Nick opens the door to find Gatsby standing outside, sick with anxiety. The first moments of Daisy and Gatsby's reunion are tense and awkward. Neither know what to say to one another, and they fumble for words to make uncomfortable conversation. Both are terribly embarrassed by the situation.

Amidst the evident discomfort, Gatsby beckons Nick into the kitchen and, terrified, admits he has made a mistake by orchestrating his reunion with Daisy. Nick tell Gatsby that he is behaving like a child, and leaves his house to take a walk. Gatsby thus returns to the parlor where Daisy is sitting.

Nick returns a half hour later, once the rain has stopped, to find Daisy and Gatsby seated at either ends of the couch, every trace of awkwardness gone. Daisy's face is smeared with joyous tears, and Gatsby looks radiant with ecstasy. Gatsby invites Daisy and Nick to his mansion, and shows Daisy his home and possessions. She is impressed by Gatsby's evident wealth. When Gatsby shows her his collection of shirts, custom-tailored of the finest fabrics and imported from England, Daisy begins to weep, saying only that she has never seen such beautiful shirts before.

Strolling through the garden with Daisy and Nick, Gatsby notes that they might be able to see the green light at the end of Daisy's dock, if it weren't for the mist.

Nick notices a photograph of an old man in yachting costume in Gatsby's mansion, and inquires about him. Gatsby replies that the man is Dan Cody, his former best friend, now deceased. Nick tries to leave so that Gatsby and Daisy can be alone, but Gatsby insists that he stay, and demands that Klipspringer play a tune on the piano. Gatsby and Daisy become entranced by one another, and Nick eases out of the room, leaving them alone together.

Analysis

The much-anticipated meeting between Daisy and Gatsby in Chapter V marks a turning point in the novel. Until Chapter V, all of Gatsby's past is a great mystery, and the novel purposefully seeks to discover the truth about it. When, in Chapter IV, Jordan reveals the secret of Gatsby's and Daisy's past romance to Nick, Gatsby's true history begins to unravel. Gatsby is haunted by his past, and thus tries to muddle it with a myriad of unbelievable lies. He also adopts a false persona; in essence, Gatsby lives a lie. But Gatsby's false pretense disseminates upon his meeting with Daisy. He is no longer a confident, composed gentleman, but a trembling, fragile boy, fearful that his heart will be broken. This is the first time in the novel that Gatsby shows true emotion. Likewise, Daisy drops her glib, girlish act when she is unexpectedly reunited with Gatsby, and is brought to tears, multiple times, by pure emotion.

Gatsby is determined to show Daisy his mansion and other fineries because he wants to prove that he is worthy of her, and has wealth with which to support her. Daisy is filled with emotion and cries upon seeing Gatsby's expensive English shirts because she is moved by as yet unseen evidence of Gatsby's wealth. Daisy cherishes material riches, and is thus greatly affected by Gatsby's exhibition.

Gatsby is clearly an ambitious man, and has arguably attained much of his prosperity in an effort to impress and win back Daisy's affection. One of Nick's first impressions of Gatsby is that he is a man with enormous hopefulness and idealism; Gatsby believe, beyond doubt, that he will attain his greatest desires, and dedicates himself to achieving them. However, Nick fears that Gatsby's idealized, romantic illusions will be shattered once he has reunited with Daisy, for though he is now deliriously happy, she may not live up to his expectations of her. Until now, Daisy has reigned as Gatsby's greatest desire of all, but she is no longer distant from him, like the green light at the end of her dock. Now, he has her in his arms.

Walking through Gatsby's garden in the evening, Gatsby mentions that they could see Daisy's dock light if it weren't for the mist. The mist is symbolizes the haze of Gatsby's idealism; up close, the green light may not shine as brightly as he imagines. Now that Gatsby has Daisy within his reach, not merely in his dreams, it is questionable whether or not she will live up to his high expectations of her.

Throughout The Great Gatsby , the concept of time is a vague and disputable. The sequence of events occurs is not attributed to exact lapses in time, but, rather, an unspecified period of days or weeks. The only definite time frame provided is that the story Nick tells takes place during a single summer. The concept of time is addressed, but never defined.

Although Gatsby labors to create his ideal future, he is haunted by the past, and desperate to reclaim it. In his nervousness, Gatsby nearly knocks the clock from Nick's mantle, but recovers it before it shatters on the floor. Likewise, Gatsby tries to recover the past by attempting to rekindle his romance with Daisy.

To some degree, Gatsby feels as if he can earn Daisy, as he has earned his fortune, and that he is somehow entitled to her, as he feels entitled to his wealth. Presumably, Gatsby knows little of Daisy's dreary relationship with Tom,though he is well aware that she is a married woman, but pursues her, regardless. Now that he is wealthy and powerful, Gatsby feels he has a right to claim his Daisy, the great love he lost in his youth.

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