We meet our narrator. Hello, narrator!
First thing he does is pass along some of his father's advice: "Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had" (1.2).
Great, we love a book that begins with a lecture.
We learn that our narrator is non-judgmental. As a result, people tell him their life stories like he's a bartender on Cheers.
We find out that he is "a Carraway," which apparently means that he's got wealth and class. And he went to Yale.
This Carraway fellow introduces us to the setting: New York City and the twin villages of West Egg and East Egg in Long Island.
Please note that West Egg, where Carraway lives, is not as fancy-shmancy as East Egg. But it's still pretty fancy-shmancy compared to the rest of the world.
On this "less fashionable" Egg, Nick Carraway lives next to a huge mansion inhabited by a mysterious Mr. Gatsby. More on him later.
By the way, Nick Carraway is "bond man." Not, like, posting bail, but trading stocks and bonds. In other words, he's a stockbroker/ financier type.
(Click the summary infographic to download.)
Nick heads over to East Egg to have dinner with Daisy, his second cousin once removed, and her husband, Tom Buchanan, an old college buddy.
The Buchanans have tons of money, and Nick likes to tell us all about it.
We see that Tom is a rather large and "aggressive" former football player. In other words, this guy is not the sensitive, lyric-writing type.
We then meet two women dressed in white - Daisy, of course, and her friend, Jordan Baker.
Daisy and Tom have a child, who spends the majority of her two-year-old time sleeping in the other room.
When, in friendly cocktail conversation, Nick casually mentions Gatsby, Daisy gets particularly interested.
In general, Daisy spends Chapter 1 being happy and excited about life and having a bruise that Tom accidentally gave her.
There's also talk of the peculiar qualities of her excited little voice.
The following is a rather dramatic scene: Tom gets a phone call, Daisy freaks out and goes to yell at him, and Jordan reveals that Tom is messing around on the side.
Not only that, but he's messing around with a woman tactless enough to call his house all the time to ask what's up. We get the feeling that the tactless bit is the real problem.
Daisy comes back and talks about when her daughter was born: Tom wasn't there, and she wished that her daughter would be a "beautiful little fool"—i.e., too dumb to know any better.
It turns out that Jordan is an athlete (golf). Nick feels like he's heard about her before, but he can't remember the story. You guess it: more on that later.
Daisy then jokes about Jordan and Nick getting together. LOL!
When Nick finally gets home to West Egg, he notices that his neighbor, Mr. Gatsby, is out chilling on the lawn and maybe contemplating the addition of some plastic flamingoes to his "blue lawn." Why is the lawn always blue? Good question.
Except that Gatsby is not just chilling and thinking about flamingoes. He stares across the water at a lone green light before stretching his arm out towards it oh-so-symbolically.
Nick describes the land that lies in between the Eggs and New York as a "valley of ashes" (2.1), which sounds really unpleasant.
Above this dead land—er, "Waste Land," perhaps?—are the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, or rather, a billboard that features the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg.
No, it's not socialite graffiti, just an advertisement for an eye doctor. But we get the feeling it's meaningful.
In case you're interested in colors (and in this book, we recommend it), the eyes are blue and the spectacles yellow.
Anyway, the whole reason we hear about these ashes and eyes is that Nick is traveling to the city with Tom, who insists on stopping to show Nick his mistress.
We love show and tell!
The mistress is the wife of an auto mechanic named George B. Wilson - at least, that's the name on the front of his repair shop
Tom acts like a jerk towards the husband (who is doing some sort of car work for him) and then sends the wife (Myrtle) a not-so-covert message to come with him to the city.
George (Myrtle's husband) is blissfully ignorant. He thinks Myrtle just goes to the city to visit her sister.
On the train on the way to the city, Myrtle wants a puppy.
So Tom buys her a puppy. Obviously.
This whole situation is so wrong that Nick tries to jump ship. But the happy couple doesn't let him.
In the city, they head to the adulterous sex apartment and meet up with others, including a Mr. McKee and Myrtle's sister, Catherine.
They drink a lot of Tom's whiskey, and Nick gets drunk for the second time in his life.
When Nick reveals that he lives in West Egg, one of the drunken revelers goes on and on about the fabulous parties that this guy Gatsby throws.
Myrtle's sister whispers to Nick that Myrtle and Tom both hate their spouses. So, apparently Tom has told Myrtle some lies to string her along without having to divorce Daisy.
There is some discussion of not marrying below your social caste, which apparently Myrtle did.
Tom tells Myrtle to stop saying Daisy's name.
Myrtle, of course, says "Daisy, Daisy, Daisy."
... and then Tom breaks her nose.
Nick gets too drunk to remember how he got into bed.
Nick describes the elaborate parties (orchestra and everything) that Jay Gatsby throws most nights throughout the summer. Hordes of people arrive to get their collective grooves on.
Many of them never meet Gatsby, and most were not invited.
But Nick is invited--via Gatsby's chauffer.
He meets Jordan at the party, we're reminded she is a golfer, and everybody gossips about the mysterious Gatsby and how he might be a murderer or in the CIA or something.
(Well, probably not the CIA, founded in 1947. But you get the point.)
Nick wanders into the library (you can tell he's not a big party aficionado) and meets a man with owl-eyed spectacles who is in awe that all these books are real - pages and everything!
Owl-eyed man also utters one of the famous Fitzgerald lines: "I've been drunk for about a week now, and I thought it might sober me up to sit in a library."
Back outside, Nick meets an unknown man who gives him the old "you look familiar" line. They chat about having both been in the war (WWI).
Turns out, the mysterious man is the mysterious Gatsby. Who'd have thought? Certainly not Nick, who expected Gatsby to be older than him. (Nick's about 30.)
Gatsby leaves to take a phone call, and later sends his butler to get Jordan for a private chat.
Inside the house, Nick watches a woman with red hair singing along to a piano and weeping black mascara tears.
Everyone is fighting with his or her spouse. The men are mad because they're not being allowed to talk to the hot young things, and the women are mad because their husbands are trying to talk to the hot young things.
Presumably the hot young things are enjoying themselves just fine.
Jordan comes back from the chat with Gatsby; she taunts Nick (and us) about the "tantalizing" news without revealing any of it. She then tells Nick to come and visit her at her aunt's house.
Gatsby says goodnight to Nick with his signature "old sport" usage. They have plans to go up in his "hydroplane" tomorrow.
BUT the excitement isn't over yet. Nick sees that a coupe leaving the driveway has hit a wall and lost a wheel.
The driver? None other than the owl-eyed man himself.
No, wait - moments after that we find out he was not, in fact, the driver. There was someone else in the car. We suggest you dog-ear this page for later reference.
That's it for the night of the party.
Nick falls into his work-eat-sleep routine and Jordan doesn't pop up again until mid-summer, when they start hanging out together.
Nick tells us it isn't love, but that it's curiosity.
Sure, dude. Whatever you need to tell yourself.
When Jordan lies about leaving the top down in a borrowed convertible, it jogs Nick's memory about that "story" he had been trying to remember regarding Jordan: she may have cheated in a professional golf tournament once.
Yet another classic Fitzgerald line: "Dishonesty in a woman is something you never blame deeply." Ha.
She's also a horrible driver, but we're not making any women jokes about that—especially since it's not true.
Nick tells her to be careful, but Jordan says no, it's fine, as long as other people are careful drivers. She says she hopes that she never meets a person as careless as herself. "I hate careless people," she tells Nick. "That's why I like you."
Nick is sold. He realizes he needs to break things off with a certain girl back in Chicago, and then congratulates himself on being one of the few honest people he has ever known.
We hear some more guesses as to Gatsby's occupation. (Murderer? Bootlegger? Movie critic?)
Apparently, background matters: Nick goes on and on about the names, occupations, and personal histories of all the people who come to Gatsby's parties.
Gatsby comes to get Nick for lunch in his huge and fancy yellow Rolls-Royce.
He explains to Nick his own personal history: he's the son of wealthy Midwesterners and he was educated at Oxford.
Nick recalls that the general public, and more specifically Jordan, has some doubts about Gatsby's Oxford claim.
Gatsby says he's from San Francisco (which doesn't exactly seem like the Middle West to us, but whatever). He also talks about the war and shows Nick a medal that says "Major Jay Gatsby."
If that were not enough, he shows a photograph of him with the old Oxford gang.
Nick is sold. He believes Gatsby.
But FYI, if you ever need to see photographic proof to believe your friends' stories, it's probably a bad sign.
AHA! Turns out Gatsby was just buttering him up to ask for a big favor; he wants Nick to talk with Jordan about something. Something vague. Nick isn't too happy about being used.
When he's pulled over by a policeman, Gatsby simply reveals his identity and gets off the hook, Tony Soprano style.
Once they get to the city, Gatsby introduces Nick to his business partner, Mr. Wolfsheim.
Nick instinctively knows that there is something fishy about the working partnership.
We're starting to think this is more Enoch Thompson-style than Tony Soprano-style.
Supposedly, Mr. Wolfsheim fixed the World Series of 1919. We don't even have to tell you whose style that is.
Oh, we forgot to mention: Mr. Wolfsheim's cufflinks are made of human molars. (Kurtz-style from Heart of Darkness.)
And then Nick sees none other than Tom Buchanan across the room. He goes to introduce Gatsby, but Gatsby has bolted.
They meet Tom by accident, but when Nick turns to introduce Gatsby to Tom, Gatsby has disappeared. Again. The plot thickens.
Jordan later tells Nick the story of how Gatsby and Daisy met in October, 1917. Jordan herself saw them together; Daisy (all dressed in white - get used to that) was eighteen and the Queen Bee of high society, and Gatsby was a young officer head-over-heels in love with her.
By 1918, Jordan had her own boyfriends and had begun to play in tournaments. We don't think this is relevant, but Jordan clearly did.
Daisy's family, meanwhile, had prevented Daisy from going to say good-bye to this solider. Daisy responded with a teenage "I hate you! I'm never leaving my room again!" which lasted until the next fall, when she was once again Queen Bee'ing her way around town. This time, though, she was running in "older" circles with a more sophisticated crowd.
By June of 1919, Daisy was married to Tom, whose massive wealth probably helped with the proposal.
BUT, Jordan saw Daisy the night before her wedding, completely drunk. She was waving a letter about in the air and saying she's "chang' her mine!" which is drunk Daisy for "I don't want to marry Tom because I still love Gatsby and also Tom's kind of a jerk and potentially abusive."
Apparently Jordan failed to deliver Daisy's sloshed message, because by the following April, in 1920, Daisy had given birth to a little girl.
Daisy, it seemed, was crazy about her husband by the time she got back from the honeymoon. We'll let you speculate about why.
Whether Tom felt the same way about Daisy is up for grabs, since shortly after their honeymoon it is suggested that he was fooling around with a hotel maid.
Also, Daisy doesn't drink. Well, at least since that wedding eve incident.
Jordan continues the story. Six weeks ago, when Daisy first heard of Gatsby again, she started to ask questions and realized it was the man she had loved so long ago.
That's it for Jordan's history of Daisy. Jordan then explains to Nick that Gatsby only bought his house so he would be near Daisy.
She also proposes Gatsby's plan: that Nick invite Daisy over for tea (without Tom) and then have Gatsby casually drop by.
Nick says, "Sure, but let's stop talking about them so we can make out." Roughly speaking.
Gatsby sends flowers
-gets nick's grass cut
-offers nick a job
Gatsby's house is prepared for a party however no one is there
Nick goes into town to buy flowers, but Gatsby already had some ordered
Nick think his house is on fire because it is so bright
It is actually Gatsby's house that is lit up
Daisy and Gatsby are reintroduced
Nick needs to calm Gatsby down bc things are not going as expected
Gatsby and Daisy begin to find comfort in each other when Nick leaves for the second time
they do not realize when he comes back but when he does daisy is crying and gatsby is happy
Gatsby wants to show Daisy his house and insists that nick comes along. He wants to impress Daisy
Gatsby's real job is becoming evident
While Daisy is powdering her nose, Nick and Gatsby look with awe on Gatsby's house. Gatsby slips up a little when he says it took him three years to earn the money for it, and when Nick questions his earlier statement that he inherited the money, Gatsby gets suddenly defensive. Hmm!
As they explore Gatsby's house, Nick thinks he hears the ghostly laughter of the owl-eyed man in the library.
It becomes painfully obvious that Gatsby only has such a fine house and such fine things for the purpose of impressing Daisy.
When Daisy sees Gatsby's collection of expensive shirts, she cries about how beautiful they are.
Nick muses that, since Daisy is now here with Gatsby, the green light loses its magical mystery significance. The present, it seems, doesn't really live up to the past ideals.
They go downstairs and have this man Klipspringer play "The Love Nest" on the piano.
Nick heads home, leaving Gatsby and Daisy alone together.
In this sentence, F. Scott Fitzgerald explores the juxtaposition between the pastoral and industrial elements of "The Valley of the Ashes" in order to convey the jarring sense of poverty in this area between West Egg and New York. The pertinence of using the words "valley" and "ashes" within the same phrase is that there is a sharp contrast between the word "valley", which is associated with green, rolling, hills and agriculture, symbolizing life, and "ashes", which are associated with industry, factories, and in a sense, death. This is in a way romanticizing and ignoring the suffering of those in the Valley of Ashes, by referring to it as a fantastic farm instead of the awful hell-hole it really is.
Additionally, the incredulous imagery of the "fantastic farm" and "grotesque garden" cause the reader to believe that the valley is almost fantasy and unbelievable. As "ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys" they represent the rickety, low quality houses made by the impoverished people in this area. In fact the grey ashes in this area actually represent everything in the Valley, from the houses, to the people, and everything in between. Everything in the Valley of Ashes is viewed as just as insignificant and repulsive as the ashes that cloud the air around them.
Moreover, the imagery of "men who move dimly and [are] already crumbling through the powdery air" illustrates the feebleness/incompetence of the men whose lives are withering away due to tough lives and the blindness of the wealthy that pass through the Valley of the Ashes. The men in this valley become so invisible to others that they end up just resembling the "powdery air" around them. It's like just by living in this valley they are already basically dead.