In The Great Gatsby, how does Gatsby die?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jay Gatsby, the title character of F. Scott Fitzgerald's opus The Great Gatsby, is a complex character. He came from poverty, worked hard in the military, and eventually became a very successful bootlegger during Prohibition. As it happens, his goal throughout the novel is Daisy, a women who came from a higher social class, and his frequent parties are all attempts to see and woo her.

Near the end of the novel, Myrtle Wilson is killed by a hit-and-run; it turns out that Daisy and Gatsby were in the car, Daisy driving. Myrtle's husband George tracks down the information and then kills Gatsby, who is relaxing on an inflatable mattress in his pool, before turning the gun on himself:

...the laden mattress moved irregularly down the pool. A small gust of wind that scarcely corrugated the surface was enough to disturb its accidental course with its accidental burden... the gardener saw Wilson's body a little way off in the grass, and the holocaust was complete.
(Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Google Books)

Ironically, neither George or Myrtle were directly involved with Gatsby or his bootlegging; their connection comes from Myrtle's affair with Tom Buchanan, husband of Daisy. George's anger at his wife's affair is far outclassed by his grief at her death; he kills Gatsby, thus closing the circle.

Read the study guide:
The Great Gatsby

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