English Notes Chapter OneThe Great Gatsby Narrator=Nick Carraway – “non-judgmental” – Accused of being a “politician” because he befriends everyone and everyone feels they can confide in him – When he came back from the East last fall he didn’t want to be bothered with people o The only person exempt from his scorn (hatred) is Gatsby. o He says Gatsby was okay, but it was what preyed on Gatsby (what destroyed him) that made the narrator so cynical. Nick: – Comes from old wealth – Midwestern family – went to Yale – went to world war I – came back from war “restless” Decided to go “East” to learn the bond business (stocks) – Daddy will support him – he lives in a small house (yet has a maid) Structure -Nick starts telling the story (autumn) (reflects on what happened the previous summer) and why he is so cynical or “done with” people ( takes place in the summer 1922 -Gatsby Long Island: West Egg: -Nick lives on West Egg (pays $80 a month) – “less fashionable” – There are mansions but he describes them as “colossal” “imitation” – Gatsby is Nick’s neighbor East Egg: – “glittered” – Tom and Daisy Buchanan live in East Egg (Daisy is Nick’s cousin and Nick went to college with Tom) Their house is huge, old fashioned, yet very sophisticated Tom Buchanan: – Football player at Yale – Extremely wealthy – From Chicago – Always threw away money like it was nothing to him – Peaked at age 21 everything else was anti-climatic • 30 yrs old • Thinks he’s superior • Arrogant • Very physical • Condescending Chapter One Plot Summary: • Nick Carraway, the novel’s narrator begins by retelling a bit of advice his father taught him: Don’t criticize others because most people have not had the advantages he has had. Nick says that he has become a tolerant person reserving quick judgments.
He says that even though he scorns everything Gatsby stood for, he views Gatsby as a victim who fell prey to the “foul dust” that corrupted his dreams. • Summer of 1922—Nick, a Yale graduate, moves from the west where his family has lived for three generations to NY to work in the bond business. He recently returned from war and found himself restless in the Midwest. • Nick rents a house in West Egg, a Long Island suburb across from East Egg. He observes that the two communities look the same geographically, however they differ since the “new rich” live in West Egg and the “old money” families live in East Egg. Nick and Gatsby’s homes are in West Egg. Gatsby’s house is an imitation of a French hotel, surrounded by lush gardens. Nick’s small rental is an “eye-sore” in comparison. • Nick goes to East Egg to visit the Buchanans. Daisy is Nick’s cousin and Tom is also a Yale graduate. • When Nick arrives, Tom is dressed in riding clothes. Tom is condescending to Nick. Nick remembers that plenty of people hated Tom at Yale because he was so arrogant. • At dinner Nick meets Jordan Baker, a snobby woman who seems bored by her surroundings. • At dinner Tom complains about the downfall of civilization as described in a book The Rise of the Colored Empires.
Tom feels threatened by the rise of other “inferior” races. Daisy tries to make light of his conversation topic. • Tom gets a phone call during dinner. Daisy leaves the room to follow after him. Jordan tells Nick that the call is from the “other woman” and tells Nick to keep quiet so she can eavesdrop. The rest of dinner is awkward. • When Nick gets home he sees Gatsby standing on his lawn gazing out across the water. Gatsby extends his arms out toward the other side of the water and sees only a tiny green light blinking at the edge of the dock.