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The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
‚Lover, gold-hatted...‘ ➔ materialistic but passionate.
She can’t resist coz she’s impressed by his wealth and efforts. Lover has to show off with his success.
- Nick introduces himself as tolerant. Wants the world to be moral (p.6/14). He is the omniscient author.
- Nick says that living without privilege can excuse some behavior, yet not all. The main theme of the novel is what behavior the less privileged can and cannot use to gain the advantages of the elite. A major concern in the book is class and privilege.
- East Egg - West Egg: similar shape & size, dissimilarity in everything else.
- Nick visits the Buchanans:
Tom: enormously, obscenely rich; football player; plays Polo; supercilious; cruel body, racist, has a mistress (p 26); stupid. Disgusting, flat character. Represents the brutality and moral carelessness of the established rich.
Daisy: innocent, very female, vulnerable, fragile, charming, beautiful, gracious, artificial.
She plays a role: the beautiful but dumb girl. Even her faults make her better (murmur);low thrilling voice! She wants to give love. Represents air.
She is imprisoned in a golden cage. Tom doesn’t treat her very well.
Daisy seems to represent some sense of purity and an innocence that borders on naïveté.
She sounds silly sometimes (longest day of the year (p.21/25)), but is smart, sophisticated, ironic about Tom being a racist. Makes fun of her husband.
She critisizes the role of women in society, suffering coz she’s sophisticated, but she is not honest while complaining. She’s staying where the money is -> makes her unpleasant. Jordan: wan, charming discontented face (p.20/2); golf player
- Nick sees Gatsby come from his mansion alone, looking at the sea. He stretches out his arms toward the water, looking at a faraway green light. The green light symbolizes the thing for which Gatsby has been striving. Gatsby is fixed on the green light as a symbol of Daisy and of his dream of prosperity and acceptance into high society. The light is also a symbol of Gatsby's unwavering dream and optimism.
‚Gatsby represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn.‘ (p.6/9)
➔ Gatsby was moral though he represented everything immoral in this world.
‚Gatsby turned out all right in the end; it is what preyed on him, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams. (p.7/11)
DAISY: ‚..., looking up into my face, promising that there was no one in the world she so much wanted to see.‘ (p.17/27)
- The road from West Egg to New York City exemplifies decay (Zerfall). It is a 'valley of ashes,' desolate and gray. The eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg that overlook the road are a bit of grotesque imagery, looking out on the barren road but not attached to any face or body. They are profoundly unnatural and decaying. Dr. TJ Eckleburg ➔ he moved away... fits with area. Is he the symbol of God or of the sadness and despair of the 1920s.
Even God has left that area. The sign is a REMINDER, stands for morals, ethics. Eyes look stern.
- Nick meets Myrtle: vitality, fire, thickisch, sensuous, strong willed, bossy (orders Wilson around) George: sad man, depending on Tom coz of the car. Tom says he is dumb.
- They go to New York:
Myrtle: I want a dog! (p 40/21) ➔ shows that Myrtle is selfish, superficial & stupid. Poor dog! She tries to be delicate (boy or girl?)... but she is common. She acts spoiled (verwöhnt). But that all is a sign of her helplessness.
Tom: he doesn’t care about Myrtles try, he treats her as he wants.
- Party at their apartement (no real conversation there, superficial athmosphere. People are abandonned, lost and lonely. Nick is passive in everything that happens, coz he is just the observer)
- Mistery about Gatsby: ‚they say he is a cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm’s‘
- Catherine thinks it’s Daisy who doesn’t want to divorce, but it’s also Tom!
- Tom breaks Myrtles nose after she mentions Daisy. Probably he has a bad conscience, he admires Daisy and doesn’t want that woman to soil (= beschmutzen) her name.
- Nick is waiting at the station for the train. He feels lonely, abandonned, exhausted, disgusted and disappointed.
Myrtle: ‚ ... walking through her husband as if he were a ghost‘ (p 38/22)
‚Terrible place, isn’t it,‘ said Tom, exchanging a frown with Doctor Eckleburg. ➔ Even Doctor Eckleburg doesn’t like Tom.
- Party at Gatsby’s house. Nick is one of the few who had actually been invited.
The party is a long description of Jazz Age decadence. The parties exemplify conspicuous consumption.
Gatsby is extremly wealthy, lives a life of luxury. Is very generous with money. He’s an elusive (=schwer fassbar) person, a misterious, fascinating character.
- Library scene (p 66)
Owl eye is impressed coz the books are real and not read. Gatsby spent the money, but he doesn’t take the time to read the books, would be a waste of time. Books are just to show off and to give the impression you have culture.
Fake books would be pretending you’re smart ➔ embarassing. Gatsby is not satisfied with simple showing off.
➔ Characterization of society.
- Nick talking to Gatsby without knowing it’s him. (p 67) Gatsbys smile makes Nick feel good, it makes you feel you’re important, liked and understood.
- Car crash (p 77): People are irresponsible and careless, they drink and drive!
- NEW YORK (p 81): shows that Nick is lonely, he’s an outsider, the observer. But he appreciates the anonymity and temptation of the big city.
- Nick & Jordan: Jordan is a careless driver because she expects others to be careful and stay out of her way in the event of an accident.
Gatsbys smile: It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life.
NEW YORK: ‚I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night...‘
‚ At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others...‘ Nick: I’m one of the few honest people that I have ever known (p 84/ 15)
➔ Nick is NOT careless!
- Nick lists the people who came to Gatsbys parties.
- Nick & Gatsby go to New York having a meal together.
Gatsby talks about his past, Oxford etc. Little Montenegroe prooves that he talks the truth. A hearse is passing them: warning for the dreamer is going to die/ fail.
They meet Meyer Wolfshiem, a business friend of Gatsby. Meyer Wolfshiem does illegal business, he earns his money in immoral ways.
His cuff buttons are made of human molars... law of the jungle: eat or to be eaten. Darwinism: survival of the fittest!
Meyer is a capitalist, he doesn’t care who’s going to pay the price. He is foul dust in the wake of Gatsbys dreams, Tom and Daisy also.
- Jordan tells the story how Gatsby and Daisy met. Daisy didn’t realize how poor Gatsby was, in her case money (Tom) wins over love.
- Nick & Jordan get together. They share a scornful, but honest smile (on the other hand Jordan is dishonest). ➔ Gatsby & Daisy have a glamorous smile
- SONG ‚Sheik of Araby‘ = Gatsby, coz he’s rich. The tent is Daisys marriage. Gatsby has to creep in secretly...
NEW YORK: ‚The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.‘ ➔ Just a promise ➔ negative!!! (you may fail, you may succeed). Anspielung auf American Dream! Connection between Gatsby (mystery & beauty) and NY.
MEYER WOLFSHIEM:‘ Gatsby‘s very careful about women. He would never so much as look at a friend’s wife‘ ➔ honour code!
Thou shall not commit adultery...
- Nick and Gatsby talk about arranging a meeting with Daisy, Gatsby even offers Nick a job, a "confidential sort of thing‘, but Nick is too proud and honest to accept it.
- The meeting starts at Nicks house, then ends at Gatsbys house where Gatsby has Klipspringer, a boarder, play the piano for them.
The dozens of shirts and other piles of clothing are signs of conspicuous consumption, and Gatsby himself is dressed in gold and silver. Every detail is meant to impress.
Daisy is overwhelmed.
- Clocks: Nick says of Gatsby that "he was running down like an over-wound clock," while Gatsby nearly breaks Nick's clock out of anxiety when they first meet Daisy at Nick's home. They highlight the importance of time in the novel. It is quite significant for Gatsby that years had passed since he last saw Daisy.
‚a dream dies the moment it becomes reality‘ ➔ because reality can’t be perfect.
It would have been positive if the clock (= the wall between the lovers) had smashed.
- Gatsby shows Daisy the green light, his symbol for his dream, for hope, for HER. It’s the ideal! But a dream is always more beautiful than reality (Kant)... reality catches up with Gatsby. The ideal is lost. ➔ Gatsbys enemy is reality.
- SONG ‚Ain’t we got fun?‘... they are together again, but shaky foundation.
The lyrics indicate a joy and spontaneous gaiety that are a stark contrast with the tightly planned and controlled event that Gatsby has produced.
SONG ‚In the morning...‘ ➔ there are still people who are poor & left behind, f.e. Wilson.
also significant, bringing in issues of money and class that are omnipresent throughout the novel.
- As they leave, Carraway realizes that there must have been moments when Daisy disappointed Gatsby during the afternoon, for his dreams and illusions had been built up to such grandiose levels.
- no matter how well the meeting had gone, it could not fulfill the grand dreams that he has created for himself. This highlights an important aspect of Gatsby's character: he has an inability to conceive of anything in less than grandiose terms, whether parties, business arrangements or meetings with an old flame.
Nick: ‚ There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams, not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion.
- Gatsbys past is told.
- Tom accompanies Daisy to Gatsby's party. Tom is unpleasant and rude during the evening. Tom suspects that Gatsby is a bootlegger, since he is one of the new rich. After the Buchanans leave, Gatsby is disappointed, thinking that Daisy surely did not enjoy herself. Nick realizes that Gatsby wanted nothing less of Daisy than that she should tell Tom that she never loved him. Nick tells Gatsby that he can't ask too much of Daisy, and that "you can't repeat the past," to which Gatsby replies: "Of course you can!"
- The story of Jay Gatsby is the tale of the self-made man. Gatsby even 'invented' himself when he was 17 (immature, not wise), creating the person of 'Jay Gatsby' from the actual person 'James Gatz.' The full realization of the Gatsby and all that it entails is the character's grandiose dream and motivating force. Gatsby is his own god, but that’s not good... who is going to tell him what’s right or wrong?
- comparism to Jesus: they both stayed faithful to their ideals... till they died. Both died innocent.
- Fitzgerald makes it clear in this chapter that Gatsby expects far too much from Daisy. He expects that Daisy will give order to his life and set right any confusion. It is not enough that she might leave her husband for him; Gatsby expects her to totally renounce any feelings she may have for Tom and to return to how her life was five years before. This indicates a great arrogance within Gatsby. He sincerely believes that he can fix everything to be how it was before. Part of Gatsby's goal is to proove Daisy wrong for marrying Tom.
- Nick describes Gatsbys & Daisys first kiss: kissing Daisy was a meeting with reality, mortal sin.
Gatsby: ‚I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before‘
He talked a lot about the past and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was... ➔ idea of himself that had gone into loving daisy. He loves the idea, not Daisy!
- Gatsby has dismissed every servant in his house and replaced them with 6 who would not gossip, for Daisy had been visiting in the afternoons. Gatsby no longer needs to throw his parties simply to find some connection to her.
- Daisy invites Gatsby, Nick and Jordan to lunch. That is foolish move. She feels she has to provoke discovery in order of solving the problem. But just coz she is in a bad mood, she doesn’t care about consequences. She is immature.
- Daisy presents her daughter: the girl makes them all aware of doing something wrong, and also shows that you can turn back 5 years.
- They all go to town: Nick and Jordan in Tom's car, Daisy in Gatsby's. On the way, Tom tells Nick that he has investigated Gatsby, who is certainly no Oxford man, as is rumored. They stop at Wilson's garage.
- George and Myrtle want to go west. While leaving the garage, they see Myrtle peering down at the car.
Tom responds to events with bitter disgust, and Wilson descends into glum resignation. Myrtle, however, is seized with "jealous terror."
Feeling that both his wife and mistress are slipping away from him, Tom feels panicked and impatient.
- F reveals how each of the characters knows or at least suspects what is going on with the others.
This is not a society in which moral codes are strictly enforced or infidelities are shocking news. Although angry at his wife, Tom is certainly not shocked by Daisy's behavior. Tom seems less opposed to the fact that his wife is having an affair than that she is having an affair with a man he considers to be low class.
- They go to a Hotel. Tom begins to confront Gatsby, irritated at his constant use of the term "old sport." Tom attempts to expose Gatsby as a liar concerning Gatsby's experience at Oxford.
Tom's attacks on Gatsby are meant to expose Gatsby as a lower class fraud. He opposes his wife's affair because it sneers at family life. Tom obviously does not predict similar dire consequences stemming from his affair with Myrtle.
- Gatsby tells Tom that Daisy never loved him - the only reason why she married him was because Gatsby was poor and Daisy was tired of waiting. Daisy tells Tom that she never loved him. However, she does concede that she did love Tom once.
➔ Daisy is scared of Gatsby all of a sudden. Daisy is a realist, Gatsby an idealist, a dreamer. Daisy realizes, that Gatsby just loves her ideal.
- Nick realizes that today is his thirtieth birthday. When he does realize this, it reflects a turning point for Nick. He has witnessed the bitter confrontation between Tom and Gatsby, which matures him. He will have to start a new life.
- Michaelis witnessed the inquest. While Wilson and his wife were fighting, she ran out in the road and was hit by a yellow car. She was killedTom realizes that it was Gatsby who hit Myrtle. When Nick returns home, he sees Gatsby, who explains what happened. Daisy was driving the car when they hit Myrtle. Fait made Daisy get her revenge.
Gatsby: Her voice is full of money. (p 160/ 21)
➔ For Gatsby, Daisy represents the money (and the status it entails) for which he has yearned. The distinction between 'old' and 'new' money is crucial; while Gatsby had to strive to earn his fortune, Daisy's inherited wealth has formed her sense of ease and leisure.
Daisy: ‚Oh, you want too much!‘ she cried to Gatsby. ‚I love you now - isn’t that enough? I can’t help what’s past.‘ ➔ That is a defeat for Gatsby, he can accept nothing less.
Daisy may not love Tom, but she doesn't love Gatsby enough to satisfy him. His expectations are far too high to ever allow complete satisfaction.
They weren’t happy... but they weren’t unhappy either.a There was an unmistakable air of natural intimacy about the picture and anybody would have said that they were conspiring together.
- Nick feels that he has something to warn Gatsby about. Gatsby is still there, watching Daisy's mansion across the bay. Nick warns him to get away for a week, since his car will inevitably be traced, but he refuses to consider it. He cannot leave Daisy until he knew what she would do. Nick does feel some tension toward Gatsby - as he says, he disapproved of him from beginning to end - he recognizes that Gatsby has a grand passion and vision that the others, with their detached cynicism and carelessness, lack.
- Gatsby still refuses to believe that Daisy ever loved Tom.
- Before Nick leaves, he tells Gatsby that he's "worth the whole damn bunch put together."
- Michaelis goes to comfort Wilson, who is convinced that his wife was murdered.
- Wilson looks out at the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg and tells Michaelis that "God sees everything."
For Wilson the statement is of religious terror: whatever sins these people commit, they cannot hide them from god.
➔ God punished Myrtle for committing adultery.
Wilson left, "acting crazy" (according to witnesses), and found his way to Gatsby's house. Gatsby had gone out to the pool for one last swim before draining it for the fall. Wilson shot him, and then shot himself.
- Wilson has no church to show him moral, to make him forgive Myrtle. He wants revenge, punishment for Myrtle and her lover. BUT he commits suicide coz he IS moral!
Gatsby: "paid a high price for living too long with a single dream."
- Nick finds himself alone on Gatsby's side. Tom and Daisy suddenly left town. They do not take responsibility for any of the events surrounding Gatsby's murder, leaving Nick to handle everything alone. Even Meyer Wolfsheim behaves responsibly in comparison to the Buchanans. Meyer Wolfsheim is difficult to contact, and offers assistance, but cannot become too involved. Fitzgerald makes it clear that Wolfsheim had genuine affection for Gatsby.
- Nick tracks down Gatsby's father, Henry Gatz, a solemn old man, helpless and dismayed by news of the murder. Gatz says that his son would have "helped build up the country." Klipspringer, the boarder, leaves suddenly and only returns to get his tennis shoes.
- The general opinion of Gatsby after the death demonstrates clearly how he was such an outsider in society. Only Nick remains devoted to Gatsby after the murder, while the rest of Gatsby's acquaintances have no interest in him.
- Gatz shows Nick his son's daily schedule, in which he has practically every minute of his day planned. He had a continual interest in self-improvement. He also took care of is dad.
- He meets with Jordan Baker, who recalls their conversation about how bad drivers are dangerous only when two of them meet. She tells Nick that the two of them are both 'bad drivers.' Jordan's 'bad driver' metaphor places Nick into a different light. Since he serves primarily as an objective narrator, there is little critique of his actions. Only Jordan points out that Nick is as false and careless as the others. He pursued a half-hearted romance with Jordan with little consideration for her feelings, showing interest for her only casually. According to Jordan, irresponsible people are only harmful when they find each other.
- Months later Nick saw Tom Buchanan, and Nick scorns him, knowing that he pointed Wilson toward Gatsby. Nick realizes that all of Tom's actions were, to him, justified. Nick leaves New York to return West.
- The funeral provides further evidence that few had any concern for Gatsby. Other than his servants, Henry Gatz and Nick, only the Owl-Eyed man from the first party attends the funeral. Where hundreds attended his parties, only a small number attend his funeral.
- A common trait among the principle characters of the novel - Gatsby, Daisy, Nick, and the Buchanans - is that each came east for its excitement, compared to the bored mid-west. The excitement of the east sustains wild parties at the Gatsby mansion, but also provides an atmosphere in which people as careless as the Buchanans.
- Fitzgerald ends the book with the sentence "So we beat on, boats against the current (Strömung), borne ceaselessly (nicht aufhörend) into the past," which contradicts Gatsby's fervent belief that one can escape his origins and rewrite his past.
Jay Gatsby (James Gatz): Born James Gatz in North Dakota, from an early age he was dedicated to moving up in society and becoming wealthy and respectable. He changed his name to Jay Gatsby after meeting Dan Cody, a wealthy older man who mentored him. Before going to Europe for the Great War, Gatsby met Daisy Fay, with whom he became infatuated, for she represented the genteel society he wished to join. After the war, Gatsby built his fortune partially through illegal activities, yet dedicated his life to attaining Daisy. His devotion to her was his major flaw: he was attentive to her at the expense of any concern for others.
The romance between Gatsby and Daisy is the driving force in Gatsby's life and his great obsession.
Gatsby has committed crimes in order to buy the house he feels he needs to win the woman he loves. His dream is not really what is known as the American Dream of Success - the belief that every man can have success no matter what his beginnings - it´s a kind of romantic idealism.
Nick Carraway: The narrator of the story, Nick Carraway comes from a well-to-do mid-western family. He comes to New York to enter the bond business, and becomes involved with the affair between Gatsby and the Buchanans. Although seemingly responsible, honest and fair, Nick Carraway nevertheless shares some of the less desirable traits of his acquaintances. He can be equally careless with others' emotions. Yet among the characters he is the only one who realizes the greatness of Gatsby compared to his contemporaries.
He has an optimistic belief in achievement and the ability to attain one's dreams. He’s against Tom, he makes him look like a fool ➔ overdone.
Tom Buchanan: A brutal, hulking man, Tom Buchanan is a former Yale football player who comes from an elite mid-western family. Despite his physical stature and his high status, Tom is an insecure and paranoid man, perpetually concerned with what he sees as the downfall of society and the loss of his own high status. He is a thorough hypocrite, condemning his wife and Gatsby for their affair while having no qualms about his own infidelity.
Tom Buchanan serves two major purposes in the novel. He is a source of danger, with his violent bearing and blunt manner. Tom has no sense of restraint, and is quite suspicious, particularly when Daisy is involved. But Tom is also the prime exemplar of 'old money' as compared to Gatsby's status as one of the 'new rich.' Tom's status endows him with a sense of crude condescension towards all others. He automatically assumes that Gatsby must be a bootlegger, for it seems the only explanation for his newfound wealth. He considers Gatsby an obvious social inferior, automatically unacceptable to members of his social circle.
Daisy Fay Buchanan: Born Daisy Fay, she is a cousin of Nick. During her youth, she fell in love with Jay Gatsby, but broke off her attachment with him during the Great War because he was poor. She subsequently became the symbol of everything Gatsby desired, yet she is little more than a symbol. Daisy is a careless woman who uses her frail (zart) demeanor as an excuse for immaturity. She kills Myrtle Wilson while driving Gatsby's car.
She is the sort of person who is better to dream about than to possess.
Jordan Baker: A longtime friend of Daisy, Jordan Baker is a professional golfer whose reputation has been tarnished by accusations of cheating. Her cynical, icy demeanor draws the attention of Nick Carraway, who becomes momentarily infatuated with her, yet she rejects him when she believes that he is as corrupt and decadent as she is.
Myrtle Wilson: An earthy, vital and voluptuous woman, Myrtle is the wife of George Wilson, a mechanic whom she does not love. She has been having a long-term affair with Tom Buchanan, and is incredibly jealous of Daisy. She dies when, after a fight with her husband, she runs out into the street and is hit by Gatsby's car.
George B. Wilson: The husband of Myrtle Wilson, he is a glum, impoverished man content in his existence until he suspects that his wife is having an affair with Tom. After she is killed, Wilson goes on a murderous rampage, shooting Jay Gatsby before committing suicide himself. He is used by everyone, especially his wife. She took all from him and gave nothing back. Meyer Wolfsheim: A notorious underworld figure involved in organized crime, Wolfsheim is a business associate of Gatsby. A character specifically drawn from Roaring Twenties society, Wolfsheim is a mix of barbarism and refinement (his cufflinks are made from human molars), and he even claims credit for fixing the 1919 World Series. However, he is one of the few acquaintances of Gatsby who shows any concern or compassion after his murder, in contrast to the better-bred Buchanans. The character is an exaggeration meant to emphasize Gatsby's disreputable dealings, more a symbol such as the green light or the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg than a fully realized character such as Carraway or Gatsby.
Immoral business man and proud of it.
Henry Gatz: He is Gatsby's father, an elderly man who would have been condemned to poverty without his son's care. Gatz tells Nick about his son's grand plans and dedication to self-improvement.
Dan Cody: A wealthy man who gained his fortune from the gold rush, he was Gatsby's mentor when Gatsby was a young man and gave him a taste of elite society. When he died, he left Gatsby some money, but Cody's ex-wife claims it after his death.
The Jazz Age
The Jazz Age began in May 1918. It ended with the stock marked crash of 1929. The Jazz Age brought about one of the most rapid and pervasive changes in manners and morals the world has ever seen, changes that we are still wrestling with today. It was a period when the younger generation - men and women alike - were rebelling against the values and customs of their parents and grandparents. After all, the older generation had led thousands of young men into the most brutal and senseless war in human history. People of Fitzgerald´s age had seen death, and when they came back, they were determined to have a good time.
Prohibition, which was supposed to stop drinking, only reshaped it into secret fun. The public saloon, now illegal, was replaced by the private cocktail party, and men and women began drinking together. Parties like the ones given by Gatsby began to thrive, and hoodlums became millionaires in a few months by controlling the bootleg liquour business.
Scott and Zelda not only chronicled the age, they lived it. They rode down Fifth Avenue on the tops of taxis; they drove into the fountain in front of New Yorks famous Plaza Hotel: Scott fought with waiters, and Zelda danced on tabletops. They drank too much and passed out in corners; they drove recklessly and gave weekend parties, which were not too different from the ones Gatsby gives in the novel and which lasted until the small hours of Monday morning.
In principle, Gatsby is a symbol for the whole American experience. Two classes are portrayed in the novel The Great Gatsby. The rich people are represented by Jay Gatsby, Tom and Daisy Buchanan. The human relationships in this society are superficial, they do not feel anything for each other. They feel superior to the working-class, men feel superior to women. Real friendships are very rare. Nick and Gatsby are the exception of the rule.
His parties have only one reason, to arrange a meeting with Daisy. His dream is a life with Daisy and his love for her. On the one hand Gatsby is heroic, but on the other he is trivial and common. The best example for this superficiality is Tom. Daisy’s husband represents the brutality and moral carelessness of the established rich. He has no scruples.
The life of the working-class is shown by the Wilsons, Myrtle and George. In the novel the two classes get in contact because of the relationship between Myrtle and Tom.