How Old Was Jay Gatsby When He Died?

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

was the great gatsby a true story

The tragic end in The Great Gatsby is perhaps one of the most famous murders in American literature. This story by F. Scott Fitzgerald follows the travails of Jay Gatsby, born James Gatz, and the young man’s dreams of becoming ‘old-money’ rich and attaining high social standing.

Gatz changes his name to Jay Gatsby. Fifteen years later and following the Great War, he becomes a wealthy young man whose sole desire revolves around his one love, Daisy Buchanan. The story, however, comes to a tragic end when George Wilson murders Gatsby, who dies at the age of 32.

The story’s scenes will bring you to fictional places called the East Egg and West Egg of Long Island in New York City and the Valley of Ashes between them. The setting is 1922, but the scenes frequently revisit the life of the young Gatsby, or Gatz, I should say, to as far back as 1907 when he meets Dan Cody in Girl Bay for the first time.

How old is Jay Gatsby in the novel?

You will need to really read the story back and forth before you get his age right.

The title character doesn’t appear until the end part of Chapter 1 of the novel and does so only as an enigmatic shadow reaching out to a green light across the water.

He doesn’t show up in Chapter 2 either because that’s about Tom (learn more about The Great Gatsby Chapter 2 Summary here), his mistress, and the wild drinking party in their apartment in Manhattan.

Finally, we read about the much-hyped parties in Gatsby’s house and meet the 32-year-old man. You will not read about his age, of course, but we get to infer it in the later chapters. The frequent flashbacks reveal the Great Gatsby timeline, seen from the eyes of the narrator Nick Carraway, a compassionate bond salesman and Yale University graduate.

What was the life of the young James like?

1890-1906: Born James Gatz

James Gatz was born in 1890 to a humble family of farmers in North Dakota. The young lad worked as a janitor to gain education in St. Olaf College in 1906, but that didn’t last long because he dropped out of school.

1907: Becomes Jay Gatsby

He went on to earn his keep by working as a clam-digger and salmon-fisher in Little Girl Bay, Lake Superior. In 1907, James Gatz’s destiny arrived in the person of Dan Cody.

The 50-year-old copper tycoon had been sailing in his yacht along all too hospitable shores for many years to get away from Ella Kaye, who ‘played Madame de Maintenon’ to his weakness. This was common knowledge during that time.

After this initial meeting, Gatsby worked for Cody and sailed with him for the next 5 years to the West Indies and the Barbary Coast aboard the Tuolomee.

Let’s see how old Gatsby was in the different chapters according to how Nick Carraway saw it and Scott Fitzgerald penned it.

What was Gatsby’s age when he met Dan Cody?

James Gatz was seventeen at the Girl Bay when he introduced himself as Jay Gatsby to Dan Cody ( read quotes from Jay Gatsby ), a copper magnate who later became Gatsby’s mentor.

This first meeting at the Little Girl Bay marked the beginning of their long friendship. This was also the start of the poor clam digger’s transformation to an urbane young man poised for success and wealth.

dan cody the great gatsby

He sailed the seas with Dan Cody and earned the man’s trust. You will read how Cody became Gatsby’s mentor, whose conduct and way of thinking the young man emulated. When Cody died, he left Gatsby an inheritance of $25,000, which would have made the young man rich. However, Ella Kay did all legal means to prevent him from claiming it.

How young was Daisy when she met Gatsby for the first time?

1917: Meets Daisy Fay

Another flashback shows that Daisy and Gatsby meet for the first time in Louisville and fall in love with each other. Daisy is only eighteen, while Gatsby is 27.

We know his age because Jordan Baker remembers seeing the young lieutenant at Daisy Fay’s house in October 1917, which is 10 years from the time when Cody and the 17-year-old Gatsby met in 1907.

the great gatsby - gatsby daisy

Sadly, that budding romance ends after a month. You will gather information about this in Chapter 4 when Jordan talks about the young soldier she saw in Daisy Fay’s house and Chapter 8 when Gatsby remembers leaving Louisville to fight in the war (World War I-1917) in Europe.

What happened to Gatsby after World War I?

If you think that the two lovers reunited right after the war that separated them, well, it didn’t happen that way. Times were hard after World War I and significantly harder for a penniless man pursuing a moneyed woman.

1919: Returns from World War I

He emerges from World War I as a young major and goes to Oxford University to complete a military program. Meantime, Daisy marries Tom Buchanan and travels the world on a multi-month honeymoon with her husband.

1920: Partners with Meyer Wolfsheim

wolfsheim gatsby

In Chapter 9, Meyer Wolfsheim confirms to Nick Carraway how he became Gatsby’s mentor and partner. This reminiscing again brings us back to 1919 when Wolfsheim and Gatsby meet for the first time.

While he sees the decorated soldier as a penniless man, he also sees the promising gentleman behind. Gatsby amasses a fortune through his bootlegging and other underground activities with Meyer Wolfsheim during the Prohibition in 1920 ( read Meyer Wolfsheim Quotes here ).

So what about Daisy Fay?

During this period, Daisy and Tom Buchanan make several moves, first to France, then Chicago, and finally to the Buchanan home in the old-money East Egg section of Long Island, New York City.

1922: Lives in West Egg

The 32-year-old Gatsby acquires an estate in 1922 in the nouveau riche West Egg in New York, right across East Egg where Tom and Daisy live.

How was Gatsby’s reunion with Daisy?

Not long after Gatsby has settled down in his West Egg mansion in New York, the narrator Nick Carraway arrives and stays next to Gatsby’s house.

Nick, a graduate of Yale University like Tom, gets to meet his mysterious neighbor at one of the parties that Gatsby hosts. Later, the two men have lunch with Jordan.

Gatsby’s parties are all intended to attract Daisy to come as one of the party guests. By this time, Gatsby is already a self-made millionaire, raring to win Daisy’s love again. On the other hand, Daisy is already married to Tom, with whom she has a three-year-old daughter.

With the help of Carraway, who happens to be Daisy’s cousin, Gatsby finally reunites with the love of his life. Their first meeting is awkward but eventually leads to countless clandestine dates. They carry on with this relationship, while Tom’s affair with Myrtle also continues.

Who dies in Chapter 8 of The Great Gatsby?

The Death of Myrtle Wilson

Three people die in the story, with Myrtle’s death taking place in Chapter 7. Tom drives his blue car with Jordan and Nick, while the yellow Rolls Royce figures in the accident.

The events continue in Chapter 8 ( see The Great Gatsby Chapter 8 Quotes ), where Nick sees Gatsby after the accident that involved his car. Gatsby tells Nick Carraway that it was Daisy who was driving when the accident happened.

Nick goes to Gatsby’s house later in the day. Their conversation recounts the events in 1917, going over Gatsby’s personal history and one-month love affair with Daisy, his background, and his undying quest for wealth. When they finally call it a day, Gatsby expresses hope that Daisy will call him. However, in Nick’s mind, and perhaps in yours too, it’s clear that Daisy will never leave Tom or make that call.

Gatsby later relaxes on an air mattress in his pool when Wilson arrives with a gun. He shoots Gatsby dead and himself afterwards. So, in Chapter 8, two characters die—Gatsby and Wilson.

What did Tom Buchanan tell George Wilson?

In Chapter 9 of the story, Nick Carraway confronts Tom Buchanan after Gatsby’s death. Tom makes an effort to explain that he told Wilson ‘the truth.’

In an earlier chapter, you will read that Wilson carries a gun to the Buchanan’s, and his crazy look unnerves Tom. Without hesitation, Tom tells George it was Gatsby who drove the yellow Rolls Royce that killed Myrtle.

We also know from Chapter 8 that Gatsby promises Daisy that he will handle the problem and take the blame. Do you realize how convenient that was for Daisy?

What were Jay Gatsby’s last words?

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In Chapter 8, Gatsby didn’t have any quote or last words just before he died. After his long conversation with Nick Carraway, Gatsby expressed hopes that Daisy would call, and then the two men said their goodbyes.

What could be considered his last words, though, were in Chapter 9.

These last words were Nick’s thoughts about Gatsby’s belief in his dreams, his future, and the green light that symbolized Daisy and wealth. That no matter how it eluded him, he could always run faster to chase it tomorrow. The last line of the story reads: So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Gatsby’s obsession with wealth and Daisy demonstrates his unrelenting determination to turn his dreams into reality.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. When did Jay Gatsby die?

Gatsby died in the Fall of 1922 ( read more on who dies in The Great Gatsby ) , a few months after he met his neighbor Nick Carraway and got reunited with Daisy Fay Buchanan.

2. Who went to Gatsby’s funeral?

Aside from Nick Carraway, only Gatsby’s father Henry C. Gatz and Owl-Eyes went to the funeral. No one else came, not even Meyer Wolfsheim, who confirmed how he and Gatsby became so ‘thick’ and worked together in everything since their first meeting.

How Old Was Jay Gatsby When He Died?
How Old Was Jay Gatsby When He Died?
Find the quick answer to how old Jay Gatsby was when he died, as well as the timeline for the other high and low points in his life.
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