The Great Gatsby: Plot Summary

The Great Gatsby is a novel by Francis Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1900) published in 1925 and considered a “manifesto” of the United States of the 1920s – the so-called “Jazz Age” – whose great economic development will culminate in the Wall crisis. Street of 1929. The book focuses on the mysterious and ambiguous figure of Jay Gatsby, a self-made man enriched in a somewhat suspicious way, who, obsessed with the figure of his beloved Daisy, symbolizes myths and contradictions of the “American dream”.

In addition to being a disillusioned fresco of American society in the years preceding the crisis of ’29, elements of Fitzgerald’s own life are also transposed into the novel, such as the search for social ascent and the fascination of the glossy high-bourgeois life, the love and marital difficulties with his wife Zelda, the addiction of alcohol. Added to this are the cultural influences of Gertrude Stein’s literary salon in Paris, which Fitzgerald frequents together with writers Ernest Hemingway and Sherwood Anderson, and of the so-called “Lost Generation” (among which John Dos Passos, Erich Maria Remarque, Thomas Stearns Eliot, Ezra Pound, John Steinbeck and Isadora Duncan).


The main story is set in 1922 in West Egg, a fictional location on Long Island: the storyteller Nick Carraway, a stockbroker who lives in a modest cottage next to the lavish villa of an eccentric and mysterious character, has recently settled here. Jay Gatsby. Gatsby, as elegant as he is shy, usually holds wild and opulent parties attended by the well-to-do society of Long Island and the affluent East Egg. The most disparate rumors circulate about Gatsby and his dark past: he is actually called James Gatz, and was born into a humble peasant family in North Dakota. Having run away from home dreaming of a future of prosperity, James is hired on the yacht of the rich Dan Cody: James enters the elegant and luxurious world of the upper class and changes his name to Jay Gatsby. During his military service and shortly before leaving for the World War I front, Jay meets the beautiful heiress Daisy Fay Buchanan and falls madly in love with her. The two swear allegiance to each other but Daisy, the protagonist left, marries a rich and famous polo player, Tom Buchanan. On his return from the war, after a period spent in Oxford, Gatsby returns to West Egg: his only goal is to win back his beloved woman. Gatsby thus enriches himself with the illegal smuggling of alcohol 1 and buys the gigantic villa opposite the one where Daisy and Tom usually spend their holidays. His goal is to impress Daisy by showing off her lifestyle and wealth.

Nick, Daisy’s distant cousin, spends his time with the protagonist and Tom; through them he meets Jordan Baker, with whom Nick has a warm love affair. Through Jordan, Nick discovers that, despite appearances, Daisy and Tom’s marriage is not at all happy: Tom has a mistress, Myrtle Wilson, who is married to the mechanic George, whose workshop those living in East Egg often stop by. on the way to New York. Here, during a party in the apartment that Tom uses for meetings with his lover, Myrtle makes fun of him and his relationship with Daisy and Tom punches her and breaks her nose. Nick is attracted to Jay’s personality, but hasn’t met him yet; he only saw it at night at the pier scanning the horizon to glimpse the “green light”, a symbol of the protagonist’s dreams and illusions. But one day Nick is invited to a party at Gatsby’s villa, who turns out to be a character with magnetic charm and charisma and good taste, but also a mystifier and a liar: Gatsby tells Nick that he comes from a wealthy family, that he received an excellent education and to have become a major in the army for war merits. Through Jordan, Jay asks Nick to help him win back Daisy: he will have to invite his cousin to his home without forgetting Gatsby’s presence. The plan works: Daisy is very surprised to see Jay after almost five years, but eventually gives in to the passion for the protagonist, with whom she forms a relationship.

Gatsby, in order to be able to meet Daisy without arousing suspicion, invites her and Tom to his parties and – despite Nick tries in every way to dissuade him, telling him that “you can’t repeat the past” – he is convinced he can snatch his beloved from husband. Tom however begins to suspect something and finds confirmation of his jealousy during a party organized by Daisy’s family, which Gatsby also attends. Tom faces his rival at the Plaza Hotel in New York, accusing Jay Gatsby of the illegal trafficking with which he built his wealth and above all the fact that Daisy has chosen to marry him. Gatsby replies that he is sure that Daisy is ready to leave Tom for him, but the protagonist, observing the scene, realizes that she loves her husband. Tom, aware of the victory, has Jay and Daisy drive back alone to East Egg, to humiliate their rival. On the way back, Daisy, driving the car, runs over and kills Myrtle, who had just managed to escape from the house, where her husband George, certain of her infidelity, had locked her up. Daisy, upset, does not stop to help and runs away. Nick, Tom and Jordan arrive at the crash scene shortly thereafter, assuming Jay was driving. Nick goes to Gatsby, who tells him how the events really unfolded but stating that he wants to protect Daisy. Nick tries to convince Jay to leave Long Island and his entire life, including Daisy, but Gatsby flatly refuses, still convinced that Daisy will eventually return to him. Meanwhile George, talking to Tom, discovers that the killer’s car belongs to Gatsby, convinced that he was also Myrtle’s lover, he goes to Jay’s villa with a gun in his hand. The protagonist is on a mat in the pool: George shoots and kills him instantly, and then commits suicide. Nick arrives at the villa only to see his friend’s death and to reflect on his unhappiness without Daisy.

Nick, in the novel’s finale, organizes Gatsby’s funeral, which is attended only by him, an alcoholic and Gatsby’s father, proud of his son’s achievements. Nick decides to leave Long Island and the dissipated life of New York to return to his native Midwest: on the last night before departure, he wanders around Gatsby’s deserted mansion, reflecting on his friend’s tragic fate and the illusion of the American dream. , which seems definitively on the avenue of the sunset.

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