The Great Gatsby

by

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Jay Gatsby Character Analysis

Nick's wealthy neighbor in West Egg. Gatsby owns a gigantic mansion and has become well known for hosting large parties every Saturday night. Gatsby's lust for wealth stems from his desire to win back the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan, whom he met and fell in love with while in military training in Louisville, Kentucky before WW I. Gatsby is a self-made man (his birth name was James Gatz) who achieved the American Dream of rising up from the lower classes to the top of society. But to Gatsby, the desire for love proves more powerful than the lust for money. Fitzgerald uses Gatsby's downfall as a critique of the reckless indulgence of Roaring Twenties America.

Jay Gatsby Quotes in The Great Gatsby

The The Great Gatsby quotes below are all either spoken by Jay Gatsby or refer to Jay Gatsby. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of The Great Gatsby published in 2004.
Chapter 1 Quotes
He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes
He smiled understandingly—much more than understandingly. It was 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, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:
On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby
Related Symbols: Gatsby's Mansion
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:
On a chance we tried an important-looking door, and walked into a high Gothic library, panelled with carved English oak, and probably transported complete from some ruin overseas. A stout, middle-aged man with enormous owl-eyed spectacles was sitting somewhat drunk on the edge of a great table, staring with unsteady concentration at the shelves of books. As we entered he wheeled excitedly around […].

“[…] They’re real.”

“The books?”

He nodded.

“Absolutely real—have pages and everything. I thought they’d be a nice durable cardboard. Matter of fact, they’re absolutely real. Pages and—Here! Lemme show you.”

[…]

“See!” he cried triumphantly. “It’s a bona fide piece of printed matter. It fooled me. This fella’s a regular Belasco. It’s a triumph. What thoroughness! What realism!”
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Owl Eyes (speaker), Jay Gatsby, Jordan Baker
Related Symbols: Gatsby's Mansion
Page Number: 45-46
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes
“I am the son of some wealthy people in the middle-west—all dead now. I was brought up in America but educated at Oxford because all my ancestors have been educated there for many years. It is a family tradition.”

He looked at me sideways—and I knew why Jordan Baker had believed he was lying. He hurried the phrase “educated at Oxford,” or swallowed it or choked on it as though it had bothered him before. And with this doubt his whole statement fell to pieces and I wondered if there wasn’t something a little sinister about him after all.
Related Characters: Jay Gatsby (speaker), Nick Carraway (speaker), Jordan Baker
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:
“Meyer Wolfshiem? No, he’s a gambler.” Gatsby hesitated, then added coolly: “He’s the man who fixed the World’s Series back in 1919.”

“Fixed the World’s Series?” I repeated.

The idea staggered me. I remembered of course that the World’s Series had been fixed in 1919 but if I had thought of it at all I would have thought of it as a thing that merely HAPPENED, the end of some inevitable chain. It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people—with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe.

“How did he happen to do that?” I asked after a minute.

“He just saw the opportunity.”

“Why isn’t he in jail?”

“They can’t get him, old sport. He’s a smart man.”
Related Characters: Jay Gatsby (speaker), Nick Carraway (speaker), Meyer Wolfsheim
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
“Why didn’t he ask you to arrange a meeting?”

“He wants her to see his house,” she explained. “And your house is right next door.”

“Oh!”
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jordan Baker (speaker), Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan
Related Symbols: Gatsby's Mansion
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes
"It makes me sad because I've never seen such — such beautiful shirts before."
Related Characters: Daisy Buchanan (speaker), Jay Gatsby
Related Symbols: Gatsby's Mansion
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
They were sitting at either end of the couch looking at each other as if some question had been asked or was in the air, and every vestige of embarrassment was gone. Daisy’s face was smeared with tears and when I came in she jumped up and began wiping at it with her handkerchief before a mirror. But there was a change in Gatsby that was simply confounding. He literally glowed; without a word or a gesture of exultation a new well-being radiated from him and filled the little room.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:
“That huge place THERE?” she cried pointing.

“Do you like it?”

“I love it, but I don’t see how you live there all alone.”

“I keep it always full of interesting people, night and day. People who do interesting things. Celebrated people.”
Related Characters: Jay Gatsby (speaker), Daisy Buchanan (speaker), Nick Carraway
Related Symbols: Gatsby's Mansion
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:
We went upstairs, through period bedrooms swathed in rose and lavender silk and vivid with new flowers, through dressing rooms and poolrooms, and bathrooms with sunken baths—intruding into one chamber where a dishevelled man in pajamas was doing liver exercises on the floor.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Ewing Klipspringer
Related Symbols: Gatsby's Mansion
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:
He 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. Once he nearly toppled down a flight of stairs.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan
Related Symbols: Gatsby's Mansion
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:
“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.”

Daisy put her arm through his abruptly but he seemed absorbed in what he had just said. 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.
Related Characters: Jay Gatsby (speaker), Nick Carraway (speaker), Daisy Buchanan
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
As I went over to say goodbye I saw that the expression of bewilderment had come back into Gatsby’s face, as though a faint doubt had occurred to him as to the quality of his present happiness. Almost five years! 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, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes
The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God—a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that—and he must be about His Father's business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:
"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!"
He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.
Related Characters: Jay Gatsby (speaker), Nick Carraway (speaker), Daisy Buchanan
Related Symbols: Gatsby's Mansion
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:
For over a year he had been beating his way along the south shore of Lake Superior as a clam digger and a salmon fisher or in any other capacity that brought him food and bed. […]

A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the wash-stand and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:
“I wonder where in the devil he met Daisy. By God, I may be old-fashioned in my ideas, but women run around too much these days to suit me. They meet all kinds of crazy fish.”

[…]

Tom was evidently perturbed at Daisy’s running around alone, for on the following Saturday night he came with her to Gatsby’s party. Perhaps his presence gave the evening its peculiar quality of oppressiveness—it stands out in my memory from Gatsby’s other parties that summer. There were the same people, or at least the same sort of people, the same profusion of champagne, the same many-colored, many-keyed commotion, but I felt an unpleasantness in the air, a pervading harshness that hadn’t been there before.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Tom Buchanan (speaker), Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan
Related Symbols: Gatsby's Mansion
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:
“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.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Tom Buchanan (speaker), Jay Gatsby
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:
He wanted nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to Tom and say: “I never loved you.” After she had obliterated four years with that sentence they could decide upon the more practical measures to be taken. One of them was that, after she was free, they were to go back to Louisville and be married from her house—just as if it were five years ago.

“And she doesn’t understand,” he said. “She used to be able to understand. We’d sit for hours—”
Related Characters: Jay Gatsby (speaker), Nick Carraway (speaker), Daisy Buchanan (speaker), Tom Buchanan
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes
"Her voice is full of money," he said suddenly.
That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money—that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it.
Related Characters: Jay Gatsby (speaker), Nick Carraway (speaker), Daisy Buchanan
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:
It was when curiosity about Gatsby was at its highest that the lights in his house failed to go on one Saturday night—and, as obscurely as it had begun, his career as Trimalchio was over.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby
Related Symbols: Gatsby's Mansion
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:
“Oh, you want too much!” she cried to Gatsby. “I love you now—isn’t that enough? I can’t help what’s past.” She began to sob helplessly. “I did love him once—but I loved you too.”
Related Characters: Daisy Buchanan (speaker), Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway, Tom Buchanan
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:
“She’s not leaving me!” Tom’s words suddenly leaned down over Gatsby. “Certainly not for a common swindler who’d have to steal the ring he put on her finger.”

[…]

“Who are you, anyhow?” broke out Tom. “You’re one of that bunch that hangs around with Meyer Wolfsheim—that much I happen to know. I’ve made a little investigation into your affairs—and I’ll carry it further tomorrow. […] I found out what your ‘drug stores’ were.” He turned to us and spoke rapidly. “He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That’s one of his little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him and I wasn’t far wrong.”
Related Characters: Daisy Buchanan (speaker), Tom Buchanan (speaker), Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway, Meyer Wolfsheim
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes
"They're a rotten crowd," I shouted across the lawn. "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. First he nodded politely, and then his face broke into that radiant and understanding smile, as if we'd been in ecstatic cahoots on that fact all the time.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:
“You ought to go away,” I said. “It’s pretty certain they’ll trace your car.”

“Go away NOW, old sport?”

“Go to Atlantic City for a week, or up to Montreal.”

He wouldn’t consider it. He couldn’t possibly leave Daisy until he knew what she was going to do. He was clutching at some last hope and I couldn’t bear to shake him free.
Related Characters: Jay Gatsby (speaker), Nick Carraway (speaker), Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:
However glorious might be his future as Jay Gatsby, he was at present a penniless young man without a past, and at any moment the invisible cloak of his uniform might slip from his shoulders. So he made the most of his time. He took what he could get, ravenously and unscrupulously—eventually he took Daisy one still October night, took her because he had no real right to touch her hand.

He might have despised himself, for he had certainly taken her under false pretenses. I don’t mean that he had traded on his phantom millions, but he had deliberately given Daisy a sense of security; he let her believe that he was a person from much the same stratum as herself—that he was fully able to take care of her. As a matter of fact he had no such facilities—he had no comfortable family standing behind him and he was liable at the whim of an impersonal government to be blown anywhere about the world.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes
That's my Middle West . . . the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark. . . . I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all—Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.
Related Symbols: East and West
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:
And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world.... And as I sat there, brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out Daisy's light at the end of his dock. He had come such a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it. But what he did not know was that it was already behind him, somewhere in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:
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.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:
“Did you start him in business?” I inquired.

“Start him! I made him.”

“Oh.”

“I raised him up out of nothing, right out of the gutter. I saw right away he was a fine appearing, gentlemanly young man, and when he told me he was an Oggsford I knew I could use him good. I got him to join up in the American Legion and he used to stand high there. Right off he did some work for a client of mine up to Albany. We were so thick like that in everything—” He held up two bulbous fingers “—always together.”
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Meyer Wolfsheim (speaker), Jay Gatsby
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:
I shook hands with him; it seemed silly not to, for I felt suddenly as though I were talking to a child. Then he went into the jewelry store to buy a pearl necklace—or perhaps only a pair of cuff buttons—rid of my provincial squeamishness forever.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Great Gatsby LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Great Gatsby PDF

Jay Gatsby Character Timeline in The Great Gatsby

The timeline below shows where the character Jay Gatsby appears in The Great Gatsby. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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For instance, Nick says that though he scorns everything Gatsby stood for, he withholds judgment entirely regarding him. Nick says Gatsby was a man of... (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
...instance, Nick's small house (described as an "eye-sore") sits next to a mansion owned by Gatsby, a man Nick knows only by name. Gatsby's mansion is a gigantic reproduction of a... (full context)
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Upon returning from dinner, Nick sees Jay Gatsby standing on his lawn and gazing out across Long Island sound. Nick considers calling out... (full context)
Chapter 2
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The topic of conversation eventually turns to Nick's neighbor Gatsby. Catherine says she's afraid of Gatsby because she's heard that he's a relative of the... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Every Saturday night, Gatsby throws incredibly luxurious parties at his mansion. Nick eventually receives an invitation. At the party,... (full context)
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...they may have crossed paths during World War I. The man introduces himself: he's Jay Gatsby. Gatsby has a dazzling smile, and refers to everyone as "old sport." (full context)
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Gatsby also interests Nick because he remains apart from the party, as if his pleasure derives... (full context)
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...two in the morning, a butler approaches Jordan and asks her to come meet with Gatsby. She returns a while later from this meeting and tells Nick that she has just... (full context)
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After saying goodbye to Gatsby (who has to run off to receive a phone call from Philadelphia), Nick leaves the... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Nick then describes accompanying Gatsby on a trip into the city for lunch. They ride to the city in Gatsby's... (full context)
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Gatsby pays little attention to the speed limit, and a policeman pulls him over. Gatsby shows... (full context)
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For lunch they meet a business partner of Gatsby's named Meyer Wolfsheim. Wolfsheim tells Nick that Gatsby is a man of "fine breeding" who... (full context)
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On the way out of the restaurant, Nick sees Tom Buchanan and introduces him to Gatsby. Gatsby appears embarrassed and leaves the scene without saying goodbye. (full context)
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Jordan finishes the story later in Central Park. She says Gatsby never fell out of love with Daisy and bought his giant mansion in West Egg... (full context)
Chapter 5
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After returning from the city, Nick encounters Gatsby late at night on his front lawn. Gatsby seems nervous, and asks if Nick would... (full context)
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Gatsby is nervous on the day of the meeting. Though it's raining he sends a man... (full context)
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Gatsby and Daisy treat each other formally at first, and Gatsby's nerves threaten to overwhelm him.... (full context)
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Nick, meanwhile, privately wonders how Daisy can possibly fulfill Gatsby's idealized vision of her. Nick reflects that over the years Gatsby has remained faithful to... (full context)
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They move from the house to Gatsby's well-manicured grounds. Gatsby remarks that mist on the bay blocks his view of Daisy's house... (full context)
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Next, Gatsby gets one of his hangers-on, Ewing Klipspringer, to play the piano for the three of... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Nick notes that newspaper reporters soon started to appear at Gatsby's home to try to interview him. He then gives Gatsby's biographical details, the truth behind... (full context)
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For a few weeks, Nick doesn't see Gatsby. Then, one afternoon, Gatsby turns up at his house. A few moments later, Tom Buchanan... (full context)
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The next Saturday night, Tom and Daisy come to a party at Gatsby's. The party strikes Nick as particularly unpleasant. Tom is disdainful of the party, and though... (full context)
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After the party, Gatsby is depressed. He suspects that Daisy neither enjoyed the party nor understands the depth of... (full context)
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Nick recalls a memory that Gatsby once shared with him about the first time Gatsby kissed Daisy. Nick calls Gatsby's sentimentality... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Gatsby's house becomes much quieter, and his party's come to an end. Nick visits, and learns... (full context)
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On the hottest day of the summer, Daisy invites Nick and Gatsby to lunch with her, Tom, and Jordan. At one point, while Tom is out of... (full context)
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When Tom and Gatsby take a tour around the house, Gatsby points out that his house is directly across... (full context)
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...She cries out that she wants them all to go to the city. Daisy and Gatsby lock eyes, and Daisy comments that Gatsby always looks like an advertisement. Tom can see... (full context)
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Before they leave for the city, Nick and Gatsby have a moment alone, in which they agree that Daisy is indiscreet. Gatsby comments that... (full context)
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Tom insists on driving Gatsby's big yellow car. Gatsby and Daisy travel alone in Tom's coupe, while Tom drives Nick... (full context)
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...takes a suite at the Plaza Hotel near Central Park. Soon after arriving, Tom challenges Gatsby's history as an "Oxford man." When Gatsby successfully answers the question, Tom then asks what... (full context)
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Gatsby says Daisy never loved Tom and has only ever loved him. Tom protests, but Daisy... (full context)
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...history together, Daisy admits that she did love Tom in the past, she just loved Gatsby too. Gatsby is stunned. (full context)
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Tom pushes his advantage: he reveals that Gatsby really is involved with organized crime, such as bootlegging. All this terrifies Daisy, who begs... (full context)
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...a "menacing" new decade stretched before him. In Tom's car heading back toward Long Island (Gatsby and Daisy took Gatsby's car), Nick observes that unlike Daisy, people like Jordan Baker know... (full context)
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...Tom and Wilson are overwhelmed by grief at Myrtle's death. Tom suspects that it was Gatsby who hit Myrtle. (full context)
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...house. Tom calls a taxi for Nick. As Nick waits for it outside, he sees Gatsby hiding in the bushes. Gatsby tells him that Daisy was driving the car and that... (full context)
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Nick tells Gatsby everything is quiet, but Gatsby still refuses to leave. Nick leaves him "watching over nothing." (full context)
Chapter 8
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Nick visits Gatsby for breakfast the next morning. Gatsby tells Nick that Daisy never came outside the previous... (full context)
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Gatsby and Nick finish breakfast. As they walk together, the gardener tells Gatsby he's going to... (full context)
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At two, Gatsby went for a swim, leaving word that he was to be alerted if any phone... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...now two years later and Nick is recounting his memories of the days shortly after Gatsby's death. Wild rumors about Gatsby's relationship with Myrtle and Wilson swirl, and reporters and other... (full context)
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Nick finds himself the primary contact for all matters relating to Gatsby because nobody else wanted to be. Daisy and Tom disappear with no forwarding address, and... (full context)
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Three days after Gatsby's death, a telegram arrives from his father, Henry C. Gatz. Mr. Gatz arrives in person... (full context)
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Gatsby's funeral takes place the next day. In an effort to assemble more people to attend... (full context)
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Nick returns to Gatsby's house for the funeral. Only, Nick, Henry Gatz, and, to Nick's surprise, Owl Eyes show... (full context)
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Nick now describes The Great Gatsby as a story of the West since many of the key characters (Daisy, Tom, Nick,... (full context)
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...shake Tom's hand, and learns that Tom was the one who told George Wilson that Gatsby ran over Myrtle. Tom adds also that he cried when he gave up the apartment... (full context)
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...last night in West Egg before moving back home to Minnesota, Nick walks down to Gatsby's beach and looks out over Long Island sound. He wonders how the first settlers to... (full context)
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Nick describes Gatsby as a believer in the future, a man of promise and faith. He compares everyone... (full context)