The Great Gatsby Reading Journal

by Bethany Schifferdecker

Chapter 1 (pg. 1-21)

Summary: The chapter begins by introducing Nick Callaway, the main character, and providing some back story on him. Nick goes on to visit his college friend, Tom, and his wife, Daisy, who happens to be Nick's distant cousin. While visiting, they introduce him to Jordan Baker, a young lady, who tells Nick over dinner that Tom is having an affair. The chapter ends with Nick returning home and noticing his mysterious neighbor, Mr. Gatsby staring off across the water.

Character: Nick Callaway

  • Slow to judge others
  • Originally from the Midwest, now lives on West Egg
  • Works in bonds
  • Trustworthy
  • His family is well-off and owns a hardware store

Quote: "...Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men," (pg. 2).

-This quote appears at the very beginning of the novel when the narrator is introducing the story. I believe that it's an example of foreshadowing for the events to come, though I can't say for sure until I've read more of the novel.

Chapter 2 (pg. 23-38)

Summary: Nick goes into the city with Tom and Tom's lover, Myrtle, where they go shopping and then on to Tom's apartment. Once there, they invite up various neighbors and Myrtle's sister, Catherine, for a small party. The festivities come to an abrupt end when Myrtle provokes Tom by repeating Daisy's name over and over again until he hits her and breaks her nose.

Character: Tom Buchanan

  • Married to Daisy but having an affair with a woman named Myrtle
  • Very open about his affair by introducing his lover to Nick and taking her all over the city
  • Willing to throw around money to keep Myrtle happy
  • Proves himself to be abusive when he breaks Myrtle's nose at their party

Quote: "' least you didn't marry him.' 'I know I didn't.' 'Well, I married him,' said Myrtle, ambiguously. 'And that's the difference between your case and mine,'" (pg. 34).

-Myrtle is complaining about how unhappy she is in her marriage which is something that's been pretty important in the novel so far as both her and Daisy are dealing with failed marriages.

Chapter 3 (pg. 39-59)

Summary: Nick attends a party at Gatsby's house where he runs into Jordan Baker again and finally meets the mysterious Mr. Gatsby, but only briefly. As the party is raging on, Gatsby calls Jordan into a private meeting where he tells her some secret. Later on in the summer, Nick and Jordan begin casually dating and he discovers that she has a habit of dishonesty that is the complete opposite of his perpetual honest streak.

Character: Jordan Baker

  • A golf champion that is very well known
  • Attends Gatsby's parties and is brought into his confidence on some secret
  • A generally dishonest person who avoids men who would be clever enough to realize it

Quote: "Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known," (pg. 59).

-This statement by Nick doesn't just tell the reader how honest he is, but shows how dishonest many of the other characters of the story are in contrast.

Chapter 4 (pg. 61-80)

Summary: Gatsby takes Nick to lunch in the city and tells him a little more about himself, though it's questionable as to whether or not what he says is the truth. He also tells Nick that Jordan has something she can explain to him, which ends up being his history with Daisy. They had had a brief courtship before he went off to war and she got married, but Gatsby had never gotten over her so once the war was over, he tracked her down and bought a house just across the bay in hopes of reentering her life. Since that hasn't happened yet, Gatsby wants Nick to invite both him and Daisy to tea so he can see her again.

Character: Mr. Gatsby

  • Received honors in the war
  • Inherited his money from family members
  • Was once in love with Daisy and now wants to stage a chance meeting so he can see her again

Quote: "'Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay.' Then it had not been merely the stars to which he had aspired on that June night. He came alive to me, delivered suddenly from the womb of his purposeless splendor," (pg. 78).

-In this quote, Gatsby becomes less of an enigma and more of a real, relatable character. His longing for a past love quickly defines his character and explains many of his actions.

Chapter 5 (pg. 81-96)

Summary: Nick comes home from his date with Jordan to meet a very nervous Gatsby who is afraid Nick won't help him get with Daisy. Nick, of course, does invite Daisy over for Gatsby and when the two get to his house they're awkward around each other at first but their romance is quickly rekindled as they spend the afternoon touring Gatsby's mansion. Daisy is blown away by Gatsby's success and they become so enthralled with each other that Nick eventually leaves them be.

Character: Daisy Buchanan

  • Unhappy in her marriage
  • Still in love with Gatsby
  • Willing to have an extramarital affair

"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," (pg. 89).

-When Nick comes back in on Daisy and Gatsby, it's clear from this quote that they have definitely rekindled their previous romance and it's obviously a turning point for the whole plot line.

Chapter 6 (pg. 97-113)

Summary: A reporter comes to Gatsby's house out of curiosity which leads Nick to interrupt and give some history on the mysterious Mr. Gatsby. Jay's real name was James Gatz and he grew up on a farm in North Dakota before briefly attending college and then becoming a personal assistant to a wealthy man. He learned from this experience how great a life of luxury was which is what drove him to work so hard to attain that himself. The narrative returns to the present where Daisy, Tom, and Nick attend a party at Gatsby's where no one has a very good time and Tom becomes suspicious of Jay and Daisy, though he has yet to find out about their relationship.

Character: Tom Buchanan

  • Is quick to judge (decides Gatsby must be a bootlegger)
  • Pretentious (looks down on Gatsby for being of "new money")
  • Doesn't even try to appear devoted to his wife as he leaves her at the party to hang out with another guy
  • Suspicious of how Daisy knows Gatsby

Quote: "He talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was..." (pg. 110).

-The quote makes it obvious just how stuck in the past Gatsby and how that completely controls his life now, which is becoming a pretty important theme of the novel so far.

Chapter 7 (pg. 113-145)

Summary: Nick, Jordan, Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby are hanging out and decide to go to the city where they rent a hotel suite to get out of the heat. As they're chilling, Tom accuses Gatsby of having an affair with Daisy and the party quickly breaks up to head back home; Tom, Jordan, and Nick ride together while Daisy goes with Gatsby. Nick's group comes across a wreck on the drive home and discover that Myrtle was killed in a hit and run, which leaves Tom extremely distraught and they all head back to the house. Once they get there, Nick meets Gatsby who's hiding outside and finds out that it was Daisy driving the car that killed Myrtle, though she let Tom believe that it was Gatsby. At the end of the chapter, Nick sees Daisy and Tom talking, almost looking like they're scheming and he leaves a very worried Gatsby outside their house because he thinks he needs to stay to protect Daisy.

Character: Daisy Buchanan

  • Lets Tom and Gatsby fight over her without doing anything to resolve it
  • Runs over Myrtle (probably on purpose) and doesn't even stop
  • Lets Tom think that Gatsby killed Myrtle
  • Connives with Tom about Gatbsy's demise
  • Basically the worst person ever

Quote: "...with every word she was drawing further and further into herself, so he gave that up, and only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, undespairingly, toward that lost voice across the room...Her frightened eyes told that whatever intentions, whatever courage she had had, were definitely gone," (pg. 134-135).

-This is the point in the novel when Daisy goes from the victim, an oppressed women trapped in a loveless marriage, to the villain. She has promised herself to two separate men and has betrayed both of them. Because of this, she is the center of every conflict within the novel and everything that happens from this point on is her fault.

Chapter 8 (pg. 147-162)

Summary: Nick goes over to Gatsby's the next day and they sit and talk about his love for Daisy and everything he went through over the past five years apart from her. The reader is then give some insight into what is going on with George, Myrtle's husband. He is lost in grief and then claims he has "a way of finding out" whose car it was that killed Myrtle. At the end of the chapter, he shows up at Gatsby's house and kills him before shooting himself.

Character: George Wilson

  • Completely distraught over Myrtle's death
  • Driven by his grief to madness
  • Is led to believe that it was Gatsby who killed Myrtle by Tom and goes and kills him to get revenge
  • Blames himself to an extent for his wife's death because he killed himself after killing Gatsby

Quote: "...perhaps [Gatsby] no longer cared. If that was true he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. he must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through a frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass," (pg. 161).

-Gatsby has spent the last five years of his life completely focused on one single thing: Daisy. Now that he had, and lost her, his world is completely changed, almost as if he has nothing to live for anymore; the world had nothing left to offer him.

Chapter 9 (pg. 163-180)

Summary: The events of this chapter go by in a blur; Nick and Gatsby's servants are questioned by the police and then have to go about planning his funeral. Gatsby's father shows up, but other than that no one comes to the funeral. This shows the irony in Gatsby being known as "great," everyone loved him when they were partying at his house but it's obvious that he was very alone when only one person comes to his funeral. Some time later, Nick runs into Tom on the street and it becomes clear that Tom still doesn't know that it was Daisy who killed Myrtle, not Tom. The novel concludes with Nick reminiscing about Gatsby and talking about how our society is always chasing something that's just out of our reach, which is the final theme of the book.

Character: Jay Gatsby

  • Worked to better himself by living a strictly regimented life when he was young
  • Took care of his father financially once he became wealthy
  • Lost his whole world when he lost Daisy
  • Only really had a few friends in the world as no one else came to his funeral

Quote: "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--to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther....And one fine morning----So we beat on, oats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past," (pg. 180).

-These final words of the novel show the author's entire purpose in the book, and are a perfect example of the mentality of this "lost generation," Nick is saying that we spend our entire lives chasing things that are really unachievable, though due to our human nature, we persevere, day after day despite the constant obstacles that we face. This last paragraph summarizes the entire theme of the novel.