The Great Gatsby Chapter 1 Quotes & Analysis – Simple Study Guide

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

The Great Gatsby is often required reading, but whether you need to write a paper or you’re simply interested in this fascinating time machine of a novel, you’ve come to the right place.

Great Gatsby Chapter 1 quotes

Nick Carraway, a young man with a Yale degree, decides to move to the big city New York and embark on a career selling bonds. He’s excited to be living in such a marvelous city and even more excited to learn that his cousin Daisy Fay and his college buddy Tom Buchanan have gotten married and are living nearby in East Egg, Long Island.

Not wanting to be snobby and realizing that, as a single man, he doesn’t need a large house, Nick rents an old groundskeeper cottage across the bay in West Egg.

He’s about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, filled with interesting people, fun places, and drama that the quiet Nick Carraway could never have imagined.

What Is Chapter 1 about in The Great Gatsby?

The Great Gatsby characters in Chapter 1

The reader is introduced to the narrator, Nick Carraway, in The Great Gatsby Chapter 1. We learn a little about his past, the advice his father gave him, and his sense of morality or moral justice.

The reader quickly learns that Nick’s story is being told several years after the events of that summer, relying on his memory to tell us the story.

We learn about Nick’s cousin Daisy and his friend from Yale, Tom Buchanan, who were married 5 years earlier. Nick describes a bit about life in the “new money” and less fashionable West Egg compared to East Egg, where Tom and Daisy live.

Nick goes to visit his cousin and friend, where he meets one of Daisy’s lifelong friends, golf-pro Jordan Baker. (read more about women from The Great Gatsby).

As the foursome make small talk, the phone rings. When Tom goes to answer and Daisy quickly follows him, Jordan Baker takes this opportunity to tell Nick to be quiet because she wants to eavesdrop. Jordan says that Tom “has a woman in New York”. Nick seems to be a bit confused as to what Jordan means.

Daisy and Nick get some alone time outside, and she tells him that she’s become cynical and unhappy. Nick tries to change the subject and asks about Daisy’s daughter, Pammy. Daisy hints at some ugly truths about her husband, leaving Nick perplexed.

Nick Carraway in front of Gatsby's mansion

When Nick returns home to West Egg he can’t help but notice a man standing on the end of the boat dock. Through the fog, Nick can see that this stranger appears to be reaching his hand out towards the green light ( see Green Light Quotes ) that marks the end of a boat dock across the bay in East Egg.

Nick wonders who the man might be, but before he can walk down to the dock, the stranger appears to have disappeared into the foggy night.

What Is the Best Quote from Chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby?

Best Quote from Chapter1

There are many terrific quotes from the first chapter, and while some of them come from Nick, perhaps the most often quoted and therefore most important quote, comes from Nick’s cousin Daisy.

While telling Nick about the past 5 years, Daisy tries to update him, in a polite and refined manner befitting a socialite, about her husband’s affairs and her disappointment in married life.

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. (paragraph 17)

The reader may not be feeling very sympathetic for the poor little rich girl. However, most people will feel at least some pity for a young woman who has just given birth only to wake up and find that her husband is out on the town, probably with another woman.

This quote not only explains how Daisy Buchanan feels about her role as a woman in the 1920s but also what she hopes for her daughter.

Daisy seems to feel that it’s better for women of her era to not know about their husband’s affairs because being smart means learning the truth about how many men behave.

Daisy Buchanan feels powerless at this point in her life, but is this true? Could Daisy have changed her role or her position?

You can find more facts about Daisy and Gatsby in The Great Gatsby Chapter 5 Summary.

What Is a Meaningful Quote from Nick in Chapter 1?

Meaningful Quotes from Nick

Nick has so many memorable quotes, but the opening lines of The Great Gatsby are perhaps the most quoted:

In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” (Paragraph 1)

F. Scott Fitzgerald lets the reader know right away that Nick comes from money. His family has wealth and privilege, and they are aware of it.

This makes Nick the perfect confidant since he doesn’t judge people right away (or at least, that’s what he tells himself). Friends and even acquaintances tend to tell him secrets.

Quotes from Tom Buchanan in Chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby

Quote from Tom Buchanan

Nick and Tom were friends in college, and the reader can almost picture the bookish Nick helping the big and brutish Tom with his homework.

It’s not clear if Nick was aware that Tom was a racist in college, but if he didn’t know, Tom lets everyone in the room know his thoughts on interracial marriage and more.

“Civilization’s going to pieces,” broke out Tom violently. “I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read The Rise of the Coloured Empires by this man Goddard?” “Why, no.” I answered, rather surprised by his tone. “Well, it’s a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if we don’t look out, the white race will be- will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proven.” (paragraph 12)

Tom goes on and on about how it’s up to the white race to maintain world order. Everyone at the table seems embarrassed by this, and Daisy mocks him by saying that Tom is getting profound by reading books with big words.

If there was any question in the reader’s mind about who Tom Buchanan is, he lets the reader know right away that he’s a racist.

Find out more unflattering things about Tom’s character traits here.

Which Quotes Describe Gatsby’s House in Chapter 1?

While Nick (and the reader) won’t meet Gatsby for another few chapters, the reader gets a glimpse of the mansion next door to Nick’s house.

The one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard – it was a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of lawn and garden. (paragraph 9)

Although Nick isn’t aware of it just yet, he has just described the mansion owned by Jay Gatsby ( read quotes from Jay Gatsby ).

At the dinner party he attends at Tom and Daisy’s house, he discovers that Jordan Baker has been to his neighbor’s house. It’s Jordan who tells Nick that it belongs to Gatsby.

As with many other things in this novel, author F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the mansion as a symbol of the American Dream, which Gatsby worked hard for but will eventually lose.

Final Thoughts

The 1920s were a rich and wealthy time for many. World War I was over, factories were booming, and the stock market was reaching new heights.

Yes, there were still people who lived in poverty, working hard daily but never seemed to make any headway. For many, however, their new riches were squandered on unnecessary items, such as Gatsby’s huge mansion where he lived alone.

The quotes in Chapter 1 are now a part of American history, which is probably something that Fitzgerald never could have foreseen.

You can find important quotes from The Great Gatsby for every chapter here.

The Great Gatsby Chapter 1 Quotes: A Simple Study Guide
If you’re looking for a quick and easy study guide for quotes from The Great Gatsby Chapter 1, look no further. Find the important things you need to know here.
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