The Great Gatsby: Summary (Chapter 1)

Summary (Chapter 1)

Nick Carraway, Yale graduate and the story’s narrator, moves to New York and rents a house in West Egg, the place that represents “new money”. His cousin, Daisy Buchanan, lives in East Egg with her husband, Tom.

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Welcome The Great Gatsby Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis page prepared by our editorial team!

📖 Summary

At the beginning of The Great Gatsby‘s Chapter 1, Nick Carraway introduces himself as the narrator of this story. He proceeds with recalling his father’s advice: never criticize or make quick judgments about other people:

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’”

(The Great Gatsby, chapter 1)

So Nick has become tolerant and moral thanks to that. He mentions that in college, he “was unjustly accused of being a politician because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men.” As an example, he introduces Gatsby, a man whose actions he despised, but Nick never judged him. Instead, he thinks Gatsby was a victim of the “foul dust.”

Nick Carraway moves to New York in 1922 to chase a career in the bond business. He rents a house in West Egg, a part of Long Island. Just across the bay, there is East Egg, which is where aristocratic “old money” families live. West Egg is for families who have become rich only recently and don’t have many social connections. They are trying to show off as much as possible, having huge houses of poor taste. That’s why the East Egg community dislikes them. However, Nick’s house is rather moderate compared to Gatsby’s enormous mansion. The latter looks more like a hotel than a home for one man.

Also, Nick appears to have connections in East Egg. One night he goes there to have dinner with Buchanans since Daisy Buchanan is Nick’s cousin. He seems to know her husband, Tom, from the times they were at Yale.

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“His family were enormously wealthy – even in college his freedom with money was a matter for reproach… It was hard to realize that a man in my own generation was wealthy enough to do that.”

(The Great Gatsby, chapter 1)

When he arrives, Mr. Buchanan meets him wearing a riding outfit. And even though Tom is polite, his arrogance is not left unnoticed by Nick. Daisy and her friend Jordan Baker are relaxing on the couch inside. Jordan Baker is a young professional golfer. She looks pretty but seems to be bored by everything happening around her.

At dinner, Daisy mentions her daughter, Pammy Buchanan, and expresses her hopes that she will grow up to be beautiful but foolish.

“I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool”.

(The Great Gatsby, chapter 1)

Tom is pushing the book called The Rise of the Colored Empires on others. It talks about how a minority is trying to take over a superior group of the Nordic people. However, his speech is interrupted by a phone call, and he leaves the room. Daisy rushes to follow him, and Jordan explains to Nick that the phone call is from Tom’s mistress in New York.

When the dinner ends, Jordan leaves to have a rest before the next day’s golf event. Nick is also about to leave when Tom and Daisy suggest he starts a romance with Jordan.

After Nick comes home, a young man appears in the yard. Nick sees him as relaxed and confident, so he assumes it is Mr. Gatsby. He is about to approach him, but Gatsby suddenly stretches his arms towards the water and stares in the dark. Nick decided not to ruin this moment of privacy. However, looking across the bay, he doesn’t see anything except for the green light that may be marking the end of a dock.

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🎭 Active Characters

Nick Carraway, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan, Jordan Baker, Jay Gatsby.

🔥 Active Themes

Theme of social class in The Great Gatsby.Theme of money in The Great Gatsby.Theme of gender in The Great Gatsby.
Social ClassMoneyGender

🔬 The Great Gatsby: Analysis of Chapter 1

Nick Carraway, as the narrator, plays an essential role in The Great Gatsby. His analysis of the situations and annotations he makes throughout the novel are the core of the story. Nick also can be considered as a mediator between the social classes. He should have been behaving the same as other “new money” arrogant people as he comes from a wealthy family and is a graduate of Yale. Instead, thanks to how his father raised him, he shows some decency and moderation. Therefore, Nick Carraway acts as an intermediary in this story.

As was mentioned in a short summary of The Great Gatsby‘s Chapter one, Nick poses himself as tolerant and someone who doesn’t judge others. However, his motives are unclear. Instead of doing it out of a pure wish not to harm people’s feelings, he might be doing it to earn their trust. The way he describes his best personal traits shows that he thinks he’s privileged and better than others. That’s why he was called a politician in college.

In Chapter 1, Fitzgerald introduces some vocabulary such as “old/new money” and “foul dust.” That’s the way of representing the book’s central theme: the clash between the social classes. There is no need for the complete The Great Gatsby‘s analysis to see that it is traced throughout the whole book. It starts when Nick describes the area he moves to in New York.

East Egg and West Egg are neighboring areas only divided by a bay. However, even the fact that they are across each other represents their opposition.

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  • West Egg, represented by Gatsby, is where all the families who made their fortune recently live. They are overdoing it with their large distasteful houses and showy manners.
  • East Egg, represented by Buchanans, is a home for aristocratic families who have high social positions. Aristocrats show their disgust towards the style and manners of their unworthy neighbors. The Conclusion is that they might be feeling threatened by the new rich.

All the characters Nick meets at dinner, demonstrate the typical “old money” attitude, full of arrogance and cynicism. This scene contains quotes that can be related to the usual East Egg people. Tom’s personality is the opposite of Nick’s. From the very first time they met, Nick knows that even Tom’s expensive clothes can’t hide his dishonesty, hypocrisy, and corruption. Later on, his racist remarks and apparent affair only prove it. Daisy is trying to be sarcastic when she leaves that comment about her daughter. Jordan Baker is the last drop in the ocean of cynicism and emptiness of the East Egg. She looks gorgeous and seems smart, but all her persona radiates desperate boredom.

But all of it only raises more questions about the theme of shallowness in the book. Gatsby’s enormous mansion, the Buchanans mask show, and even Jordan’s attitude reflect on the inner emptiness of the society in the Roaring Twenties.

At the end of the chapter, Gatsby appears as a mysterious young man, acting differently from the rest. Nick doesn’t know anything about him yet, as Gatsby’s character brings some freshness and intrigue.

🎓 References

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IvyPanda. (2021, June 16). Summary (Chapter 1). Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/lit/the-great-gatsby-study-guide/summary-chapter-1/

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"Summary (Chapter 1)." IvyPanda, 16 June 2021, ivypanda.com/lit/the-great-gatsby-study-guide/summary-chapter-1/.

1. IvyPanda. "Summary (Chapter 1)." June 16, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/the-great-gatsby-study-guide/summary-chapter-1/.


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IvyPanda. "Summary (Chapter 1)." June 16, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/the-great-gatsby-study-guide/summary-chapter-1/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Summary (Chapter 1)." June 16, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/the-great-gatsby-study-guide/summary-chapter-1/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Summary (Chapter 1)'. 16 June.