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The Great Gatsby. Chapter One. Summary.

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the great gatsby

The Great Gatsby

Chapter One

  • The narrator of The Great Gatsby is a young man from Minnesota named Nick Carraway. He begins by commenting on himself, stating that he learned from his father to reserve judgment about other people, because if he holds them up to his own moral standards, he will misunderstand them. Nick describes himself as highly moral and very tolerant. Nick worked in the bond business and rented a house on a part of Long Island called West Egg. West Egg is where the new rich live compared with East Egg which is where the old rich live with higher social class. Gatsby lives in West Egg where as Tom and Daisy stay in East Egg. One evening Nick goes to his cousin Daisy’s for dinner which is where he meets Jordan Baker, a professional athlete who is friends with Daisy. While everyone is enjoying their evening Tom gets a private phone call from his mistress in New York. This is the point that we find out that they are in an open relationship and that it is not only Daisy who knows about Tom’s affair but also the rest of the neighbourhood. When Nick arrive s home after the party he see’s Gatsby, standing on the grass. He intends to go and introduce himself but decides against it thinking Gatsby would prefer to be alone. He watches Gatsby for a minute or two then takes his eyes off him, then Gatsby vanishes.
important quotes in chapter one
Important Quotes in Chapter One

S. Tom receives a phone call during dinner from his mistress in New York which Daisy is not happy about.

Q. “She might have the decency not to telephone him at dinner time. Don’t you think?”

A. Jordan tells us of the phone call Tom received from his mistress in New York. This shows that Tom has affairs and Daisy is aware of this as she knows about Myrtle, yet does not stop him from seeing her.

S. East Egg is a very upper class place to live with large homes and those who live there have expensive lifestyles.

Q. “ The lawn started at the beach and ran towards the front door for quarter of a mile, jumping over sundials and brick walls and burning gardens – finally when it reached the house drifting up the side in bright vines as though from the momentum of its run.”

A. This describes how upper class East Egg is when compared to West Egg, it shows the people who live here live lavish lifestyles and a life of luxury.

S. The characters in the novel all live with some form of hope which the green light symbolises.
  • “Involuntarily I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock.”

A. The green light represents Gatsby’s hopes and dreams for the future which he wishes to share with Daisy. The green light also symbolises hope for the other characters in the novel in order for them to be in the right relationship.

S. Daisy thinks very highly of herself and thinks she is sophisticated.

Q. “I KNOW. I've been everywhere and seen everything and done everything…Sophisticated - God, I'm sophisticated.”

A. Shows how Daisy perceives herself as sophisticated where as others would say different.

  • She’s trapped in a marriage that she is unhappy in and trapped in a world where she is unable to be free and independent. The word careless describes Daisy well as she has become very much wrapped up in herself part of this is due to the fact that she has been spoilt all her life. Daisy was born into money and has had an endless assortment of men who have continued to spoil her. Daisy has learned to think only of herself without any regard for the people it may hurt. She also comes across as quite shallow and foolish. As Daisy delivered her daughter she described girls as being fools – “that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool”.
  • Daisy is smart enough to understand the limits imposed on her and has become jaded and indulgent because of them.

S. Nick Carroway is an honest man who doesn’t judge people on their first appearance.

Q. “I’m inclined to reserve all judgements, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me”.

  • Unlike the rest of the characters in this chapter Nick does not judge people upon there first appearance.

Nick acts as a *liaison between Gatsby and Daisy. Despite repeatedly insisting that he prides himself on his own honesty, Nick continually aligns himself with next door neighbour Gatsby who’s entire existence is a *fabrication remaining loyal to his friend.

*fabrication = to make something up

*liaison = A close relationship, connection, or link


Tom has been born into a wealthy family and so he has never had to work a day in his life. He is having an affair with Myrtle, George Wilson’s wife from New York. Tom flaunts the relationship in public because he does not concern himself with consequences of his actions.

S. Tom comes across as an aggressive character,

Q. “I hate that word hulking, objected Tom crossly”.

  • This shows Tom’s aggressive nature and how easily he becomes angry.

Tom is also a careless man who will not be bothered by the suffering he causes. He is in an open relationship with Daisy.

jordan baker
Jordan Baker
  • Jordan Baker is a very dishonest character in The Great Gatsby. She is a tournament golfer, Nick tells us about Jordan cheating at her first competition, showing us dishonesty and that she is a competitive woman. She is an old friend of Daisy’s meaning she can give Nick all the information he wants to know.
  • Jordan Baker symbolises a modern woman in the novel, she dresses like she wants, drinks, smokes and has sex because she enjoys them. Also she is very masculine compared with the woman at that time, eg. Her name, her build.

East and West Egg – Wealth and social class plays a large part in the novel which becomes apparent in chapter one. Tom and Daisy live in East Egg which is far more refined and well bred. Nick and Gatsby are on West Egg which is for people who don’t really have any real standing and were not born into money. There is a barrier of water between East and West Egg which can be seen to keep people from either side away from each other.

Nick “ I lived at West Egg, the – well, the less fashionable of the two”


Green Light – The Green light represents hope for the characters, especially Gatsby who has longed for money, success and a relationship with Daisy. The Green light shines from the East Egg enticing Gatsby towards what he has always wanted. And Daisy, the woman that Gatsby has always wanted but never got, lives on East Egg. The green light is very symbolic in regards to each character as they all have something they long and search for in the distance and in the future. “Involuntarily I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock.”


Social divide is a major theme in The Great Gatsby and contributes to the differences between East Egg and West Egg. East Egg is classed as the old rich as it is where the people who are born into a wealthy family live whereas West Egg is classed as the old rich as the people who live there seem to accumulate money in other ways rather than be born inao it, they are more likely to work for it. The new rich seem to lack social grace and taste e.g.. Gatsby lives in a large mansion, wears a pink suit and drives a Rolls-Royce. The old rich live who live in East Egg possess taste but seems to lack in compassion, they prove themselves to be quite careless and do not regard other peoples thoughts and feelings e.g. Tom is in an affair with Myrtle but doesn’t spare a thought for the impact it has on his family.


Most of this chapter is set at the Buchanan’s house which is situated in East Egg, surrounded by wealth and higher social class. Nearer the end of the chapter, Nick see’s Gatsby standing on the grass of his mansion, which is in West Egg.

key incident
Key Incident

In chapter one the key incident takes place during the evening meal at the Buchanan’s mansion with Jordan and Nick. When Tom receives a phone call from his mistress, Myrtle Wilson, from New York. Whilst Tom is on the phone Jordan tells Nick about Tom having an affair. Also at this point we find out that Daisy knows about Tom having this affair.

“She might have the decency not to telephone him at dinner time. Don’t you think?”