Great Gatsby Book Summary: Quick & Easy Guide to the Plot & Characters

Last Updated: October 25th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

If you love the 2013 movie version of The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and you’ve always wanted to read the book but don’t have time, this article is for you.

Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan in each others' arms in The Great Gatsby novel and movie

For anyone who is interested in history, The Great Gatsby is the perfect way to discover what life was like in the Roaring 20s. The novel uses fictional characters, much like how Jack and Rose told the tale of the Titanic.

Let’s take a trip back in time and discover what life was like 100 years in the past.

The Great Gatsby in a Nutshell

Nick Carraway as narrator of The Great Gatsby novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The novel is narrated by Nick Carraway, a recent Yale graduate who moves from Minnesota to New York to learn the stock and bond business. He is a second cousin to Daisy Buchanan and a former college friend of her husband Tom Buchanan. Nick tells the story of a man he met named Jay Gatsby two years after Nick left New York City.

In the 1920s, Long Island is separated by new-money folks (those who only recently became wealthy) and old-money folks (those who inherited their wealth). Nick lives with the new money people in West Egg, while Tom and Daisy live in East Egg.

Nick lives next door to a huge mansion owned by a man named Jay Gatsby.

Exploring the Intriguing Parallels Between Nick Carraway and F. Scott Fitzgerald in ‘The Great Gatsby’ – Unveiling Literary Connections!

Nick visits with Daisy and Tom at their mansion, where he meets a golf pro named Jordan Baker, Daisy’s close friend. The next day, Tom invites Nick to go to lunch in New York City, but instead, they have a party with Tom’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson. Myrtle is a married woman whose husband owns a gas station and mechanic shop in the Valley of Ashes.

There are wild parties being held every weekend at Gatsby’s mansion, and one day, Nick receives an invitation to the party. He meets Jordan Baker there, and they search for their host. They find him, and Gatsby invites Nick to ride in his hydroplane in the morning and, later, to lunch in New York.

On the ride, Gatsby tells Nick many stories about his past, which Nick doesn’t believe completely, but Gatsby does have some proof. At lunch, Nick meets Gatsby’s close business associate, Meyer Wolfsheim. Later, Nick has coffee with Jordan. She tells him that Gatsby and Daisy were lovers in the past. She then asks Nick if he would please invite Daisy to tea so Gatsby can meet her once again.

Nick agrees. Daisy and Gatsby meet after a 5-year hiatus, and they are still madly in love. Daisy and Gatsby begin having an affair. Tom and Daisy attend one of Gatsby’s parties where Tom decides to try to find out some info about Gatsby.

Daisy, Tom, Gatsby, Nick and Jordan Party at a Hotel

Gatsby, Nick, and Jordan have dinner at Tom and Daisy’s house. It’s the hottest day of the year, and Daisy is supposed to tell Tom that she never loved him and that she’s leaving him. However, she hesitates and instead insists that everyone go to the big city and do something. Gatsby drives Daisy in Tom’s blue car, while Tom, Nick, and Jordan take Gatsby’s big yellow car.

Tom has to stop for gas at George Wilson’s garage. George tells him that he wants Tom to give him his old car to sell so he can move his wife out west since he believes she’s having an affair. He locks Myrtle in the apartment over the garage. She looks out the window and sees Tom and Jordan, whom she mistakes for Tom’s wife. Tom agrees to give George Wilson the car, and he leaves quickly.

Everyone meets at the Plaza Hotel, where Gatsby and Tom quickly start fighting. Daisy squeaks out that she never loved Tom, but when he presses her, she can’t say it twice. Flustered, Daisy and Gatsby leave, taking Gatsby’s car, while Tom, Nick, and Jordan leave a few minutes later in Tom’s blue coupe.

Tom and company arrive at the Valley of Ashes and discover there’s been an accident. Tom gets out to see and finds that Myrtle is dead, hit by a big yellow car. Tom is quick to tell the hysterical George Wilson that he wasn’t driving the yellow car but that he knows who owns it. Tom is angry that Gatsby didn’t even stop his car after killing Myrtle.

Nick is angry with everyone and waits outside Tom’s house for a taxi to take him home. In the bushes outside, Nick finds Gatsby hiding. Gatsby explains to Nick that it was Daisy who was driving when Myrtle was killed but that he will take the blame.

The next morning, Nick stops by Gatsby’s house to tell him that he should leave town for a while, but Gatsby won’t hear of it. He’s certain that Daisy will call him and they will make plans to run away together. Gatsby wants Nick to stay and go swimming with him before they drain the pool for the winter. Nick goes to work instead, but he can’t concentrate. He returns to Gatsby’s in the afternoon only to find Gatsby shot to death in his swimming pool and George Wilson’s body in the bushes.

men in black suits carrying a white casket with flowers on top

Nick tries to arrange a funeral but can’t find anyone to attend. Not Meyer Wolfsheim, not any of the party-goers, not even Daisy – there’s no one who wants to go to Gatsby’s funeral. Gatsby’s father shows up to tell Nick about Gatsby’s life as a boy. In the end, only a few servants, an elderly man named Owl Eyes, the post man, Gatsby’s father, and Nick attend the funeral.

For a while, Nick stays in New York, but he can’t shake the events of that summer. He sees Tom in New York, and he’s so angry that he refuses to shake his hand. Tom admits that he told George where to find Gatsby, and he says that he thinks Gatsby got what he deserved.

Nick realizes that Daisy and Tom are like children, careless with people and things because they know they have money to buy themselves out of any problem. Daisy and Tom moved away from the city immediately after Gatsby’s death. Nick wishes Tom well and decides he’s leaving New York. He sells his car and makes plans to return to Minnesota.

On his last night, Nick returns to Gatsby’s mansion one last time. He removes some graffiti on the wall and walks down to the boat dock where he first saw Gatsby reaching for the green light across the bay that marks Daisy’s boat dock.

What Is the Main Message of The Great Gatsby?

The Great Gatsby novel and the main characters and cast of the 2013 movie version, with the American Dream as the main theme

This novel explores themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval, and excess, creating a portrait of the Roaring Twenties that has been described as a cautionary tale regarding the American Dream.

Fitzgerald’s main message behind The Great Gatsby is that the American Dream is ultimately unattainable. Jay Gatsby is a self-made man who achieves great wealth and success. However, he is unable to find happiness or fulfillment, as he is haunted by the past and his unrequited love for Daisy Buchanan.

The novel suggests that the American Dream is a myth and that it is impossible to achieve true happiness through material possessions or wealth. The novel emphasizes the importance of love, relationships, and living in the present moment.

The Great Gatsby: Unveiling the Truth Behind the Masterpiece – A Captivating Blend of History and Imagination!

The Great Gatsby is a complex and multi-layered novel that can be interpreted in different ways, but its main message is clear. This cautionary tale focuses on the importance of understanding the dangers of pursuing the American Dream at all costs.

Here are some other messages that can be found in The Great Gatsby:

  • The past is never truly gone, but it cannot be repeated.
  • Love can be both destructive and transformative.
  • The American Dream is a myth.
  • The rich are not always happy.
  • The pursuit of wealth and material possessions can lead to emptiness and despair.
  • It is important to live in the present moment and appreciate what you have.

This classic novel has been enjoyed by readers for generations. It is, at its essence, a story about love, loss, and the American Dream, and these themes continue to resonate with people even today.

Is The Great Gatsby a Good Read?

Copy of my book The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
Copy of my book The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

It absolutely is. If you’ve read my About page, you’ll know that this novel changed my life. Even if it doesn’t change your life, it’s worth reading!

Some of it is outdated, true, but that doesn’t make the story any less fascinating. There are people named in the book that no one from our era will know or remember reading about, but you get the idea that these were once very famous people, and Gatsby had them attend his parties regularly.

I have found that this book is an excellent example of what life was like for both the poor and the rich during the Prohibition era. Many of the themes – love, loss, adultery, wealth, status, and friendship – are still applicable today, making this book a timeless classic.

What Are the Controversial Topics in The Great Gatsby?

controversial topics in The Great Gatsby Novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby has been the subject of controversy since its publication in 1925. Some of the most controversial subjects in the novel include:

  • Adultery: The novel’s central love story is an extramarital affair between Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, as well as Tom Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson. This subject matter was considered scandalous at the time of publication, and it has continued to be controversial in some circles.
  • Illegal Activities: Gatsby’s lavish parties are often funded by the sale of illegal liquor. This subject matter was also considered taboo at the time of publication, and it has continued to be controversial in some circles.
  • Alcoholism: Several of the characters in the novel appear to be either alcoholics or heavy drinkers. At the time, drinking was technically illegal.
  • Sexuality: The novel contains several references to sex, including an implied affair between Gatsby and Daisy. It has also been suggested that Nick was gay and that he slept with Mr. McKee while his wife was upstairs with Myrtle and Tom.

Despite the controversy, The Great Gatsby has become one of the most popular and critically acclaimed novels of all time.

In addition to the above, here are some other less controversial aspects of The Great Gatsby:

  • The depiction or discussion of African Americans: The novel includes a few minor characters who are African American. While Fitzgerald does describe a couple in a limousine, Tom Buchanan only has very negative things to say about them, and he fears that marriage between whites and blacks will lead to the downfall of America.
  • The depiction of women: The novel’s female characters are often portrayed in a stereotypical light. For example, Daisy Buchanan is often described as being beautiful and shallow, and Jordan is said to be a habitual liar, something Nick believed was common in women.
  • The novel’s ending: The novel ends with the death of Jay Gatsby. Some readers have criticized the ending, arguing that it is too tragic. Others have defended the ending, arguing that it is a realistic portrayal of the consequences of Gatsby’s pursuit of the American Dream.

The Great Gatsby is a complex and controversial novel that has been interpreted in many different ways. How the reader views these controversies will depend on the reader’s world view.

Who Were the Main Characters in The Great Gatsby?

The Great Gatsby summary above names all the main characters, whom we will all enumerate below, namely:

Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby

  • Nick Carraway– Narrator and a college friend of Tom Buchanan, husband of his cousin Daisy. He also becomes a friend to his neighbor Jay Gatsby.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby

  • Jay Gatsby– Wealthy bootlegger and lover of Daisy Buchanan, also neighbor and friend of Nick Carraway.

Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby

  • Daisy Buchanan– Wealthy socialite who is second cousin to Nick Carraway and the mistress of Jay Gatsby. She is also the mother of a 3-year-old girl named Pammy.

Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby

  • Tom Buchanan– Coming from one of the wealthiest families in America, Tom is a huge, brute of a man and a former college buddy of Nick Carraway and lover of Myrtle Wilson.

Isla Fisher as Myrtle Wilson in The Great Gatsby

  • Myrtle Wilson– The poor wife of gas station owner George Wilson and Tom Buchanan’s mistress.

Jason Clarke as George Wilson in The Great Gatsby

  • George Wilson– Husband to Myrtle Wilson. He owns a gas station and mechanic shop in The Valley of Ashes. He works hard but remains poor.

Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby

  • Jordan Baker– Golf pro and longtime friend of Daisy Buchanan. She dates Nick Carraway and appears to be a casual friend of Jay Gatsby.

Before You Go…..

While reading books seems to have gone out of fashion in favor of movies, I do recommend that everyone read this novel at least once in their lives.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby novelGet the Book Here!

If you’re interested in the Roaring Twenties, then The Great Gatsby is the perfect read for you. It is set in the Jazz Age, a time of great social and economic change. The novel captures the spirit of the era, with its flappers, speakeasies, and wild parties.

If you’re interested in American history, The Great Gatsby is a social commentary on the American Dream. It explores the idea that money can’t buy happiness and that the pursuit of material wealth can lead to moral corruption.

And last, for anyone interested in literature, The Great Gatsby is a classic in American literature. It’s been praised for its beautiful prose, complex characters, and timeless themes.

No matter your reason for reading The Great Gatsby, I highly recommend it. It’s a beautifully written, thought-provoking book that everyone should read at least once.

You may also like to read my Chapter Summary articles where I go into each chapter in much more detail.


1. Why is The Great Gatsby a famous book?

Several reasons why this book has stood the test of time include the beautiful prose Fitzgerald used, the plot which involves love, loss, obsession, and wealth, which are timeless, combined with the fascinating 1920s, a period of time that is nothing short of interesting in American history.

2. Is The Great Gatsby hard to read?

No, not at all. While some names are no longer well known, the words are clear and concise.

3. What age rating is best for The Great Gatsby?

I would say a minimum age of 13, but 16 might be better. I read this novel when I was 15. It does contain sex (although nothing graphic), lots of alcohol, and violence, but again, not graphic. Children younger than 13 may not understand this novel.

4. What to read after The Great Gatsby?

If you liked The Great Gatsby, read Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This novel is set in the 1920s and 1930s and tells the story of a psychiatrist who falls in love with a patient. It is considered to be one of Fitzgerald’s best novels.

Great Gatsby Book Summary: Quick & Easy Guide to the Plot & Characters
Great Gatsby Book Summary: Quick & Easy Guide to the Plot & Characters
Everything you need to know about The Great Gatsby- characters, plot, most important quotes, and more. Find out what The Great Gatsby is all about.
Gatsby Flapper Girl