The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. Generations of readers have acclaimed this exemplary novel of the Jazz Ag.

The tragic story of the fabulously rich but new money self-made man, Jay Gatsby, and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, a wealthy young woman whom he loved in his youth. Gatsby’s lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.


Nick Carraway, a young man from Minnesota, moves to New York in the summer of 1922 to learn about the bond business. He rents a house in the West Egg district of Long Island, a wealthy but unfashionable area populated by the new rich. A group who have made their fortunes too recently to have established social connections and who are prone to garish displays of wealth. Nick’s next-door neighbor in West Egg is a mysterious man – Jay Gatsby. Gatsby lives in a gigantic Gothic mansion and throws extravagant parties every Saturday night.

Gatsby had met Daisy Nick’s cousin, back in 1917, and the two fell in love.


It all started on Daisy’s debut party, before Gatsby went off to war. He was stationed in Camp Taylor near Daisy Fay’s home in Louisville, Kentucky and was among those invited to her grand party. From the start, their love faced opposition. There was the war, but the biggest stumbling block was the difference in their social status. It was like heaven and earth, and while Gatsby’s ambitions tried to bridge that gap, it just wasn’t enough.

“Golden girl” Daisy was only 18, so it could be that she was infatuated with this army man. Gatsby, on the other hand was already 27 but too busy transforming himself from James Gatz to Jay Gatsby. Because that was the only way he would be good enough for Daisy’s circle. Fascinated by Daisy’s rich and luxurious lifestyle, Gatsby did at first lead her on to believe that he was of the same social status as her. However, they only separated when Gatsby left to fight in World War I. After the war, Gatsby never returned, and Daisy decided to marry Tom.

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Tom has inherited a set of expectations along with his wealth, one of the reasons why he marries Daisy. She is the kind of woman he is expected to marry, even if she is not the type of woman he would necessarily choose for a companion. He also sleeps with Myrtle because she makes him feel strong and important.

Jay returned to New York City and settled there. focused only on getting rich, that is how he managed to stay close to Daisy. He believed that was the way to lead a happy life, and win back the woman he loves. The book specifies that Gatsby bought a mansion in a luxury part of Long Island called the West Egg. And it is not only about the mansion. Gatsby organized parties every day, hoping that Daisy will come. Making parties for elite guests is an endeavor that takes a lot of cash, too. Additionally, Jay was driving a Rolls Royce, which was reserved only for rich people.

Since the early days of his marriage to Daisy, Tom has had affairs with other women. Throughout the novel he commits adultery with Myrtle Wilson, a working-class woman married to a garage mechanic named Wilson.


Nick eventually garners an invitation to one of Gatsby’s legendary parties. There he meets Jordan, Daisy’s friend and confidant. As the summer progresses Nick brings Daisy to ‘meet’ the notorious Gatsby. After an initially awkward reunion, Gatsby and Daisy reestablish their connection. Their love rekindled, they begin an affair. After a short time, Tom grows increasingly suspicious of his wife’s relationship with Gatsby.

Though Tom is himself involved in an extramarital affair, he is deeply outraged by the thought that his wife could be unfaithful to him. He forces the group to drive into New York City, where he confronts Gatsby in a suite at the Plaza Hotel. Tom asserts that he and Daisy have a history that Gatsby could never understand, and he announces to his wife that Gatsby is a criminal—his fortune comes from bootlegging alcohol and other illegal activities.

Gatsby’s Tragic End

Gatsby and Daisy drive home together, striking and killing Myrtle, Tom’s lover, on the way. Gatsby tells Nick that Daisy was driving, but that he’s going to take the blame. Tom realizes that it was Gatsby’s car that struck and killed Myrtle. Back at Daisy and Tom’s home, Gatsby tells Nick that Daisy was driving the car that killed Myrtle but he will take the blame.

Wilson, Myrtle’s husband, eventually goes to Gatsby’s house, where he finds Gatsby lying on an air mattress in the pool, floating in the water and looking up at the sky. Wilson shoots Gatsby, killing him instantly, then shoots himself.

Nick, disillusioned by Gatsby’s death, recognizes the amoral behavior of the old-money class and becomes aware that the American Dream which Gatsby believed in cannot be saved from the decadence. Nick meets Gatsby’s father, Henry Gatz, and has an emotional conversation with him about Gatsby’s potential for greatness.

Later, Nick is appalled when hardly anybody shows up to Gatsby’s funeral, which he staged. Gatsby’s funeral is ironic because only three people attend, while enormous crowds attended his parties. Despite being a popular figure in the social scene, once Gatsby passes, neither Daisy, his business partner Henry Wolfsheim, nor any of his partygoers seem to remember him or care. He’s even more appalled when he runs into Tom on Fifth Avenue one day and realizes that Tom told George Wilson that Gatsby was responsible for Myrtle’s death.

In the end Nick ends his relationship with Jordan, and moves back to the Midwest to escape the disgust he feels for the people surrounding Gatsby’s life and for the emptiness and moral decay of life among the wealthy on the East Coast.


Daisy Buchannan is made to represent society’s lack of virtue and morality that was present during the 1920s. She is the absolute center of Gatsby’s world right up to his death, but she is shown to be uncaring and fickle throughout the novel. Her approval of Gatsby represented his acceptance into high society. But Daisy was, if not guilty by association, at least complacent with social norms. She understood the submissive role women were expected to play was saddened by it. When we see that Tom has a mistress and that Daisy might not be as naive as she’s letting on, because she looks at her young daughter and famously says, “I hope she’ll be a fool, that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”

Tom Buchannan is an arrogant, hypocritical bully, powerfully built and hailing from a socially solid old family. His social attitudes are laced with racism and sexism, and he never even considers trying to live up to the moral standard he demands from those around him. Tom is a former football player and a life long jerk who Nick describes as “one of those men who achieves such an acute, limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterwards savors of anti-climax.” Tom goes on a racist rant and says, “We’re Nordics and we’ve produced all the things that make a civilization,” Which is hilarious for two reasons, one it is not true and two none of the people at the party has actually produced anything.

rhetorical devices in the Great Gatsby

 The Great Gatsby - the movie

The rhetorical devices that Fitzgerald uses in the novel are alliteration, allusion, epizeuxis, hyperbole, imagery, metaphor and simile, oxymoron, paradox and personification.


Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of two or more words that are close together. There are many examples of alliteration in The Great Gatsby:

  • “And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock.”
  • “…we sat down at a table with the two girls in yellow and three men, each one introduced to us as Mr. Mumble.”

An allusion is a reference to something the reader should be familiar with in the text. The references can be of persons, places, things, etc. Nick uses many examples of allusions in his narration of Gatsby’s story. Here is one of those examples:

“And inside, as we wandered through Marie Antoinette music-rooms and Restoration salons, I felt that there were guests concealed behind every couch and table, under orders to be breathlessly silent until we had passed through.”- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. In this quote, Marie Antoinette is referenced. She was France’s last queen before their revolution and was known for her extravagant parties and expensive tastes.


Another rhetorical device that Fitzgerald uses in The Great Gatsby is epizeuxis. An epizeuxis is a repetition of a word or a short phrase in succession to each other. One of the examples from The Great Gatsby of an epizeuxis is:

“‘Daisy! Daisy! Daisy!’ shouted Mrs. Wilson. ‘I’ll say it whenever I want to! Daisy! Dai–‘”

This quote shows Mrs. Wilson, Tom Buchanan’s lover, repeatedly saying his wife Daisy’s name. Right before this, they were fighting about whether or not she was allowed to say his wife’s name, and this was her response. He hits her across the face right after she says it.


A hyperbole is an exaggeration that is not meant to be taken literally. Here is an example of hyperbole from The Great Gatsby:

“I’m p-paralyzed with happiness,”- A quote from Daisy Buchanan to Nick Carroway. Daisy says this quote when she sees Nick walking into the room. She says this to show how happy she is to see Nick after not seeing him for so long.


Imagery is when the writer can create a picture in the head of their readers by just using words. This is often done using the five senses: sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound. One of the examples of imagery used in The Great Gatsby is:

“He (Gatsby) took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one, before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel, which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher -shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange, with monograms of Indian blue. Suddenly, with a strained sound, Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily.”-

A quote about Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, when Daisy first comes to his house with him in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This quote shows the reader the extent to which Gatsby has gone to live his American Dream and impress Daisy. The pile of shirts that Gatsby has made on his floor is only part of his number of clothing items. It’s an overwhelming number of shirts with a lot of bright colors. This description creates a picture in the reader’s head that is easy to imagine while reading it.

metaphor and simile

“Instead of being the warm center of the world, the Middle West now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe.” Nick uses this simile, comparing the Midwest to the far edges of the universe, to explain how his hometown no longer felt like home after he returned from World War I, and why he felt compelled to move East.


In chapter one Nick narrates that he often faked sleep, preoccupation, or “hostile levity” (line 13), all suggesting that he immediately judges those around him without even listening to them. The last two words – “hostile levity” are also oxymoronic, since he cannot possible be aggressively lighthearted as these two words suggest.


Nick experiences a paradox at Gatsby’s party – amongst all the wealth, extravagance and showmanship, he finds himself quite disgusted with the other guests, and the way they indulge in this frivolous life – he is revolted, and yet cannot bring himself to leave.

Gatsby himself is a paradox because he was the person to idealize the American Dream as and he was the gentleman people should strive to be but he rose to fame illegally and he died with only one friend by his side at his funeral.


Throughout his novel, starting from chapter one, Fitzgerald uses personification: “The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door” (Fitzgerald, 6). Then he conveys feeling and emotion to the reader by describing trees as ‘friendly’ and the Buchanans’ home as ‘cheerful. “An hour later the front door opened nervously” (84).

Literary Elements used in the Great Gatsby


Fitzgerald uses a few colors throughout the book, and their prevalence is no accident. Green, such as the green light on the end of Daisy’s dock, represents hope for the future. Gray, such as  in the Valley of Ashes, represents lifelessness and nothingness.

Gold and yellow are interesting and used a whole lot throughout the book. Gold is a symbol for money. The narrator tells us Daisy, who is from a well-to-do family and who is married to a rich man, is a “golden girl” has a voice that’s “full of money.” She has gold all around her as do many of the other rich people.

Yellow, on the other hand, is a color associated with Gatsby, as shown by his car. Yellow is almost gold but still of lesser value, which is how the other rich people in the novel view Gatsby. He doesn’t quite fit in because he’s “new money,” which in their minds is inferior.

Point of View

Fitzgerald wrote the story in the first person, from the perspective of Nick Carraway. A third-person point of view would give the reader a necessarily more honest description of events. Nick describes himself as honest, but how does the reader know that events took place exactly as Nick describes them? First person leaves more for doubt, is Nick an unreliable narrator?

The story would be very different if it was told from Gatsby’s perspective. Instead, Nick guesses at the life and thoughts of Gatsby, making Gatsby seem more mysterious and larger-than-life than he would be if the reader knew all of his thoughts.


One of the major topics explored in The Great Gatsby is the sociology of wealth, specifically, how the newly minted millionaires of the 1920s differ from and relate to the old aristocracy of the country’s richest families. In the gilded age, as the 1920s are known, the American Dream was the idea of going from rags to riches. However, in The Great Gatsby Fitzgerald pokes holes attempting to prove that this dream is unattainable.

Besides wealth, there was the question of old money vs new money. It was also about prestige, racism, greed, and biases.

The Gilded Age, the term for the period of economic boom which began after the American Civil War. It is from one of Mark Twain’s novels, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873). Historians in the 1920s applied the term to the era that ended at the turn of the century.

While Gatsby’s rags to riches background is a literal interpretation of the American Dream, Daisy is a more symbolic interpretation. As mentioned above, the narrator describes her as a “golden girl,” representing riches.

The tone of a story is how the author or narrator describes the events and other characters. It can be cynical, witty, bright, optimistic, pessimistic, or borderline judgemental. Because The Great Gatsby is told in the first person, there is some bias in what the narrator describes. We are privy to Nick’s feelings and perspective as if it’s the truth without any way of getting a different perspective.

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