About the Author
Date of Birth:September 24, 1896
Date of Death:December 21, 1940
Place of Birth:St. Paul, Minnesota
Read an Excerpt
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
"Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
He didn't say any more but we've always been unusually communicative in a reserved way and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence I'm inclined to reserve all judgements, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsought -- frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon -- for the intimate revelations of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving judgements is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth.
And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit. Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes but after a certain point I don't care what it's founded on. When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction -- Gatsby who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the "creative temperament" -- it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again. No -- Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.
My family have been prominent, well-to-do people in this middle-western city for three generations. The Carraways are something of a clan and we have a tradition that we're descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, but the actual founder of my line was my grandfather's brother who came here in fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil War and started the wholesale hardware business that my father carries on today.
I never saw this great-uncle but I'm supposed to look like him -- with special reference to the rather hard-boiled painting that hangs in Father's office. I graduated from New Haven in 1915, just a quarter of a century after my father, and a little later I participated in that delayed Teutonic migration known as the Great War. I enjoyed the counter-raid so thoroughly that I came back restless. Instead of being the warm center of the world the middle-west now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe -- so I decided to go east and learn the bond business. Everybody I knew was in the bond business so I supposed it could support one more single man. All my aunts and uncles talked it over as if they were choosing a prep-school for me and finally said "Why -- ye-es" with very grave, hesitant faces. Father agreed to finance me for a year and after various delays I came east, permanently, I thought, in the spring of twenty-two.
The practical thing was to find rooms in the city but it was a warm season and I had just left a country of wide lawns and friendly trees, so when a young man at the office suggested that we take a house together in a commuting town it sounded like a great idea. He found the house, a weather beaten cardboard bungalow at eighty a month, but at the last minute the firm ordered him to Washington and I went out to the country alone. I had a dog, at least I had him for a few days until he ran away, and an old Dodge and a Finnish woman who made my bed and cooked breakfast and muttered Finnish wisdom to herself over the electric stove.
It was lonely for a day or so until one morning some man, more recently arrived than I, stopped me on the road.
"How do you get to West Egg Village?" he asked helplessly.
I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I was a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler. He had casually conferred on me the freedom of the neighborhood.
And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees -- just as things grow in fast movies -- I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.
There was so much to read for one thing and so much fine health to be pulled down out of the young breath-giving air. I bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment securities and they stood on my shelf in red and gold like new money from the mint, promising to unfold the shining secrets that only Midas and Morgan and Maecenas knew. And I had the high intention of reading many other books besides. I was rather literary in college -- one year I wrote a series of very solemn and obvious editorials for the "Yale News" -- and now I was going to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most limited of all specialists, the "well-rounded" man. This isn't just an epigram -- life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all.
It was a matter of chance that I should have rented a house in one of the strangest communities in North America. It was on that slender riotous island which extends itself due east of New York and where there are, among other natural curiosities, two unusual formations of land. Twenty miles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in contour and separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out into the most domesticated body of salt water in the Western Hemisphere, the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound. They are not perfect ovals -- like the egg in the Columbus story they are both crushed fiat at the contact end -- but their physical resemblance must be a source of perpetual confusion to the gulls that fly over-head. To the wingless a more arresting phenomenon is their dissimilarity in every particular except shape and size.
I lived at West Egg, the -- well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them. My house was at the very tip of the egg, only fifty yards from the Sound, and squeezed between two huge places that rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season. The one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard -- it was a factual imitation of some Hôtel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of lawn and garden. It was Gatsby's mansion. Or rather, as I didn't know Mr. Gatsby it was a mansion inhabited by a gentleman of that name. My own house was an eye-sore, but it was a small eye-sore and it had been overlooked, so I had a view of the water, a partial view of my neighbor's lawn and the consoling proximity of millionaires -- all for eighty dollars a month.
Across the courtesy bay the white places of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water and the history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanans. Daisy was my second cousin once removed and I'd known Tom in college. And just after the war I spent two days with them in Chicago.
Her husband, among various physical accomplishments, had been one of the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven -- a national figure in a way, one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterwards savours of anti-climax. His family were enormously wealthy -- even in college his freedom with money was a matter for reproach -- but now he'd left Chicago and come east in a fashion that rather took your breath away: for instance he'd brought down a string of polo ponies from Lake Forest. It was hard to realize that a man in my own generation was wealthy enough to do that.
Why they came east I don't know. They had spent a year in France, for no particular reason, and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were rich together. This was a permanent move, said Daisy over the telephone, but I didn't believe it -- I had no sight into Daisy's heart but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking a little wistfully for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game.
And so it happened that on a warm windy evening I drove over to East Egg to see two old friends whom I scarcely knew at all. Their house was even more elaborate than I expected, a cheerful red and white Georgian Colonial mansion overlooking the bay. The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens -- finally when it reached the house drifting up the side in bright vines as though from the momentum of its run. The front was broken by a line of French windows, glowing now with reflected gold, and wide open to the warm windy afternoon, and Tom Buchanan in riding clothes was standing with his legs apart on the front porch.
He had changed since his New Haven years. Now he was a sturdy, straw haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining, arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward. Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body -- he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage -- a cruel body.
His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed. There was a touch of paternal contempt in it, even toward people he liked -- and there were men at New Haven who had hated his guts.
"Now, don't think my opinion on these matters is final," he seemed to say, "just because I'm stronger and more of a man than you are." We were in the same Senior Society and while we were never intimate I always had the impression that he approved of me and wanted me to like him with some harsh, defiant wistfulness of his own.
We talked for a few minutes on the sunny porch.
"I've got a nice place here," he said, his eyes flashing about restlessly.
Turning me around by one arm he moved a broad flat hand along the front vista, including in its sweep a sunken Italian garden, a half acre of deep pungent roses and a snub-nosed motor boat that bumped the tide off shore.
"It belonged to Demaine the oil man." He turned me around again, politely and abruptly. "We'll go inside."
We walked through a high hallway into a bright rosy-colored space, fragilely bound into the house by French windows at either end. The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass outside that seemed to grow a little way into the house. A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags, twisting them up toward the frosted wedding cake of the ceiling -- and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea.
The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor.
The younger of the two was a stranger to me. She was extended full length at her end of the divan, completely motionless and with her chin raised a little as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall. If she saw me out of the corner of her eyes she gave no hint of it -- indeed I was almost surprised into murmuring an apology for having disturbed her by coming in.
The other girl, Daisy, made an attempt to rise -- she leaned slightly forward with a conscientious expression -- then she laughed, an absurd, charming little laugh, and I laughed too and came forward into the room.
"I'm p-paralyzed with happiness."
She laughed again, as if she said something very witty, and held my hand for a moment, looking up into my face, promising that there was no one in the world she so much wanted to see. That was a way she had. She hinted in a murmur that the surname of the balancing girl was Baker. (I've heard it said that Daisy's murmur was only to make people lean toward her; an irrelevant criticism that made it no less charming.)
At any rate Miss Baker's lips fluttered, she nodded at me almost imperceptibly and then quickly tipped her head back again -- the object she was balancing had obviously tottered a little and given her something of a fright. Again a sort of apology arose to my lips. Almost any exhibition of complete self sufficiency draws a stunned tribute from me.
I looked back at my cousin who began to ask me questions in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again. Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth -- but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered "Listen," a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour.
I told her how I had stopped off in Chicago for a day on my way east and how a dozen people had sent their love through me.
"Do they miss me?" she cried ecstatically.
"The whole town is desolate. All the cars have the left rear wheel painted black as a mourning wreath and there's a persistent wail all night along the North Shore."
"How gorgeous! Let's go back, Tom. Tomorrow!" Then she added irrelevantly, "You ought to see the baby."
"I'd like to."
"She's asleep. She's two years old. Haven't you ever seen her?"
"Well, you ought to see her. She's --"
Tom Buchanan who had been hovering restlessly about the room stopped and rested his hand on my shoulder.
"What you doing, Nick?"
"I'm a bond man."
I told him.
"Never heard of them," he remarked decisively.
This annoyed me.
"You will," I answered shortly. "You will if you stay in the East."
"Oh, I'll stay in the East, don't you worry," he said, glancing at Daisy and then back at me as if he were alert for something more. "I'd be a God Damn fool to live anywhere else."
At this point Miss Baker said "Absolutely!" with such suddenness that I started -- it was the first word she had uttered since I came into the room. Evidently it surprised her as much as it did me, for she yawned and with a series of rapid, deft movements stood up into the room.
"I'm stiff," she complained. "I've been lying on that sofa for as long as I can remember."
"Don't look at me," Daisy retorted. "I've been trying to get you to New York all afternoon."
"No thanks," said Miss Baker to the four cocktails just in from the pantry, "I'm absolutely in training."
Her host looked at her incredulously.
"You are!" He took clown his drink as if it were a drop in the bottom of a glass. "How you ever get anything done is beyond me."
I looked at Miss Baker wondering what it was she "got done." I enjoyed looking at her. She was a slender, small-breasted girl with an erect carriage which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet. Her grey sun-strained eyes looked back at me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming discontented face. It occurred to me now that I had seen her, or a picture of her, somewhere before.
"You live in West Egg," she remarked contemptuously. "I know somebody there."
"I don't know a single --"
"You must know Gatsby."
"Gatsby?" demanded Daisy. "What Gatsby?"
Before I could reply that he was my neighbor dinner was announced; wedging his tense arm imperatively under mine Tom Buchanan compelled me from the room as though he were moving a checker to another square.
Slenderly, languidly, their hands set lightly on their hips the two young women preceded us out onto a rosy-colored porch open toward the sunset where four candles flickered on the table in the diminished wind.
"Why candles?" objected Daisy frowning. She snapped them out with her fingers. "In two weeks it'll be the longest day in the year." She looked at us all radiantly. "Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it."
"We ought to plan something," yawned Miss Baker, sitting down at the table as if she were getting into bed.
"All right," said Daisy. "What'll we plan?" She turned to me helplessly. "What do people plan?"
Before I could answer her eyes fastened with an awed expression on her little finger.
"Look!" she complained. "I hurt it."
We all looked -- the knuckle was black and blue.
"You did it, Tom," she said accusingly. "I know you didn't mean to but you did do it. That's what I get for marrying a brute of a man, a great big hulking physical specimen of a --"
"I hate that word hulking," objected Tom crossly, "even in kidding."
"Hulking," insisted Daisy.
Sometimes she and Miss Baker talked at once, unobtrusively and with a bantering inconsequence that was never quite chatter, that was as cool as their white dresses and their impersonal eyes in the absence of all desire. They were here -- and they accepted Tom and me, making only a polite pleasant effort to entertain or to be entertained. They knew that presently dinner would be over and a little later the evening too would be over and casually put away. It was sharply different from the West where an evening was hurried from phase to phase toward its close in a continually disappointed anticipation or else in sheer nervous dread of the moment itself.
"You make me feel uncivilized, Daisy," I confessed on my second glass of corky but rather impressive claret. "Can't you talk about crops or something?"
I meant nothing in particular by this remark but it was taken up in an unexpected way.
"Civilization's going to pieces," broke out Tom violently. "I've gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read 'The Rise of the Coloured Empires' by this man Goddard?"
"Why, no," I answered, rather surprised by his tone.
"Well, it's a fine book and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if we don't look out the white race will be -- will be utterly submerged. It's all scientific stuff; it's been proved."
"Tom's getting very profound," said Daisy with an expression of unthoughtful sadness. "He reads deep books with long words in them. What was that word we --"
"Well, these books are all scientific," insisted Tom, glancing at her impatiently. "This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It's up to us who are the dominant race to watch out or these other races will have control of things."
"We've got to beat them down," whispered Daisy, winking ferociously toward the fervent sun.
"You ought to live in California --" began Miss Baker but Tom interrupted her by shifting heavily in his chair.
"This idea is that we're Nordics. I am and you are and you are and --" After an infinitesimal hesitation he included Daisy with a slight nod and she winked at me again, "and we've produced all the things that go to make civilization -- oh, science and art and all that. Do you see?"
There was something pathetic in his concentration as if his complacency, more acute than of old, was not enough to him any more. When, almost immediately, the telephone rang inside and the butler left the porch Daisy seized upon the momentary interruption and leaned toward me.
"I'll tell you a family secret," she whispered enthusiastically. "It's about the butler's nose. Do you want to hear about the butler's nose?"
"That's why I came over tonight."
"Well, he wasn't always a butler; he used to be the silver polisher for some people in New York that had a silver service for two hundred people. He had to polish it from morning till night until finally it began to affect his nose --"
"Things went from bad to worse," suggested Miss Baker.
"Yes. Things went from bad to worse until finally he had to give up his position."
For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened -- then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.
The butler came back and murmured something close to Tom's ear whereupon Tom frowned, pushed back his chair and without a word went inside. As if his absence quickened something within her Daisy leaned forward again, her voice glowing and singing.
"I love to see you at my table, Nick. You remind me of a -- of a rose, an absolute rose. Doesn't he?" She turned to Miss Baker for confirmation. "An absolute rose?"
This was untrue. I am not even faintly like a rose. She was only extemporizing but a stirring warmth flowed from her as if her heart was trying to come out to you concealed in one of those breathless, thrilling words. Then suddenly she threw her napkin on the table and excused herself and went into the house.
Miss Baker and I exchanged a short glance consciously devoid of meaning. I was about to speak when she sat up alertly and said "Sh!" in a warning voice. A subdued impassioned murmur was audible in the room beyond and Miss Baker leaned forward, unashamed, trying to hear. The murmur trembled on the verge of coherence, sank down, mounted excitedly and then ceased altogether.
"This Mr. Gatsby you spoke of is my neighbor --" I said.
"Don't talk. I want to hear what happens."
"Is something happening?" I inquired innocently.
"You mean to say you don't know?" said Miss Baker, honestly surprised. "I thought everybody knew."
"Why --" she said hesitantly, "Tom's got some woman in New York."
"Got some woman?" I repeated blankly.
Miss Baker nodded.
"She might have the decency not to telephone him at dinner-time. Don't you think?"
Almost before I had grasped her meaning there was the flutter of a dress and the crunch of leather boots and Tom and Daisy were back at the table.
"It couldn't be helped!" cried Daisy with tense gayety.
She sat down, glanced searchingly at Miss Baker and then at me and continued, "I looked outdoors for a minute and it's very romantic outdoors. There's a bird on the lawn that I think must be a nightingale come over on the Cunard or White Star Line. He's singing away --" her voice sang "-- It's romantic, isn't it, Tom?"
"Very romantic," he said, and then miserably to me: "If it's light enough after dinner I want to take you down to the stables."
The telephone rang inside, startlingly, and as Daisy shook her head decisively at Tom the subject of the stables, in fact all subjects, vanished into air. Among the broken fragments of the last five minutes at table I remember the candles being lit again, pointlessly, and I was conscious of wanting to look squarely at everyone and yet to avoid all eyes. I couldn't guess what Daisy and Tom were thinking but I doubt if even Miss Baker who seemed to have mastered a certain hardy skepticism was able utterly to put this fifth guest's shrill metallic urgency out of mind. To a certain temperament the situation might have seemed intriguing -- my own instinct was to telephone immediately for the police.
The horses, needless to say, were not mentioned again. Tom and Miss Baker with several feet of twilight between them strolled back into the library, as if to a vigil beside a perfectly tangible body, while trying to look pleasantly interested and a little deaf I followed Daisy around a chain of connecting verandas to the porch in front. In its deep gloom we sat clown side by side on a wicker settee.
Daisy took her face in her hands, as if feeling its lovely shape, and her eyes moved gradually out into the velvet dusk. I saw that turbulent emotions possessed her, so I asked what I thought would be some sedative questions about her little girl.
"We don't know each other very well, Nick," she said suddenly. "Even if we are cousins. You didn't come to my wedding."
"I wasn't back from the war."
"That's true." She hesitated. "Well, I've had a very bad time, Nick, and I'm pretty cynical about everything."
Evidently she had reason to be. I waited but she didn't say any more, and after a moment I returned rather feebly to the subject of her daughter.
"I suppose she talks, and -- eats, and everything."
"Oh, yes." She looked at me absently. "Listen, Nick; let me tell you what I said when she was born. Would you like to hear?"
"It'll show you how I've gotten to feel about -- things. Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. 'All right,' I said, 'I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool -- that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.'
"You see I think everything's terrible anyhow," she went on in a convinced way. "Everybody thinks so -- the most advanced people. And I know. I've been everywhere and seen everything and done everything." Her eyes flashed around her in a defiant way, rather like Tom's, and she laughed with thrilling scorn. "Sophisticated -- God, I'm sophisticated!"
The instant her voice broke off, ceasing to compel my attention, my belief, I felt the basic insincerity of what she had said. It made me uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick of some sort to exact a contributary emotion from me. I waited, and sure enough, in a moment she looked at me with an absolute smirk on her lovely face as if she had asserted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged.
Inside, the crimson room bloomed with light. Tom and Miss Baker sat at either end of the long couch and she read aloud to him from the "Saturday Evening Post" -- the words, murmurous and uninflected, running together in a soothing tune. The lamp-light, bright on his boots and dull on the autumn-leaf yellow of her hair, glinted along the paper as she turned a page with a flutter of slender muscles in her arms.
When we came in she held us silent for a moment with a lifted hand.
"To be continued," she said, tossing the magazine on the table, "in our very next issue."
Her body asserted itself with a restless movement of her knee, and she stood up.
"Ten o'clock," she remarked, apparently finding the time on the ceiling. "Time for this good girl to go to bed."
"Jordan's going to play in the tournament tomorrow," explained Daisy, "over at Westchester."
"Oh, -- you're Jordan Baker."
I knew now why her face was familiar -- its pleasing contemptuous expression had looked out at me from many rotogravure pictures of the sporting life at Asheville and Hot Springs and Palm Beach. I had heard some story of her too, a critical, unpleasant story, but what it was I had forgotten long ago.
"Good night," she said softly. "Wake me at eight, won't you."
"If you'll get up."
"I will. Good night, Mr. Carraway. See you anon."
"Of course you will," confirmed Daisy. "In fact I think I'll arrange a marriage. Come over often, Nick, and I'll sort of -- oh -- fling you together. You know -- lock you up accidentally in linen closets and push you out to sea in a boat, and all that sort of thing --"
"Good night," called Miss Baker from the stairs. "I haven't heard a word."
"She's a nice girl," said Tom after a moment. "They oughtn't to let her run around the country this way."
"Who oughtn't to?" inquired Daisy coldly.
"Her family is one aunt about a thousand years old. Besides, Nick's going to look after her, aren't you, Nick? She's going to spend lots of week-ends out here this summer. I think the home influence will be very good for her."
Daisy and Tom looked at each other for a moment in silence.
"Is she from New York?" I asked quickly.
"From Louisville. Our white girlhood was passed together there. Our beautiful white --"
"Did you give Nick a little heart-to-heart talk on the veranda?" demanded Tom suddenly.
"Did I?" She looked at me. "I can't seem to remember, but I think we talked about the Nordic race. Yes, I'm sure we did. It sort of crept up on us and first thing you know --"
"Don't believe everything you hear, Nick," he advised me.
I said lightly that I had heard nothing at all, and a few minutes later I got up to go home. They came to the door with me and stood side by side in a cheerful square of light. As I started my motor Daisy peremptorily called "Wait!
"I forgot to ask you something, and it's important. We heard you were engaged to a girl out West."
"That's right," corroborated Tom kindly. "We heard that you were engaged."
"It's a libel. I'm too poor."
"But we heard it," insisted Daisy, surprising me by opening up again in a flower-like way. "We heard it from three people so it must be true."
Of course I knew what they were referring to, but I wasn't even vaguely engaged. The fact that gossip had published the banns was one of the reasons I had come east. You can't stop going with an old friend on account of rumors and on the other hand I had no intention of being rumored into marriage.
Their interest rather touched me and made them less remotely rich -- nevertheless, I was confused and a little disgusted as I drove away. It seemed to me that the thing for Daisy to do was to rush out of the house, child in arms -- but apparently there were no such intentions in her head. As for Tom the fact that he "had some woman in New York" was really less surprising than that he had been depressed by a book. Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory, heart.
Already it was deep summer on roadhouse roofs and in front of wayside garages where new red gas-pumps sat out in pools of light, and when I reached my estate at West Egg I ran the car under its shed and sat for a while on an abandoned grass roller in the yard. The wind had blown off, leaving a loud bright night with wings beating in the trees and a persistent organ sound as the full bellows of the earth blew the frogs full of life. The silhouette of a moving cat wavered across the moonlight and turning my head to watch it I saw that I was not alone -- fifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my neighbor's mansion and was standing with his hands in his pockets regarding the silver pepper of the stars. Something in his leisurely movements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn suggested that it was Mr. Gatsby himself, come out to determine what share was his of our local heavens.
I decided to call to him. Miss Baker had mentioned him at dinner, and that would do for an introduction. But I didn't call to him for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone -- he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward -- and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.
Copyright © 1925 by Charles Scribner's Sons
Copyright renewed 1953 by Frances Scott Fitzgerald Lanahan
Editorial material © 1991, 1992 by Eleanor Lanahan, Matthew J. Bruccoli, and Samuel J. Lanahan as Trustees under Agreement dated July 3, 1975 Created by Frances Scott Fitzgerald Smith
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements Introduction F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Brief Chronology A Note on the Text
The Great Gatsby
Appendix A: Fitzgerald’s Correspondence about The Great Gatsby (1922-25)
Appendix B: Contemporary Reviews
- H.L. Mencken, Baltimore Evening Sun (2 May 1925)
- William Rose Benét, Saturday Review of Literature (9 May 1925)
- William Curtis, Town & Country (15 May 1925)
- Carl Van Vechten, The Nation (20 May 1925)
- Gilbert Seldes, The Dial (August 1925)
Appendix C: Consumption, Class, and Selfhood: Eight Contemporary Advertisements
Appendix D: The Irreverent Spirit of the Jazz Age
- From F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Echoes of the Jazz Age” (1931)
- Duncan M. Poole, “The Great Jazz Trial” (1922)
- From H.L. Mencken, [“Five Years of Prohibition”] (1924)
- Zelda Fitzgerald, “What Became of the Flappers?” (1925)
- From Walter Lippmann, A Preface to Morals (1929)
Appendix E: Race and the National Culture, 1920-25
- From Lothrop Stoddard, The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy (1920)
- From Henry Ford, Jewish Influences in American Life (1921)
- From Frederick C. Howe, “The Alien” (1922)
- Miguel Covurrubias, “The Sheik of Dahomey” (illustration, 1924)
What People are Saying About This
James Dickey Now we have an American masterpiece in its final form: the original crystal has shaped itself into the true diamond. This is the novel as Fitzgerald wished it to be, and so it is what we have dreamed of, sleeping and waking
Reading Group Guide
This Scribner reading group guide for The Great Gatsby includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
The Great Gatsby, one of the classics of twentieth-century literature, brings to life America’s Jazz Age, when, as The New York Times puts it, “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession.” Nick Carraway, a Yale graduate and veteran of the Great War, moves to Long Island in the spring of 1922, eager to leave his native Middle West behind. He rents a tiny house in West Egg, dwarfed by a mansion owned by the most celebrated host of the season, Jay Gatsby. Everyone loves to drink and dance at Gatsby’s legendary parties, and everyone loves to gossip about Gatsby’s secret past. Directly across the bay in the tonier town of East Egg lies the home of Nick’s beautiful cousin and her millionaire husband: Daisy and Tom Buchanan. When Nick starts dating Daisy’s friend, the famed but deceitful golfer Jordan Baker, he finds himself caught up in a different romance: Gatsby begs for a reintroduction to Daisy. Gatsby and Daisy fell in love years ago, but the war and Tom Buchanan came between them. As the love triangle of Daisy, Tom, and Gatsby resurfaces – and Tom’s mistress, Myrtle, grows desperate with jealousy – Nick finds himself missing the plains of the Middle West, where hope can thrive in a wider landscape.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. The Great Gatsby features an epigraph by “Thomas Parke D’Invilliers” (a writer invented by Fitzgerald) about winning a lover by any means. How does this short poem set the scene for the novel to come? Why do you think Fitzgerald would open The Great Gatsby with a fictional epigraph, rather than a real quote or poem?
2. Compare East Egg and West Egg. What kinds of people settle on each side of the bay? Why would a couple like the Buchanans reside in East Egg, and men like Nick and Gatsby on the other side? How does the division between these two villages compare to differences between the American East and West?
3. Discuss the role of honesty in The Great Gatsby. Which characters pride themselves on telling the truth? How does duplicity affect the relationship between Nick and Jordan, and the marriage of Tom and Daisy? What falsehoods has Gatsby relied upon to advance in society?
4. Compare two classic party scenes in the novel: the first party at Gatsby’s house that Nick attends, and the impromptu gathering at Tom and Myrtle’s apartment in New York City. How is each party enlivened by booze, romance, and chaos? How are the guests at each party similar, and how are they different? How does Nick’s drunken perspective color each scene?
5. Consider the role of gossip in the novel. What kinds of rumors do Gatsby’s guests spread about their host, and why? Why does public opinion have such a strong hold over the characters in the novel?
6. In Chapter VI, just after Daisy and Gatsby reunite at Nick’s house, Nick reveals the story of his friend’s transition from James Gatz to Jay Gatsby. Why does Nick choose this point in the story to tell Gatsby’s history? How does this chapter serve as a turning point in the novel?
7. Compare James Gatz to the man he became: Jay Gatsby. What do we learn about Gatz’s ambition as a youth? How did he make his transition to Gatsby? What elements from his past did he retain, even as he left his identity behind?
8. Eyes are a prominent feature throughout the novel – T. J. Ecklesburg’s spectacles watch over the “valley of ashes,” “Owl-eyes” attends Gatsby’s parties and funeral, and Nick senses Myrtle’s jealous gaze upon Tom and Jordan when they stop at Wilson’s gas station. What is the significance of this theme of surveillance? Who is being watched throughout the novel?
9. “‘Can’t repeat the past?’ [Gatsby] cried incredulously. ‘Why of course you can!’” (page 110). Discuss Gatsby’s attempts to recreate history. Why is he so eager to go back to life before he went to war, when he was a young officer in love with Daisy? What has Gatsby lost and gained since those days in Louisville?
10. At the moment of the accident that killed Myrtle Wilson, “first Daisy turned away from the woman toward the other car, and then she lost her nerve and turned back” (page 143). How else does Daisy lose her nerve on that drive from New York City to East Egg? Why does she turn back to Tom, instead of choosing a life with Gatsby?
11. Gatsby says about Daisy, “Her voice is full of money.” (page 120). Discuss how class and affects the romances in the novel. Would Daisy be just as alluring without her status? Would Gatsby or Tom be attractive without their fortunes?
12. Nick observes, “I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all,” (page 176) since none of its characters are from the East. How have ideas about the “West” changed since Fitzgerald’s day? What is particularly “Western” about each of these characters: Nick, Tom, Gatsby, Daisy, and Jordan? Do you agree with Nick that they are “unadaptable to Eastern life”? Why or why not?
13. Consider the setting of the novel: 1922 Long Island. Can you imagine this story within another time or place? Do you consider The Great Gatsby timeless, or do you think its characters and themes are deeply rooted in the postwar prosperity of the Roaring Twenties?
14. The novel ends with Nick thinking about “Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock” (page 180). Consider the symbol of the green light. What dreams and hopes does the light stand for? Is Gatsby’s “extraordinary gift for hope” an asset or a hindrance to his ambition, in the end?
15. If this was your first time reading The Great Gatsby, discuss what you knew about this American classic before you began reading, and how it met or defied your expectations. If you’ve read the novel before, think back to the first time you read it, and discuss how the novel has changed for you over time. Do you understand it differently today than you did in the past?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Come to your book club meeting dressed like your favorite Great Gatsby character! If you don’t happen to own a pink suit like Gatsby’s, consider donning a partygoer’s pearls, Daisy’s white dress, Owl-eyes’ oversized glasses, Jordan’s golf gloves, Tom’s riding pants, or any other accessory inspired by the Jazz Age.
2. In a nod to the Prohibition era, serve your book club’s refreshments – whether you’re pouring mint juleps or lemonade – in teacups.
3. Get your book club members in a jazzy mood – greet them with “Ain’t We Got Fun,” a song played during Gatsby and Daisy’s romantic reunion. You can find a recording of the 1921 classic here: http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/recordings/detail/id/7859/.
4. Learn the history of the house that might have been the inspiration for Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s East Egg mansion, which was condemned in 2011: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-3445_162-20054710/the-end-of-an-era-for-the-gatsby-house/.
5. A theater company called the Elevator Repair Service has adapted The Great Gatsby into an eight-hour staged reading, Gatz. Stage a shorter version with your book club – assign parts to Nick, Gatsby, and Daisy, and have “Nick” read the beginning of Chapter V while “Gatsby” and “Daisy” read their lines of dialogue. Does the prose have a different impact when read aloud?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Want to buy. Will not. YOU CAN NOT JUSTIFY CHARGING THIS PRICE FOR THIS BOOK. CAN NOT. I HATE having to complain but this trend of jacking up prices for our computer file nooks is becoming common practice and is an insult to the intelligence of every nook/nookcolor owner. And we can't use our discount card for what reason. We want to be loyal customers. Please inspire us to do so. If you did not know, we want quality nookbooks and apps at fair prices. If you are a fellow nook owner and see an example of nookbook price abuse, add a comment to your review. Or not.
Though the ending isn't Disney-worthy (my usual preference), Fitzgerald did a marvelous job. The book centers around the mysterious character of Gatsby, and, as you turn the pages, his history unravels before your eyes, as well as the narrator's--Nick. Nick is an "average" guy whom we feel we can trust--because he follows his father's advice and does not immediately judge (or so he says). The book will make you yearn for a love you know is impossible, cringe with embarrassment at a shameful past, blush at the awkwardness encountered on nearly every page, laugh and cry at the dramatic irony, and have you researching the Charleston (the dance, not the city--this is set in the 1920s, after all!). It may not be considered a typical love story, but the electricity between Daisy and Gatsby is too strong to deny and it always has me wondering what will happen (though I know). Read for irony, read for lessons, read to be taken back to another time--no, another dimension in which the music never dies and the party is perpetual.
Too expensive! I was planning to buy, but I will look for a hard copy. If you want happy nook owners, dont overcharge for classics!
As soon as a reader opens up their copy of The Great Gatsby they will find themselves thrust into the world of 1920's America. This "Jazz Age" featured the prodigious house parties that the prohibition era was known for. But none of the parties thrown could match the lavishness of the festivities at the Gatsby residence on West Egg, Long Island, especially if you were viewing them from the house of his neighbor Nick Carraway. Nick, being a 29 year old bondsman from Minnesota, would have not expected to be around such a lively atmosphere in the first place and could not be prepared in the very least for the summer that was ahead of him while living next to the Gatsby estate. His summer that year nudged him in the directions of such themes as materialism, adultery, murder and life. Through this time, Nick finds himself telling the story of his events on Long Island that summer and how he progressed through a rite of passage which can also connect to the timeless self-discoveries gone through by all readers throughout their lives. But F. Scott Fitzgerald developed his story further from the narrator's rite of passage and developed a tragic figure that is the focus of the story's title, Jay Gatsby. Jay is the charismatic next door neighbor of Nick, who has more mystery surrounding him than he does house guests. Jay's story revolves around Nick's cousin, Daisy, whom Jay has continued to be devoted to even though their relationship had ended years ago. Those who have felt the hurt of a broken heart can relate to the emotions expressed by both Daisy and Jay while they find themselves immersed in the complications of this love during the book. The immersion in which readers can find themselves experiencing is the reason why this book has not stopped birthing positive review after positive review. F. Scott Fitzgerald has truly created a time portal to the 1920's through this literary masterpiece for all to experience and escape from their own worlds and venture into a life much different than their own.
This is a wonderful book. It will keep you entertained for hours
I've read this novella over and over again and love it more each time I read it. There is one part that drags on a bit, and that is when it rattles off names of guests at one of Gatsby's elaborate parties, but other than that, it is perfection. Jay Gatsby is probably F. Scott Fitzgerald's best characters. I can really empathize with him. This work also shows Fitzgerald's improvement in his use of dialogue, which is a bit weak in his previous novels. At only 188 pages, it is a quick read, but a read that will stick with you forever.
Its high way robbery at its best. Yes we want to read but NOT BE ROBBED.
Kindle has the book for $4.99
Everything is much cheaper on kindle. May switch perminatly!
Why on kindle is this exact book $4.99 come on B&N this is not helping retain customers
It is an awesome book but the ebook version is too expensive. I suggest just getting a hard copy
I haven't read the complete book yet because the last chapter is missing from this copy. Do not buy it.
This book has been named a classic and I would have to completely agree with that. The book is an amazing novel that captures the early 1900s with amazing accuracy. If you enjoy American literature and history this book is a must read. The writing is exquisite and the higher class of America is excellently portrayed. Fitzgerald's characters will make you question yourself and ethics as they become enthralled in the drama that surrounds them. The book is amazing for discussions and will have to become a permanent fixture in your life after reading it once. This realsitic novel will make you think more than most other classics!
The Great Gatsby... When I was first assigned to read this book the title did not sound appealing to me. If I was assigned this book in the past, I would have figured it would have been a typical book I had to read for school boring. Even though the title does not sound to appealing to me, I trusted my teacher enough to give the book a a chance. As I begin reading the book I did not understand why it was called ¿The Great Gatsby¿ because the character Gatsby never talked to anyone nor did anyone get to visualize him. As I read through the book , I eventually noticed why it was called the `Great Gatsby¿ and understood why the author picked the title of this book. The Great Gatsby showed the time during the 1920¿s and how it was. Things such as the parties, the poor life, the rich life, cars, and fashion to name a few. The book consisted of two young people [Daisy and Gatsby] in love, but broken apart because Gatsby [who was poor] had to go to war. Daisy ended up not waiting for Gatsby and married a rich fellow named Tom. Tom and Daisy had a child together, but lived a marriage of lies. He had cheated on her with many women due to the unstable choice of marriage. Gatsby came back from war and made something of himself. He became very wealthy and successful. He did this to try to win his old love Daisy back. Years later the both had houses near each other, and Gatsby tried his hardest to get back with Daisy. He thought he could relive the past with her and rekindle there love. Although I enjoyed the book the ending was not how I planned it to turn out in my head. One thing I liked about the ending was how it showed money does not give you everything and you cannot always buy love and happiness, nor a perfect life. The book showed two sides, the life of the poor and the life of the rich. Both ways you can be happy, you just have to find your happiness in yourself and life. You understand in this book that money can buy you nice things, but cannot always buy you love.
Only contains 7 of the 9 chapters of this book. It's bad enough you charge 2 bucks for something that cost you nothing, buton top of that you are too lazy gibe include the final 2 chapters? However is in charge of this needs to do the world a favor and swallow a bullet.
This edition is missing the last two chapters! Very frustrating.
Not a full book
Doesn't work well on nook. Some words run together; others are split between lines without hyphens or regsrd to syllables.
I just finished this book. I loved it. There is always something watching over them like that eye doctor sign with the glasses. Also when Gatsby had his parties there was that guy with the owl eyed glasses. I liked how he tied it together with the same owl eyed guy at the end. The end was very sudden and a bit confusing. It really made me think. I noticed it doesn't have much of a moral if any which makes it different because most books have a moral. I think he did a nice job. I am excited to see the movie. Our class couldn't agree which side Nick's house was on...right or left...I pictured it on the right.
If you are looking at this on your nook dont buy the black covered cheaper book. It is not the full book! It is a waste of money.
Everyone knows about the book “The Great Gatsby’. It’s one of Americas Literature masterpiece. The book’s plot is simple. It’s a forbidden love story with a twist. The twist isn’t shocking but predictable like a season finale of soap opera. What draws the reader into the book is the mystery behind Jay Gatsby and his love for Daisy. From the beginning, the obvious fact about Gatsby is that he’s very wealthy and liked by most. He’s also has a lot of rumors and stories about how he got his wealth which is a leading fact to the conflict in the story’s plot. What’s also good about the book is that many people will interpret the books plot and/or main point differently. One for example is that it was a story about Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s neighbor and friend, who sort of goes on a short but slightly epic life journey to discover who jay Gatsby and to find out why is he so mysterious to others. Another is Carrway’s friendship with the Gatsby and the summer at which he spends with him that involves experiences with love, hate and mystery. Overall , however you interpreted the book the book is worth reading and each page you draws you in more and more.
Truly a classic; Fitzgerald beautifully paints the 20's era with the new sensations of money and bootlegging and partying in his fantastic novel. His superb writing details the life of Nick Carraway with his friend, a new wealth, Jay Gatsby, who longs for the married Daisy Buchanan. The trials of trying to get her shows how flawed Gatsby is, and therefore, fulfilling the title of the book, how truly great he is. Fitzgerald's writing intoxicates the reader into this forgotten world. His sentences really do stand up and take a little bow.
Its missing the last chapters only 101 pages
How can you charge over $10!! Insane!! Kindle edition is just $5. I might as well purchase the paperback and use my discount card at the brick and morter store. I would LOVE to purchase on my nook, but 10 bucks? Really?
While I did enjoy the book, this is version is missing a huge part of the ending. It ended on page 100 with me feeling like the story left you hanging and wondering what all the fuss was about this novel. Luckily, my husband had recently read a hard copy of the book and I was able to realize that the whole ending was left off! So if you read this version thinking you've experieced the entire novel, think again! After reading the book to it's end, I would definitely recommend it. I've always been pleased with the books I've bought on my Nook, but this situation really disappointed me.