Great Gatsby 1920s Quotes Explained

Last Updated: October 24th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

Some books define the times in which they are written. The Great Gatsby is one of these.

In 1925, immediately after the Spanish Flu pandemic and during the time of prohibition when liquor was supposed to be illegal but was served everywhere, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote this novel regarding the darker side of the “Roaring Twenties.”

Great Gatsby Book Written by F Scott Fizgerald

Even 100 years later, we find ourselves fascinated by the culture and the story of The Great Gatsby.

Quotes are still used, and the book is often referred to as the great American novel, despite not selling very well at the time. (You can read all the important quotes from The Great Gatsby here)

The copyright to this novel ended in 2020, which means that people are now free to adlib, rewrite, and reproduce movies if they so wish.

Does anyone really want to see the classic lines rewritten?

Let’s look at the best and most famous quotes from the Great Gatsby.

What Is Jay Gatsby’s Most Famous Line?

Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, had many brilliant and important quotes that revealed him as a romantic who was dedicated to his pursuit.

Jay Gatsby Quote "Old Sport"

“Old Sport” was perhaps Gatsby’s most commonly repeated phrase. He seemed to call everyone Old Sport, even Tom Buchanan.

This is most likely a term he picked up from his mentor Dan Cody, the rich businessman who taught him much about how to dress, talk, and behave like a wealthy gentleman from old money.

“Old Sport” used in today’s world would sound strange. We are more accustomed to calling people nicknames such as buddy, dude, ma’am, and mister.

While Gatsby used the term Old Sport frequently, he is perhaps best known for his quote about the past.

When narrator Nick Carraway tells Gatsby that he can’t repeat the past, Gatsby replies, “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!”

Jay Quote "can't repeat the Past Why of course you can"

Fitzgerald makes it plain later in the novel that Nick is correct. As much as Gatsby would like to start over with Daisy, they are not the same people they had been 5 years before, which prevents the past from being repeated despite Gatsby’s best efforts.

What Is Daisy Buchanan’s Most Famous Quote?

In Chapter 1 ( read more Great Gatsby Chapter 1 Quotes ), Nick is going to see his cousin Daisy and her husband Tom, who is also an old friend of Nick’s from Yale.

Daisy is telling Nick what she and Tom have been up to over the past 5 years, including the birth of her daughter Pammy.

Daisy Buchanan Quote: I hope she'll be a Fool -

When speaking of Pammy, Daisy says, ” I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”

This quote is quite sad and tragic since Daisy reveals that her husband cheats on her, and she knows it. She wishes she didn’t know it and hopes her daughter never finds out about her father. Or more likely, it expresses her hope that if Pammy’s future husband cheats on her, that she’ll be a fool and remain unaware of it.

While the quote above is perhaps Daisy’s most famous and most revealing, who can forget her dramatic quote upon seeing her cousin again?

“I think everything’s terrible anyhow… I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.”

It’s hard to imagine that, in her 20s, Daisy had been and seen everything the world had to offer, but her words are another tragic example of that, even with all her wealth and social status, she isn’t a happy person.

Daisy Quote: I think everything's terrble anyhow -

What Is Nick Carraway’s Most Famous Quote?

As the narrator of the story, Nick has multiple lines that are worth remembering.

Perhaps his musing about Gatsby in Chapter 3 ( see more Great Gatsby Quotes from Chapter 3 ) is one of his most memorable:

He had one of those rare smiles, with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced, or seemed to face, the whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself.

This quote truly describes Gatsby’s charisma and how Nick, in spite of his misgivings over the rumors he has heard, is taken in by Gatsby’s smile.

By making someone feel as though they were the most important person in the world, Nick finds himself attracted to this feeling and the man as well.

Nick Carraway Famous Quote:

Nick’s praise for Gatsby mainly occurs after his death, but he does reveal his feelings to Gatsby with a compliment from the heart on that scene in Chapter 8:

“They’re a rotten crowd. You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together. “

Although Tom is supposed to be Nick’s friend, and Daisy is his cousin, he holds Gatsby in higher esteem because of his motives. Gatsby is motivated completely by his love for Daisy. Nick seems to find that the ends (Gatsby’s love for Daisy) justify the means (Gatsby’s illegal boot legging).

What Is the Most Famous Line from the Great Gatsby?

In a novel filled with tragic, loving, and amusing quotes, it can be hard to choose just one.

great gatsby book open pages

Perhaps the ending is the most well-loved and endlessly discussed line of the book.

As Nick is leaving Gatsby’s funeral, taking one last look at his mansion and mulling over the entire summer, he says:

“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… So we beat on, boats against the current borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

While Gatsby had dreams of repeating his love affair with Daisy, Nick’s words make it clear that they are nothing more than that- dreams. No one can return to the past, and although we try and try, it eludes us year after year.

Nick’s metaphor is still on target even today. Many people expend their lives’ energy in pursuit of a dream that moves farther away each day.

This melancholic statement is one of the most famous and one of the most tragic of The Great Gatsby.

What Was Gatsby’s Dream Quote?

Gatsby’s desire for wealth and notoriety was driven by his dream of the love he held for Daisy Buchanan. While Gatsby was able to acquire great wealth, he never was able to re-acquire Daisy’s love in the end.

Gatsby Dream Quote -

In fact, his dream of a life with Daisy was what ultimately led to his destruction.

Scott Fitzgerald tries to make his readers see that the American Dream is the constant desire for something better, so to fully achieve the American dream is impossible. (Read all the famous quotes of the American Dream in the Great Gatsby)

Gatsby’s dream is perhaps best described by this quote from Nick:

“I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.”

Some feel that this pursuit of the American Dream did not end with the Jazz age, but rather, it continues today.

Did Gatsby’s Parties Have Anything to Do With His Dream?

The extravagant parties had everything to do with Gatsby’s dreams and desires.

Jay Gatsby chose the house he lived in because its boat dock was directly across the bay from Daisy and Tom’s dock.

people drinking at Great Gatsby Party

In his narration, Nick says:

“Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay.”

The parties were meant to cause talk on the east coast, which Gatsby hoped would pique Daisy’s curiosity and cause her to show up.

Nick notices the people who came and went from Gatsby’s house, even before he met Gatsby. He notes:

“In his blue gardens, men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.”

Gatsby canceled all weekend parties once he had secured Daisy. However, it’s sad to note that while Gatsby had hundreds if not thousands of people attend his parties that summer, not one of them attended his funeral.

Final Thoughts

Gatsby worked so very hard to earn Daisy’s love again, and he probably thought that he had her love at one point. However, the destruction of Gatsby’s dream of a life with Daisy (and the Wall Street Crash, of course) demonstrate how unattainable the American Dream seemed to Scott Fitzgerald.

Whether this is true or not remains up to the individual reading the novel.

Some people believe that this novel is nothing more than a love triangle gone sour. Others say that this book is a reflection, in some aspects, of Fitzgerald’s life itself.

Most literary experts would agree, however, that at least part of this novel was meant to expose and display Fitzgerald’s contempt for the ultra-rich, the American Dream, and the Jazz Age, with all its indulgence and opulence.

While The Great Gatsby was considered to be a failure at the time of F Scott Fitzgerald’s death, today it is required reading in many high schools and colleges because of its symbolism and reflection of the times in which F. Scott Fitzgerald lived.

Great Gatsby 1920s Quotes Explained
Great Gatsby 1920s Quotes Explained
The Great Gatsby has so many beautiful and inspiring quotes but also some fairly dark ones as well. Find the top quotes from this infamous 1920s novel here
Gatsby Flapper Girl