The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby book cover
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Can you give me a short summary of The Great Gatsby in about 50 words max?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This is going to be tough.  The fact that The Great Gatsby is considered to be a landmark of Western literature is a part of its difficulty.  No matter what, any summary of fifty words is going to leave out essential parts and aspects.  I am not sure it is possible to encapsulate its greatness and meaning in only fifty words.  With this in mind, I think that a summary would have to focus only on Jay Gatsby:

Jay Gatsby is rich.  He is in love with the idea that he can make Daisy love him. Gatsby represents new money, while Daisy represents the establishment.  Gatsby uses his  materialism to influence Daisy. His tale represents the frailty of wealth and popular social acceptance, and the emptiness within both.

With this summary, you lose Nick, Tom, Myrtle, George and Jordan.  I am not sure how you can incorporate these essential characters with the fifty word limit.  Being able to capture the set up between "old money" and "new money" drove the summary.  The emptiness element was another aspect I wanted to include.  However, I completely concede that there are some essential elements that are missing when you add the fifty word limit.  However, within the structure that seems powerful and strong, there is a frailty, which I think is essential to both the summary and work in general.

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caineorear | Student

The Great Gatsby is a novel about expectation, and the illusory nature of what we call the American dream.

The novel traces the fortunes of Jay Gatsby through the eyes of its narrator, Nick Carraway. Jay Gatsby, whose real name is James Gatz, is a young, wealthy man with a shadowy past who throws elaborate parties that are the very embodiment of the Jazz Age. He lives in a mansion off Long Island Sound and has a business relationship with a notorious racketeer named Meyer Wolfsheim. There are rumors circulating as to how Gatsby has acquired his fortune. It is later revealed that much of it was made through bootlegging.

Nick Carraway is a late twenty-something single man from the Midwest who moves to New York City to work in the bond business. He is friends with Tom and Daisy Buchanan whom he knew in college. He moves into a house next door to Gatsby, whom he soon befriends. He learns that Gatsby once courted Daisy. Gatsby asks Nick if he'll arrange a meeting between the two of them.

It is later revealed that Daisy is the motivation for Gatsby's fortune. She represents "the green light" at the end of the dock. Gatsby attempts to woo Daisy from her husband Tom Buchanan, a surly brute of a man who comes from old money and carries on an extramarital affair during the course of the novel with a woman named Myrtle Wilson.

In the end, Gatsby is unable to lure Daisy away from Tom, with whom Daisy has a young daughter. In a curious turn of events, Daisy runs over Tom's mistress, Myrtle Wilson, while driving Gatsby's car and kills her. Her husband, George thinks Gatsby killed her. In a fit of anger, he shoots and kills Gatsby in Gatsby's pool. Daisy has returned to Tom at this point.

Nick arranges the funeral for Gatsby. He realizes that he may have been Gatsby's only true friend, as the funeral is sparsely attended. The book ends with Nick's reflection on the settling of the northeast by the Dutch, calling the area a "fresh, green breast of the New World." He realizes that Gatsby's dream was "already behind him," and that his goal, Daisy, was always out of reach.