Chapter I


Narrator Nick Carraway begins his story with a commentary on how, in his youth, he came to 'reserve all judgements' on people, giving himself time to form accurate, more detailed impressions of them. Nick then describes how he left the Midwest, where his family was socially prominent, to the East to pursue a career finance, and how he found a small bungalow on Long Island next to an expensive mansion to rent. Finally, he describes being invited to the home (on the opposite side of the Island) of his distant cousin Daisy and her husband Tom, a former college football star from a very wealthy family.

When he arrives, Nick is met by Tom, who shows him into the living room where Daisy waits with her friend, evidently very bored Miss Jordan Baker. After some aimless small talk, the quarter goes out onto the terrace to eat, the course of their casual conversation interrupted by a telephone call for Tom. Shortly after he goes in to answer it, Daisy follows, and soon they are heard shouting at each other. Miss Baker tells Nick that Tom is seeing another woman in New York City.

Tom and Daisy eventually return, but conversation is tense, becoming even more so when the telephone rings again but is not answered. Shortly afterward, when Tom and Miss Baker go into the house, Daisy speaks in confidence with Nick about how bad time she's had over the last few years and how she feels distant recently from her recently born daughter. She also speaks of how cynical she is, how she thinks 'everything is terrible anyhow', and how everybody else thinks the same.

When Nick and Daisy go back inside, they discover that Jordan Baker, a well known athlete whose name is, in Nick's mind, associated with a dimly remembered scandal, and Tom have been reading to each other. Shortly after Jordan goes to bed, Nick leaves and is walked to his car by Daisy and Tom. When he gets home, Nick sits in his yard for a while, and notices Gatsby come out of his house. Nick almost calls to him but stops as Gatsby, thinking he is alone and unwatched, stretches his arms towards the sea. Nick glances over to see what Gatsby is looking at, and can see virtually nothing - only a green light blinking at the edge of a dock across the water. When he looks back, Gatsby is gone.

Themes and Character Analysis

Nick Carraway

  • Disillusioned narrator
  • Tells the story in hindsight
  • Has become aware of the unpredictability of people and the emptiness of the East-centered (evolution)
  • Party- and sensational filled life to which he aspired (evolution)

Tom Buchanan

  • Racist (the book he reads about black people)
  • Emotionally and physically violent
  • Self-righteous
  • Arrogant
  • Has an affair with another woman (Mrs. Wilson) and doesn't hide it


  • Manipulative
  • Emotionally needy
  • Self-indulgent
  • Fragile
  • Innocent
  • Plays the role of the beautiful and naive (innocent) girl to get things
  • Voice full of money (reason for marriage with Tom and affair with Gatsby later)

Jordan Baker

  • Diffident (shy)
  • Emotionally empty
  • Self-serving
  • Curious
  • Observing
  • Dishonest (necessary tactic to protect herself)
  • Careless

Difference between West and East

  • West : newly rich, aspiring social class, want to be like the people in the East
  • East : upper social class, aristocracy, established social position and power, strong influence


The sense here is that these sorts of characters, these sorts of people, are engaged in a self-indulgent, ultimately destructive, pattern of behavior and/or way of life.
The final moment of the chapter, with Gatsby gazing at Daisy's house and essentially reaching out to her and the dreams she represents, is also an important piece of foreshadowing in that it pre-echoes Gatsby's entire narrative and emotional journey, his reaching for a past that no longer really exists. The green light at the end of the dock, which reappears several times throughout the narrative (most notably at the end of the work), is a symbolic representation of that past.