Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
The book is narrated by Nick Carraway and describes the life of Jay Gatsby, a young rich man who arrives in high society after some time abroad. Not much is known about Jay’s time overseas, but he happily throws his money around and entertains the wealthy. He becomes particularly close to Nick, Tom Buchanan, and Tom’s wife, Daisy.
Nick comes to learn that Gatsby was in love with Daisy earlier in his life, but had to move away to fight in the war. Now wealthy, he has returned and bought a large house near Daisy in the hope that she will come back to him.
As well as the story of Gatsby’s efforts to have Daisy leave Tom and return to him, the book also looks at the excesses of America’s east coast in the ‘roaring 20s’. Parties, money, gossip, alcohol, and crime are all essential to the story and the setting.
The book is often viewed as a study of ‘The American Dream’, looking at the fun and ugliness of living with money.
Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. 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. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.
And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, 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. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
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 one fine morning —
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
The Great Gatsby is often in the top one or two of ‘Great American Novels’. It is widely acknowledged as a modern classic.