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Summary of "the Great Gatsby"

Updated on April 6, 2013

The Beginning

The way in which F. Scott Fitzgerald chooses to introduce the book affects the rest of the novel. The presentation of the novel in the initial stages interested me greatly because of the way in which Fitzgerald uses Nick Caraway not only as the narrator of the story but also adopts the role of the books Author and this immediately grabs the attention of the reader. Furthermore many of the major themes which are carried forward throughout the novel are explored immediately as the story commences. One of the major themes initially explored is the fact that various geographical locations symbolize different themes and attitudes. From the outset Fitzgerald introduces two areas of utmost interest throughout the novel, West Egg and East Egg. Exploring these locations instantly enables the reader to develop thoughts upon the different roles of characters in these to locations. Although both are shown to be home to the wealthy, Fitzgerald presents each with opposite social ideas using the characters to convey this message. The Buchannans represent the East Egg which shows inherited wealth, leisure and luxury whereas Gatsby embodies West Egg showing it to be a place of the newly rich making their way through their own hard work. This strong sense of meaning has very briskly been placed into the story by Fitzgerald making the opening very poignant.


Time is used to great effect by Fitzgerald in the concluding stages of the novel to convey the death of Gatsby and the events surrounding that particular occurrence as he portrays the death two years after the occurrence and the retrospect offers various insights which the reader can gain from this. Furthermore the last chapter in particular rounds up the ideas Fitzgerald was portraying according to the stage at which America was in their history. One thing that is further explored towards the end is Nicks outlook upon the east and what it represents. He describes the moral depravity associated with East egg and this shows many attitudes in America at the time at which the novel was written during the jazz age where moral laxity was spreading in certain parts of the country having a negative impact on peoples moral behaviour. Fitzgerald also portrays Gatsby towards the end as a man who was trying to radically changing his own life, desiring to live to gain the American dream and fulfilling the belief of rugged individualism within the governmental policies to work hard for ones self to achieve for oneself. However despite his desires his story was one which ended in failure for various reasons. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” The final quotation epitomizes Gatsby’s struggle throughout the novel. Fitzgerald presents an issue that as humans it is our tendency to strive to attain goals which have been met in the past and recreating moments from the past. The target keeps moving away from the outstretched arms and all the energy is lost as the target is no longer in sight. This could possibly be an illustration of the American Dream and how we pursue dreams which can never be fully met.


Place and setting is used to great effect throughout the novel. Setting of the plot has a considerably large role to play in this novel and each setting corresponds with a theme. The idea that East Egg is symbolized by the attitudes of the Buchannans and West egg is characterized by the traits of Gatsby is prevalent throughout the novel and there are evidences for this throughout. Moreover the valley of Ashes which is described could be likened unto George wilson portraying the desolate, trapped and desperate nature of America as a whole. Also it portrays that the reason for the trapped nature of Wilson was a result of the moral decay of himself and the others around him. It shows a hidden aspect of the country during the 1920’s which was overshadowed by the boom and the jazz age and material advancements.


Imagery is a vital method that Fitzgerald has used in order to convey themes during the progression of the novel such as the American dream, social classes and moral depravity. Taking one example of the many uses of imagery throughout the course of the novel, the imagery of the Green Light perfectly illustrates the way in which imagery is used. The green light possibly represents the unattainability of the dream that Gatsby has which is based on recreating the past. Linking it to the wider issue the impossibility of the American dream and the problems brought along with it are explored within this particular theme.

The Narrator

One of the methods which was used by Fitzgerald was the way the narrative was sequenced. One of the ways in which this was used was that Fitzgerald prevented the development of the story of the early life of Gatsby until the closing moments of the novel. This is an example of the scramble chronology of the story throughout the book which is intentionally done possibly to give the reader the same sensation as become acquainted with a friend through a progression of natural stages, moving backward and forward in the past of Gatsby. This is one example of the chronology of the novel. We share Nick’s ambivalent views of Gatsby

Fitzgerald conveys the story through Nick Carraway who adopts the role of narrator. This is already a different idea to the norm as usually it is the main protagonist who tells his own story however in this situation a secondary character tells the story. At many points Nick Carraway is an eye- witness and much of the story becomes an eye-witness account. Moreover much of the story is also told through the accounts of other people a a lot of information is conveyed to the reader through Daisy and other gossip and public rumours. Moreover the narrator presents a subjective account of the events at times idealizing particular characters throughout the course of the novel. In addition the distorted vision which is portrayed through the narrator shows the lack of clarity concerning each character and the story as a whole which possibly, on a wider level, shows the lack of clarity in moral values at this stage in american history. There is constantly a sense of mystery and uncertainty which concerns Gatsby in this novel as a result of the contradictions and lack of clarity concerning is character portrayed by Nick. Therefore throughout the novel our judgment of Gatsby remains reserved.

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    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      I do love the Great Gatsby.. you did it justice in your write on it... I had to teach my son about this when he was in school and I loved it.



    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks for this great well written overview of the Great Gatsby ! It was a great book and movie.

      Vote up and more !

      Welcome to Hubpages !!! Your off to a great start keep up the good work !