beginner Great Gatsby Guide

THE GREAT GATSBY

A Beginner's Guide

Novel Written By

F. ScottFitzgerald


Index

About the Author About the 1920's Nick Carraway
Jay Gatsby Daisy Buchanan Tom Buchanan
Jordan Baker Myrtle Wilson George Wilson
Meyer Wolfsheim Themes of the Novel
Links to related Gatsby and Fitzgerald pages

TO THINK THIS BOOK WASN'T ALWAYS POPULAR

About The Author!

F. Scott Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1896. He was a student of St. Paul Acadamy, the Newman School, and had attended Princeton for a short while. In 1917 he joined the army and was posted in Montgomery, Alabama. This is where he would meet his future wife Zelda Sayre but first he had to make some money to impress her. Having his first novel, This Side of Paradise published and a bestseller accomplished this. He was published at the age of only twenty-three and was regarded as the speaker for the Jazz Age. Pretty soon though things started to take a turn for the worse. Zelda's schizophrenia and Fitzgerald's drinking problem led Fitzgerald to rely mostly on his short story's for income. Slowly they started to lose their appeal as well. Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald ended up dying in Hollywood on December 21, 1940.


About the 1920's

Just so you understand what it was like when Fitzgerald wrote this novel I'm going to give a brief description of what it was like in the 1920's. They were known as the Roaring Twenty's because the economy at the time was through the roof and people were partying all over the place. At the time there was a legal ban on the manufacture and sale of intoxicating drink called prohibition. Since a lot of people didn't feel like drinking the gin they made in their bathtubs all the time there was a huge market for organized crime. Organized criminals catered to the needs of the drinking public by illegaly supplying them with liquor and made a fortune doing it. Even with all the crime in the Jazz Age though, it will still be remembered for its glittering lights and unbridled romance.

Character Descriptions:

Nick Carraway:
Nick Carraway is the narrator of this story. As you can see on the first page Nick holds himself in higher esteem than the other characters in the novel. Even though Nick is the narrator he should not be completely trusted. On the first page he boasts about how he doesn't judge people yet throughout the story he's judging people. The only person who he envies though is Gatsby. On [page 2] Nick says about Gatsby, He has 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. Also, for someone with such high moral values he doesn't handle commitment very well. That's probably a main reason why he left the Mid West and it's part of why he ended up going back. Nick left the Mid West to be a stock broker in New York but didn't get rich, yet everywhere he looks these amoral people are rolling in the wealth. That's a clue to one of the main themes....

Jay Gatsby:
Gatsby is the rich, majestic, protagonist of the novel. While it isn't clear how he made all his money it is obvious that it was through illegal dealings in organized crime. There was a reference to the 1919 World Series, (That's the one where the players on the Chicago White Sox helped out organized crime by not trying their hardest when it counted). It is also clear that the driving motivation for getting all this cash is so that it will appeal to Daisy. Daisy was the rich girl that he fell in love with before he joined the service. Unfortunately he just didn't have enough money to keep her while he was overseas. When Gatsby got back she was married to someone else but that didn't disuade him in the least. Gatsby's whole efforts in this book are focused on trying to bring him and Daisy back to the point of time before he joined the army except this time he has enough money for her. Gatsby says it himself on [page 111], Can't repeat the past? Why of course you can!.

Daisy Buchanan:
Daisy is the woman Gatsby is trying to win back and coincidentally she is also Nick's second cousin. Daisy doesn't have a strong will and she cracks under pressure as will be shown late in the book in the hotel scene. She is the original material girl and focuses on the outward instead of the inward. Tom bought her love with a three hundred thousand dollar necklace, and now Gatsby is doing it with a huge mansion and a lot of nice shirts.(You'll understand the shirts thing when you read the part of the novel when Daisy first visits Gatsby's house).

Tom Buchanan:
Tom is the antagonist in this novel. While Gatsby was fighting in World War I Tom was using his wealth to sweep Daisy off her feet. Tom is a yuppy and clearly in the way of Gatsby's love for Daisy. He is having an affair, which he makes no attempt to keep secret, with Myrtle Wilson while stringing along Myrtle's husband on a business deal. He treats Myrtle even worse than Daisy because in his eyes Daisy is worth a three hundred thousand dollar pearl necklace while Myrtle is worth a dog leash. With that fact in mind it is reasonable to assume Fitzgerald is telling us that Tom considers Myrtle to be his pet dog. Tom is just the bad guy in this story and you could not possibly like him.

Jordan Baker:
Jordan is the woman in this story who connects Gatsby to Nick and consequently Gatsby to Daisy. Jordan is also a friend of Daisy's while she has something going with Nick during the story. She has short hair and plays golf which back in the twenty's was uncommon for women. Therefore you can assume she acts like a guy. She is very into the Roaring Twenty's party scene and is carelessly going through life. The carelessness comes out when she's driving with Nick on [page 59]:
         Nick: You're a rotten driver, either you ought to be more careful
                or you oughtn't to drive at all.
       Jordan: I am careful.
         Nick: No you're not.
       Jordan: Well, other people are.
         Nick: What's that got to do with it
       Jordan: They'll keep out of my way, It takes two to make an 
               accident
         Nick: Suppose you met somebody just as careless as yourself?
       Jordan: I hope I never will, I hate careless people. That's why
               I like you. 
This also tags her as a hypocrite when she says "I hate careless people" being a careless person herself.

Myrtle Wilson:
She's the woman Tom is having an affair with. She let's Tom push her around and treat her however he wants and she likes it. Tom has all the money and leads the life she wants to be a part of. She always thought she should have done better than her current husband and having an affair with Tom reinforces this belief of hers. Her current husband, George Wilson, is just a poor gas station owner in the Valley of Ashes who had to borrow a tuxedo for his wedding. Myrtle would rather be treated like a dog by someone who has money instead of being cared for by someone who has no money.

George Wilson:
George is married to a woman who resents him and is having an affair right under his nose without him knowing it. He runs a gas station which he lives above in the Valley of Ashes which is the dirtyest area of New York. The valley of Ashes has now become Queens if you were wondering where it was. That's not even the worst of it but I don't want to give up to much of the story so you'll just have to believe me. George Wilson is just the hard luck guy in this novel and he ends up taking it out on someone else in the end.

Meyer Wolfsheim:
While he may not be a major part of this novel he serves a purpose. He is Gatsby's connection to organized crime. He is the link that connects Gatsby to how he gained all his money. He supposedly in this novel is the one that fixed the World Series of 1919. He is also a close friend of Gatsby's.

Themes of the Novel

  1. This novel is filled with multiple themes but the predominate one focuses on the death of the American Dream. This can be explained by how Gatsby came to get his fortune. Through his dealings with organized crime he didn't adhere to the American Dream guidelines. Nick also suggests this with the manner in which he talks about all the rich characters in the story. The immoral people have all the money. Of course looking over all this like the eyes of God are those of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg on the billboard.

  2. The second theme that needs to be acknowledged is the thought of repeating the past. Gatsby's whole being since going off to war is devoted to getting back together with Daisy and have things be the way they were before he left. That's why Gatsby got a house like the one Daisy used to live in right across the bay from where she lives. He expresses this desire by reaching towards the green light on her porch early in the book. The last paragraph, So we beat on, boats against the current, born back ceaselessly into the past reinforces this theme.

  3. Fitzgerald was in his twenty's when he wrote this novel and since he went to Princeton he was considered a spokesman for his generation. He wrote about the third theme which is the immorality that was besieging the 1920's. Organized crime ran rampant, people were partying all the time, and affairs were common play. The last of which Fitzgerald portrays well in this novel.

  4. The eyes of T. J. Eckleburg convey a fourth theme in this novel. George Wilson compares them to the eyes of God looking over the valley of Ashes. The unmoving eyes on the billboard look down on the Valley of Ashes and see all the immorality and garbage of the times. By the end of the novel you will realize that this symbolizes that God is dead.

Links to related Gatsby and Fitzgerald pages

Visitors as of June 1, 1998

Hudson Gevaert

1996