Chapter summary of The Great Gatsby.
Chapter one of the novel introduces the readers to the narrator, Nick Carraway. Not only is he the narrator, but he reveals himself as the supposed author as well. He introduces himself as both highly moral but also tolerant and patient. Nick has just arrived in New York’s Long Island neighborhood West Egg where he is renting a house and connects with Jay Gatsby. Nick sets himself apart from his neighbors because he lacks “pedigree”, but he ultimately is there for a chance to reconnect with his cousin, Daisy Buchanan and see through some business.
In chapter two, the readers are introduced to the Valley of the Ashes which is halfway between West Egg and New York City. This is described as the place where all of New York’s ashes are dumped and is full of the lower income working class. Nick accompanies his cousin’s husband Tom into the Valley of the Ashes to visit his mistress Myrtle at her husband’s garage. Tom takes Nick and Myrtle into the city for an impromptu party. During the party, Myrtle becomes drunk and loud and begins to chant Daisy’s name. This angers Tom and he punches her in the face. Nick decides to leave.
In chapter three, it is revealed that Gatsby has a name for himself, socially speaking, because he throws elaborate parties on the weekend. Many people covet an invitation to his spectacular events. Gatsby extends an invitation to Nick and he attends the party where he hears all kinds of rumors about who Gatsby might be and how he has amassed his wealth. Later during the party, Nick meets Gatsby and finds him sober and quite pleasant to have a conversation with. After the party, Nick walks home and sees a party-goer has crashed his car into a ditch and decides he can’t be bothered to take care of the situation.
Chapter four sees Nick listing out attendees of Gatsby’s parties, wealthy socialites containing America’s most powerful citizens. He recalls a trip to New York City with Gatsby during which they had lunch together and Gatsby tells Nick about his past. He claims to have inherited his parents’ fortune and to be from a Midwestern town and otherwise makes several wild claims which Nick finds to be improbable. On the way to the city, Gatsby speeds and is pulled over. However, the cop lets him off once he realizes who he is. Nick begins to suspect that the origins of Gatsby’s wealth may be related to crime. After lunch, Nick sees Jordan Baker who reveals that she has learned that Gatsby is in love with Daisy and that they were past lovers before Gatsby served in the war. She reveals that Gatsby bought his mansion in West Egg solely to be close to Daisy.
Chapter five sees the action pick up as Gatsby tries to convince Nick to help him in his plan to see Daisy. Nick agrees to have both Daisy and Gatsby over for tea. On the day of the meeting, it is rainy, and Gatsby is consumed by nervousness. At first, the reunion is awkward and Gatsby worries that the meeting was a mistake. Gatsby invites everyone over to his house and Daisy is overwhelmed and becomes emotional once she is there. Gatsby confesses his love and Nick wonders how Daisy could possibly live up to the idea that Gatsby has created of her in his head and leaves them alone.
In chapter six, Nick interrupts the linear flow of the narrative to reveal Gatsby’s real past. Gatsby’s story is a rags-to-riches account of a young man who tasted the luxury of wealth and fought hard to make a future for himself full of money and success. Back in the regular storyline, Nick arrives at Gatsby’s house for a visit and finds him awkwardly chatting with Tom, who is critical of the amount of time Daisy has spent there alone. The following week, Tom attends a Gatsby party with Daisy to keep an eye on her. Tom and Daisy argue and leave and Gatsby seeks solace in his friend Nick, wishing that things could be as they were when he and Daisy were together long ago. Nick suspects that it will all end badly.
Gatsby becomes irritate and preoccupied as Daisy refuses to leave her husband and stops holding his weekend parties which were only ever a means to see Daisy. Nick visits Daisy and Tom in East Egg and finds Gatsby and Jordan at their house as well. Daisy and Gatsby’s behavior and desire to be alone makes Tom furious as he becomes convinced of an affair. Tom suggests that everyone go into the city together. Stopping for gas along the way, Nick, Tom, and Jordan learn that George Wilson has learned of his wife’s affair but does not know who her lover is. Nick notices that Tom and George are in the same predicament, ironically.
In the city, tensions rise as Tom seeks to provoke Gatsby. Tom sends Daisy and Gatsby back to Long Island in Gatsby’s car and the rest follow in Tom’s car. Nick realizes on the drive that he has forgotten in all the drama that it is his thirtieth birthday. Later, the group runs into a horrible scene along the highway where they learn that Myrtle has been struck by a car and has died. However, it was a hit and run and all anyone knows is that it was a yellow car, like Gatsby’s. Gatsby tells Nick that Daisy was driving the car when it hit Myrtle but that he intends to take the blame.
The next day, Tom tries to convince Gatsby to forget about Daisy as she is starting to ruin his life. Gatsby feels defeated and admits that he has loved her for so long that he does not know how to do anything else. The entire life he built was to prove that he could be worthy of her love. Tom leaves and later George Wilson, consumed by rage, shows up at Gatsby’s house. Gatsby is floating in the pool and Wilson shoots and kills Gatsby and then himself. Nick finds Gatsby’s body back in West Egg and imagines what Gatsby’s final thoughts might have been.
In the final chapter, Nick is writing two years after Gatsby’s death. He describes the funeral and the wild gossip that resulted. Tom and Daisy have moved away with no forwarding address and most of Gatsby’s friends disappeared after his death so Gatsby’s funeral did not wind up being as large as Nick had hoped.
Nick is entirely fed up with the events of the summer and moves back home after Gatsby’s death to the Midwest. Before leaving, Nick runs into Tom in New York City. Tom admits that he was the one who told George Wilson that Gatsby killed his wife. He suffered greatly for this in the aftermath having lost Myrtle but he maintains that Gatsby deserved to die. Nick decides that the Buchanans are cold and uncaring people and their money shields them from facing any consequences.