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SHORT PLOT/CHAPTER SUMMARY (Synopsis)
In the spring, Nick Carraway, a young, moral, and conservative young man from the Midwest, has come to New York to learn the bond business and to escape the confining small town environment of his youth. He rents a small bungalow on West Egg, next door to the mansion of Jay Gatsby and across the bay from the home of his cousin, Daisy Buchanan. Shortly after his arrival, Daisy invites him to come for dinner with her, her husband, Tom, and her friend, Jordan Baker. When he arrives at their home, Nick is amazed at the size of it; he is also amazed at the purposelessness of their lives. Daisy, always dressed in white, seems to float about without a serious thought or any ability to plan anything meaningful; Jordan is no better. Tom seems to care only about his polo ponies and his mistress. When he leaves the Buchanan's, Nick feels disgusted and unsettled by what he has seen. When he arrives home, he spies his neighbor, Jay Gatsby, for the first time. He is standing out back, looking across the bay with his hands outstretched towards a green light at the end of some dock in East Egg.
In July, Nick finds himself on the train into the city with Tom Buchanan. When they stop near the Valley of Ashes, Tom insists that the two of them get off the train so that he can introduce Nick to his mistress, Myrtle Wilson. It is decided that they will all go in to the city and have a party at Myrtle's apartment, which Tom keeps for their affair. Nick tries to get out of it, but Tom is insistent that he joins in the fun. Several people come to the party, and it gets out of hand with too much liquor being served. Even the moral Nick admits he has too much to drink. It is Tom and Myrtle, however, who seem the most inebriated. When she taunts her lover by shouting Daisy's name to him, he hits her and breaks her nose. Nick is repulsed by the violence.
Later in the month, Jay Gatsby sends his chauffeur over to Nick's house with an invitation for him to attend a party the next Saturday night. Nick accepts and arrives at the party with great curiosity. He is amazed at the lavishness he sees. A full bar, with a brass rail, has been set up, and the back yard has been turned into a ballroom, complete with orchestra. Nick carefully surveys the crowd, trying to find the host, whom he has never met. He wanders through the house, encountering several strange characters including a drunken man in the library whom he calls "Owl Eyes." Not finding his host, however, he is relieved to see Jordan Baker. They spend most of the evening together. At one point, as they are seated at a table, they are joined by a young man in his thirties. He seems to recognize Nick, and they discover that they were in the same division in the army. When the newcomer asks Nick to take a hydroplane flight with him the next day, he discovers he is talking to his host and neighbor, Jay Gatsby. Nick had imagined him to be much older.
Not long after Nick's first experience at a Gatsby party, his host comes for a visit in order to take Nick into New York for lunch. It is obvious that Gatsby has something on his mind. During their journey, he gives Nick information about his past, trying to impress him by saying he won war medals and attended Oxford. He also reveals that he has a favor to ask of Nick, but says that Jordan Baker will tell him what it is. Nick is a bit miffed, for he cannot understand why Gatsby does not just ask himself, and he does not want to spend his evening with Jordan discussing Gatsby.
At lunch, Nick is horrified to learn that Gatsby's other guest is Meyer Wolfsheim, the man who fixed the World Series in 1917. He is also horrified that his host slips away without saying a word of good-bye when they bump into Tom Buchanan. Nick departs and goes to meet Jordan Baker for tea. She tells him that Gatsby's request is for Nick to invite his cousin Daisy over to his house and invite Gatsby as well. Daisy, however, is not to know that Gatsby is coming. Jordan then tells Nick that Daisy had dated Gatsby when she was eighteen and he was a soldier stationed in Louisville. When he received orders to leave Louisville and go to Europe to fight in the war, Daisy planned to run away and marry him, but her parents stopped her. For awhile, she remained faithful to Gatsby; soon, however, she tired of waiting and began to date Tom Buchanan, a wealthy young man from a socially prominent family in Chicago. Before long, she accepted his proposal of marriage and wrote Gatsby a letter to end their relationship.
On the day of the tea to be held at Nick's bungalow, a very nervous Gatsby arrives, worried that Daisy will not come. When she drives up in her convertible, Gatsby can hardly stand it; in fact, he runs out of Nick's house to gain control and to allow Daisy to come inside. He then comes from the back to ring the front doorbell. The first few minutes are very awkward, but the two of them are soon talking about old times. Gatsby insists that he take Daisy on a tour of his house and asks Nick to come along. Gatsby seems to rejudge the value of everything in his house according to Daisy's reaction to it. He simply cannot believe that after all these years of waiting and planning his dream girl is actually in his home.