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Free Study Guide - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald-Book Notes

 

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THE GREAT GATSBY: BOOK SUMMARY / NOTES


LITERARY ELEMENTS

 


SETTING

The novel is set in New York in the 1920’s, at Nick Carraway’s bungalow and Gatsby’s mansion on West Egg, at the Buchanan’s mansion on East Egg, in various places in New York City, including Myrtle’s apartment, the Plaza Hotel, and a restaurant across from The Metropole, and in the Valley of Ashes.


CHARACTER LIST


Major Characters


Nick Carraway
The narrator of the novel and the protagonist of the frame narrative. He is a conservative young man from the Midwest, who comes to New York to seek freedom and escape his small-town background. During the course of the novel, he turns thirty and decides to leave the East, judging it to be shallow and meaningless. At the end of the book, he has decided to return home to the Midwest and marry the girl who has been waiting for him.


Jay Gatsby
The protagonist of the main plot of the novel and the character who is referenced in the book’s title. A poor young man in the army, he falls in love with Daisy Fay, a wealthy and shallow “golden girl.” He spends the rest of his short life trying to win Daisy’s love. In order attract her attention, he amasses a fortune, earned from bootlegging and other illegal means, and builds a huge, gaudy mansion across the bay from the home of Daisy and her husband. He convinces Nick, Daisy’s distant cousin, to bring the two of them together, and for awhile Gatsby and Daisy have an affair. She, however, only uses Gatsby for entertainment, to break the boredom of her life. In the end, he is shot by Wilson, who believes that Gatsby was having an affair with his wife and was responsible for her accidental death.


Daisy Fay Buchanan
Daisy is an attractive, wealthy, and shallow young lady. She had a fling with Gatsby when he was stationed in the army in Louisville, her hometown, and fancied that she loved him. When Gatsby was sent to Europe to fight in the war, she waited for him to return for a short while. Soon bored and impatient, she began to date other men of her same social class. She met and fell in love with the wealthy Tom Buchanan, whom she married. The young couple moved to East Egg, where they led a meaningless and shallow existence. When Daisy meets Gatsby again at Nick’s house, she has an affair with him; but she will never leave Tom for Gatsby. Throughout the novel, Daisy is the object of Gatsby’s dream; even in the end, he does not realize that she is not worthy of his adoration.


Tom Buchanan
Daisy’s wealthy husband. He is a symbol of the shallowness and carelessness of the very rich. He plays with cars and race horses, has sordid affairs, and treats Daisy shabbily. She, however, will always remain with Tom, for he offers her security and the life style to which she is accustomed.


Myrtle Wilson

The gaudy mistress of Tom Buchanan and the wife of George Wilson. Tom keeps an apartment for her in the city, which is the scene of a rather wild party during the book. When George realizes she is having an affair, he locks her in her room and plans to move her out West. She, however, is killed in a car accident by a hit-and-run driver, who is Daisy Buchanan.

Minor Characters


Jordan Baker
Daisy’s good friend. She is an attractive and wealthy young golfer whom Nick dates while he is in New York. A compulsive liar and a cheat, she is almost as shallow and careless as Daisy.


George Wilson
Myrtle’s husband and the owner of a garage in the Valley of Ashes. He idolizes his wife and goes crazy when she is killed. Thinking that Gatsby is responsible for her death, he shoots him and then kills himself.


Catherine
The sister of Myrtle who is as tacky and ostentatious as Myrtle.



Mr. and Mrs. McKee
The couple who lives in the apartment below the one that Tom keeps for Myrtle in the city. They come to the party at Myrtle’s apartment.


Meyer Wolfsheim
The shady Jewish business associate of Gatsby. He wears human molars as cufflinks, fixed the world series, and makes his money through gambling and racketeering.


Michaelis
One of the few friends of George Wilson. He is a young Greek man who owns a coffee shop in the Valley of Ashes, located next to Wilson’s garage. He is the only eye witness to Myrtle’s accidental death and tries to comfort Wilson over the loss.


Owl-Eyes
A middle-aged man who frequents Gatsby’s parties. He is one of the few people who show up at Gatsby’s funeral.


Klipspringer
A frequent guest at Gatsby’s parties, who is called “the boarder” and often plays the piano.


Dan Cody
The wealthy man who employed Gatsby as a youth and taught him about business. Although he is never actually seen in the novel, Gatsby explains all about him to Nick, and he is instrumental in shaping Gatsby’s life.


Henry C. Gatz
Gatsby’s father. He is seen for the first time when he comes to his son’s funeral. He is an old, nervous man who is proud of Gatsby’s wealth.


Pammy Buchanan
The daughter of Tom and Daisy. She appears only for a moment in the book to show that Daisy is incapable of any depth of maternal love; for her, Pammy is a toy or plaything.

 

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