Chapter 1: The reader is introduced to Nick Carraway, the narrator of the book. Nick talks about his midwestern beginnings and how he came to the New York area to work in bonds. He moves to a small house in West Egg, which is very near to Tom and Daisy Buchanan, who live on East Egg. Daisy is Nick’s cousin and Tom is an acquaintance from Nick’s days in college.
He goes to their home for dinner one evening soon after moving. There he meets Jordan Baker, a professional athlete who is friends with Daisy. While everyone is enjoying their evening Tom gets a phone call. Jordan tells Nick that the person on the phone is Tom’s other woman. Daisy is also aware that Tom is cheating on her, and Jordan tells Nick that almost everyone knows about Tom’s affair. She also asks Nick if he has met his neighbor Gatsby.
When Nick arrives home after the party he sees Gatsby, or who he thinks is Gatsby, standing out on the grass. He intends to go introduce himself but decides against it thinking that Gatsby would prefer to be alone. So he just watches him for a minute or two but the minute he takes his eyes off of him, Gatsby vanishes.
Chapter 2: Nick is takes the train into New York City with Tom. As the train slows down in the Valley, Tom announces that they are getting off so that Nick can meet his girlfriend. Nick explains that everyone in New York knows about Tom’s mistress and that Tom makes no effort at all to keep it a secret that he is cheating on his wife. The two leave the train and walk to a car repair garage. The owner, George Wilson, seems to know Tom and asks him about a car he may be selling and other business matters. Wilson’s wife, Myrtle, is Tom’s mistress. She is in her mid-thirties and Tom manages to tell Myrtle that he wants to see her, without Wilson finding out. Nick and Tom leave the garage and get back on a train. Myrtle lies to her husband, telling him she is going to visit her sister and also gets on the train. Once they get into New York, Nick learns that Tom keeps an apartment for Myrtle. Myrtle calls her sister and some friends and a liquor fueled party develops in the apartment. Nick, Tom, Myrtle, Myrtle’s sister Catherine, and Myrtle’s neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. McKee spend the afternoon drinking alcohol and becoming intoxicated. Myrtle grows combative and, while arguing with Tom about his wife, begins to show “Daisy” as loud as she can. Tom hits her, breaking her nose. The guests leave, and the chapter ends with Tom heading back home.
Chapter 3: One summer evening Nick goes to Gatsby’s house for the first time. He is invited by Gatsby’s chauffeur and it ends up being a very large and crowded party. He knows no one at first, but sees Jordan and stays with her for the most of the evening. He is a very mysterious man to them and everyone has their speculations as to how he obtained his money. Some say he was a bootlegger, some say a spy during the war, and others think that he has the look of someone who’s killed a man.
While moving through the party Nick finally meets Gatsby, although he did not know that at first. They make small talk and find out that they had seen one another during the war. But their talk is short lived because Gatsby has business to attend to. Jordan says that Gatsby is an Oxford man. He notes that Gatsby seems detached and distant from almost everyone.
Later in the evening Gatsby asks to talk to Jordan. When she is finished Nick is there and she tells him that Gatsby has told her something amazing that she can’t talk about right now. But she asks Nick to look her up sometime.
Nick does end up calling on Jordan. They start to spend time with one another and he likes her company. But he says that he has to end his “tangle back home”, the engagement misunderstanding, before he can start a relationship.
Chapter 4: Nick goes to another one of Gatsby parties and finds out that Gatsby bought a house close to his taken interest daisy and would throw parties hoping she would come but she wouldn’t so Gatsby asked Nick to set him up on a date with daisy behind her husbands back.
Chapter 5: When Nick returns from the city that evening he finds Gatsby admiring his house. He tells him that he plans to invite Daisy over for tea. Gatsby tries to act casual but it is obvious he is excited. During their exchange Gatsby tries to offer Nick some kind of job, but Nick sees it only as a polite gesture and turns it down.
The next day Nick invites Daisy to tea and tells her not to bring Tom. Gatsby comes over to inspect everything to make sure that the tea goes perfectly. Daisy finally arrives and Nick goes out to meet her. When they return inside Gatsby is nowhere to be found. A moment later there is a knocking at the door and Gatsby walks in. He and Daisy look at one another in awkward surprise. Nick tries to make the afternoon n go smoothly but realizes that the two would like to be alone. He goes out to his porch to let them catch up. When he returns the two seem relaxed but entranced with one another. Gatsby invited them over to see his house. While walking over Nick asks Gatsby about how he made his money but is answered with a curt “that’s my business”. The group walks through and Gatsby tries to impress Daisy with all of the possessions he has filled his house with. Nick, again realizing that his presence is not needed, leaves the two alone.
Chapter 6: A reporter comes to Gatsby’s home one day wanting to learn about him since Gatsby has become a sort of celebrity through the parties he throws. He asks questions about many of the myths surrounding Gatsby, but Nick gives us the truest account of Gatsby’s life. He was born James Gatz in North Dakota. His parents were poor farm people and to escape the blandness of his existence, Gatsby created a fantasy world. Part of this fantasy included the name Jay Gatsby. As a young man he worked along the shore of Lake Superior doing odd jobs. He tried a small college for a couple of weeks but quickly grew restless and went back to the shore. While walking the shoreline he spotted a yacht owned by the wealthy Dan Cody. He warns Cody that he might have sailing troubles. Cody takes Gatsby under his wing. When Cody died Gatsby was supposed to get a large portion of his fortune but was tricked out of it. But Gatsby had created a persona for himself and found something that he wanted to achieve at all costs.
After an absence of several weeks due to work Nick goes over to see Gatsby one Sunday afternoon. While there Tom Buchanan and two others arrive on horseback. Gatsby tries his hardest to be hospitable to the trio. They make an attempt to invite Gatsby with them somewhere, but when he goes to get ready they leave without him.
At the next party Gatsby throws Tom and Daisy arrive. Tom immediately dislikes the party and begins to question how Gatsby came into so much money. Daisy also seems to be unhappy at the party which frightens Gatsby. He tells Nick that he will make things right with her and they will be able to go back to how they once were. After hearing this Nick tells the reader of an evening Gatsby and Daisy spent together in their youth. The moment was so perfect and beautiful to Gatsby that he has spent all of his time trying to recreate that moment. It is this recreation that he believes will make him happy.
Chapter 7: Nick goes to the Buchanans for an afternoon with Tom, Daisy, Gatsby, and Jordan. While they are there the group, including Gatsby, sees Daisy’s child for the first time. As the group is talking, Daisy says she loves Gatsby in front of Tom but he thinks nothing of it. Being a hot and uncomfortable day they all decide to go into the city to find something to do. Tom asks to take Gatsby’s car. It seems odd to Gatsby but he lets him and Tom, Jordan and Nick drive off together with Daisy and Gatsby in Tom’s blue sports car.
Tom stops at Wilson’s garage to fill up the gas tank and speaks to Wilson. Wilson alludes to the idea that he thinks his wife is having an affair and that he wants to get some money to move out west. While this talk is going on Nick thinks he sees Myrtle watching them from the window. The groups meet up in the city and decide to get a hotel suite and make a few cold drinks. While there, Gatsby and Daisy begin to act more obvious about their affections in front of everyone. Tom begins to get angry and starts shouting at them. As the fight goes on Gatsby tells Tom that Daisy has never loved Tom and has always been in love with him. Daisy quietly agrees. Tom, enraged, says that he has investigated Gatsby and found out that he earned his money through being a bootlegger. The argument dies down and Gatsby and Daisy decide to leave in his car. The rest of the group quietly exits with Tom.
Meanwhile Michaelis, a neighbor of Wilson’s stops by to see him and finds him very ill in his office. Wilson tells him that he locked his wife up and that they will be leaving tomorrow. Wilson never tells Michaelis why they are leaving or why Myrtle is locked up. He leaves Wilson alone. Later, he comes out of his restaurant and hears Wilson and Myrtle fighting. During the fight she runs into the road just as two cars are approaching in either direction. She is hit and killed but the car does not stop. It is later found out that the car was Gatsby’s and Daisy was driving it.
Tom pulls up a little later when he sees all of the commotion around Wilson’s. Wilson believes that it was Tom who hit his wife since Tom was driving that car earlier in the day, but Tom assured him it wasn’t. When the group arrives back at Tom’s Nick decides to wait outside for a cab. While waiting Gatsby appears from behind a bush. He admits that Daisy was driving the car. Nick asks Gatsby to come back with him but Gatsby wants to wait outside the house to make sure that nothing happens to Daisy.
Chapter 8: Early the next morning Nick goes over to check up on Gatsby. He has been at Daisy’s all night, watching to see if she was safe. He and Nick stay up talking about Gatsby’s past. Gatsby is being very honest with Nick and tells him that Daisy was the first nice girl he had ever really met. He was in love with her and planned on marrying her but the war split them apart. When it was over he intended to go back and marry her but ended up at Oxford instead. When he finally made it back to America and went to Louisville, he could not find Daisy. She was on her honeymoon with Tom Buchanan. Nick has to leave Gatsby to get to work. He is concerned about him, but Gatsby insists that he will be fine. After Nick leaves Gatsby decides to go swimming in his pool and relax. Nick now tells the reader about what happened at Wilson’s to start the chain of events that would occur. Michaelis has stayed with Wilson to make sure that he is all right. Wilson tells Michaelis that someone killed Myrtle on purpose, whoever was having the affair with her. Michaelis thinks it is all nonsense and tries to talk reasonably to Wilson. He ends up staying there until late. A man Michaelis recognized from the day of the accident offers to stay with Wilson. When Michaelis returns, both Wilson and the man are gone. Wilson had gone looking for Gatsby. Someone had told him that Gatsby was involved. When Wilson finally finds Gatsby’s home he shoots Gatsby in his pool and then kills himself as well.
Chapter 9: Nick calls Daisy’s house to speak to her but she and Tom have left without any way to be reached. He also tries to get in contact with Meyer Wolfsheim but cannot. Wolfsheim sends a letter later saying that he cannot comes to Gatsby’s side. Shortly after, Gatsby is killed. A few days later Henry Gatz, Gatsby’s father, comes to the house. He had heard about Gatsby’s death in the paper and came at once.
The day of the funeral Nick goes into the city to see Wolfsheim. Nick has to force himself into Wolfsheim’s office, but Meyer refuses to come to the funeral saying that he can’t get mixed up in another man’s death. When Nick returns to the house he and Mr. Gatz talk about what Gatsby was like when he was younger. Gatz shows Nick a schedule that Gatsby wrote out when he was younger that shows a very driven, determined young Gatsby.
The minister arrives at the house and seems ready to start the funeral but Nick asks him to wait for more people to show up, but no one does. When the small group goes to the cemetery another man ends up showing up for the service. He was a man who came to Gatsby’s party that summer and thought he should be there out of respect. A few days later Nick goes to see Jordan to formally end things between them. She tells him that she is engaged to another man and although not surprised, Nick pretends to be. Another afternoon Nick sees Tom on the street in the city. Nick is obviously disgusted with Tom and asks him what he said to Wilson. Nick has figured out that Tom was the one who told Wilson that it was Gatsby that was having an affair with his wife and who ran her down. Tom denies it but Nick is certain.
Nick goes back to his home one last time and decides that he doesn’t want to live in the East anymore. He believes that he, and all of the others, were not fit to live out in the East and that is why they failed there.