The author of several novels including The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, probably never imagined how popular and long-lasting this novel would be.
Nearly 100 years after it was published, The Great Gatsby continues to inspire and fascinate people. It is required reading in many schools.
Writers, dreamers, and poets often turn to this book for inspiration and a better understanding of others and themselves.
Fitzgerald lived part of his novel, marrying a rich girl and being invited to parties both at old-money estates and new-money mansions.
What F. Scott Fitzgerald saw and experienced is reflected through the eyes of his narrator, Nick Carraway.
Best Known F Scott Fitzgerald Quotes in Every Chapter
What quotes did Fitzgerald give us about love, beauty, admiration, and perhaps even a bit of disgust?
Take a trip with us into the pages of The Great Gatsby and the mind of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Quotes from Chapter 1
We are introduced to the narrator of the book, Nick Carraway, in Chapter 1. The events happen in the book as Nick muses and tells his story.
Nick’s admiration for Gatsby is clear from the very beginning.
If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity of 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 ‘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.
That’s quite a recommendation! Nick obviously sees something in Gatsby that he admires, despite his claims about his scorn for him.
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.
Nick had come to the east coast full of hope, and he found beauty that spring. Perhaps he even expected to find love.
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.
After meeting his old college friend Tom Buchanan and his wife Daisy, who is Nick’s cousin, Nick finds that love and marriage aren’t always as happy as people make them out to be. Daisy tells Nick about the birth of her daughter.
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.’
We get a deeper look into the cast of characters and the East Egg/West Egg area in the next chapter.
Quotes from Chapter 2
After meeting with his cousin Daisy, Tom invites Nick to New York, where Nick discovers firsthand that his buddy has a mistress. Is it love?
Tom’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson, obviously doesn’t love her husband any longer. She tells Nick—
‘I married him because I thought he was a gentleman,’ she said finally. ‘I thought he knew something about breeding, but he wasn’t fit to lick my shoe.’
Myrtle’s sister talks to Nick about love and marriage, saying—
Neither of them can stand the person they’re married to… What I say is, why go on living with them if they can’t stand them? If I was them, I’d get a divorce and get married to each other right away.
She’s obviously more interested in being the sister-in-law of a wealthy man, making it sound easy to get a divorce in the 1920s.
As Nick, Tom, Myrtle, and her sister party through the night in the New York apartment that Tom keeps for his trysts, Nick is still very much in awe of everything life has to offer when he says—
I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.
The reader can’t help but wonder why Nick isn’t upset that his friend (Tom) is cheating openly on his wife, who is Nick’s cousin, but perhaps in those days, that type of thing was expected.
Quotes from Chapter 3
Nick is finally going to meet the mysterious Mr. Gatsby when he is invited to one of his parties.
Admiration abounds both from Nick and other party-goers at the sheer volume of people and money floating around the party—
I was immediately struck by the number of young Englishmen dotted about… I was sure they were selling something: bonds or insurance or automobiles.
They were at least agonizingly aware of the easy money in the vicinity and convinced that it was theirs for a few words in the right key.
Whether it’s admiration or the thrill of gossip, everyone seems to be in awe of Gatsby—
‘Gatsby. Somebody told me—’
The two girls and Jordan leaned together confidently.
‘Somebody told me they thought he killed a man once.’
A thrill passed over all of us. The three Mr. Mumbles bent forward and listened eagerly.
Speaking of admiration, Nick apparently admires himself when he says—
Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.
As the novel goes on, you will see that this statement isn’t really true. While Nick may not openly lie to people, he is guilty of lying via omission, that is, he doesn’t say the truth when he should.
Quotes from Chapter 4
Gatsby invites Nick to lunch in New York and wants to impress him before he asks him a favor. Gatsby seems to admire Nick as an innocent young man who wouldn’t question something as simple as a favor.
It was a photograph of half a dozen young men in blazers loafing in an archway through which were visible a host of spires. There was Gatsby, looking a little, not much, younger—with a cricket bat in his hand.
Then it was all true… ‘I’m going to make a big request of you to-day,’ he said… ‘so I thought you ought to know something about me. I didn’t want you to think I was just some nobody.
You see, I usually find myself among strangers because I drift here and there trying to forget the sad thing that happened to me.’ He hesitated. ‘You’ll hear about it this afternoon.’
Gatsby never seems to get up the nerve to ask Nick himself, so he has Jordan Baker do it for him. As Jordan and Nick drive home, Nick finds feelings of love for the beautiful Jordan—
It was dark now, and as we dipped under a little bridge I put my arm around Jordan’s golden shoulder and drew her toward me and asked her to dinner.
Suddenly I wasn’t thinking of Daisy and Gatsby any more, but of this clean, hard, limited person, who dealt in universal scepticism, and who leaned back jauntily just within the circle of my arm.
A phrase began to beat in my ears with a sort of heady excitement: ‘There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired.’
Nick is impressed with the beauty he sees in the city, especially after driving through the Valley of Ashes.
Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon the moving cars… 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.
Quotes from Chapter 5
Gatsby and Daisy finally meet after 5 long years. Has their love withstood the test of time?
It appears so, as Nick describes their meeting—
[Gatsby] hadn’t once ceased looking at Daisy, and I think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes.
Sometimes, too, he stared around at his possessions in a dazed way, as though in her actual and astounding presence none of it was any longer real.
Nick is a bit in awe of the love that Gatsby held for Daisy—
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. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything.
He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time… No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.
While Gatsby and Daisy are reunited, Nick can’t help but notice that to get one thing that you love, you must give up something else—
‘If it wasn’t for the mist, we could see your home across the bay,’ said Gatsby. ‘You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock…’
Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her.
It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.
Can Daisy and Gatsby relive their past love and start over? Nick is about to learn the truth about Gatsby.
Quotes from Chapter 6
Gatsby hadn’t been completely truthful with Nick, but when Nick learns the real story, he is more impressed and admires Gatsby even more—
James Gatz—that was really, or at least legally, his name. He had changed it at the age of seventeen and at the specific moment that witnessed the beginning of his career—when he saw Dan Cody’s yacht drop anchor over the most insidious flat on Lake Superior.
It was James Gatz who had been loafing along the beach… but it was already Jay Gatsby who borrowed a rowboat… and informed Cody that a wind might catch him and break him up in half an hour.
Tom is now becoming suspicious when he hears everyone talking about Gatsby, and he doesn’t like the idea that his friends and wife seem to be more impressed with Gatsby than him.
‘Who is this Gatsby anyhow?’ demanded Tom suddenly. ‘Some big bootlegger?’
‘Where’d you hear that?’ I inquired.
‘I didn’t hear it. I imagined it. A lot of these newly rich people are just big bootleggers, you know.’
‘Not Gatsby,’ I said shortly.
A bootlegger is exactly how Gatsby has made his money, and whether Nick lied for his friend or he honestly didn’t know is a good question that doesn’t have an answer.
Being a good friend, Nick tries to warn Gatsby that he is asking too much too soon.
‘I wouldn’t ask too much of her,’ I ventured. ‘You can’t repeat the past.’
‘Can’t repeat the past?’ he cried incredulously. ‘Why of course you can!’
Just as Gatsby and Daisy are falling deeply in love again, reality is about to bite both of them.
Quotes from Chapter 7
Everything is about to fall apart, both for Gatsby and Daisy, as well as for Myrtle and Tom.
Myrtle’s husband, George, discovers that his wife has been seeing someone else, but he doesn’t know whom.
[Wilson] had discovered that Myrtle had some sort of life apart from him in another world, and the shock had made him physically sick.
I stared at him and then at Tom, who had made a parallel discovery less than an hour before—and it occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well.
Gatsby and Tom fight over Daisy’s love in the hotel room in New York. Gatsby tells Tom what he wishes Daisy would tell her husband—
She never loved you, do you hear? She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart, she never loved anyone except me!
Daisy can’t bear the arguing. Tom tells the pair to take Gatsby’s car and go back home. Tom, Jordan, and Nick leave a bit later and discover that Gatsby’s car had hit and killed Myrtle. The car didn’t even stop.
Tom is happy to tell the grieving George that Gatsby owned the car that killed his wife.
Nick is at first disgusted with Gatsby, but later he learns the truth—
‘Was Daisy driving?’ ‘Yes,’ he said after a moment, ‘but of course I’ll say I was.”
If this isn’t true love, what is?
Quotes from Chapter 8
Nick comes to the stark realization that money can buy you just about anything except morals. He knows that Daisy will never accept the blame for Myrtle’s death, and that against all odds, Gatsby still loves and has hope for his relationship with Daisy.
Nick realizes that beauty can be bought but not love or character—
Gatsby was overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes, and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor.
While Nick may disapprove of how Gatsby earned his money and his lavish parties, he admires Gatsby for being honest about his past, for his tremendous love, and his good moral character despite his wealth.
Just before I reached the hedge I remembered something… ‘They’re a rotten crowd,’ I shouted… ‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.’
I’ve always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him because I disapproved of him from beginning to end.
None of the above could save Gatsby from the tragedy that followed. George Wilson, who very much loved his wife, couldn’t bear to live without her. He shot Gatsby to death, then shot himself.
Nick wonders what Gatsby’s final thoughts were. Did he love Daisy still? Did he still hold on to his dream of a beautiful life with her?
Perhaps [Gatsby] no longer cared. If that was true, he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream.
Quotes from Chapter 9
Nick is completely disgusted and has utter contempt for the rich and their lack of morals. He decides to return home to search for love and happiness.
After Gatsby’s death, the East was haunted for me like that, distorted beyond my eyes’ power of correction. So when the blue smoke of brittle leaves was in the air and the wind blew the wet laundry stiff on the line, I decided to come back home.
Nick muses on the beautiful person he thought Daisy was, the love Gatsby had for her, and he has lost all admiration for everyone he had met that summer.
I couldn’t forgive [Tom] or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused.
They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.
The last lines of the book are quite sad and morose, but Nick still manages to find some beautiful words to describe our helplessness—
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And then one fine morning—”
This tragic love story makes some very strong points.
Nick realizes that his charming, wealthy neighbor was really nothing more than a poor boy who struck it rich bootlegging.
He also sees that his college friend Tom was an amoral person who had little or no regard for anyone.
The beautiful Daisy, who comes across as a victim, is actually a victim of her own poor choices.
Fitzgerald seems to believe that there is beauty and love in the world, but for the wealthy, they won’t recognize it, and the poor are too busy earning a living to enjoy it.