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PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS
The Great Gatsby, considered by many critics to be one of the most well written and tightly structured novels in American literature, is an extremely complex story about a totally interesting character, an absolute dreamer named Jay Gatsby. The novel is really a story within a story, for Nick Carraway, the frame narrator of Gatsby's plot, is really a protagonist himself. Additionally, there is another subplot revolving around the triangle of Myrtle, Wilson, and Tom. Much of the story is also told as flashbacks, so the chronological order of the plot is constantly interrupted. Fitzgerald, however, masterfully intertwines all the plots and all the flashbacks into a wonderfully unified whole.
Nick's plot is a simple one. A moral and conservative young man raised in the Midwest, he feels limited by the mentality and lifestyle of his small hometown; he is not even sure about the young lady he is supposed to marry. As a result, he seeks to find freedom and himself on the East coast. He takes a job in New York City to learn the bond business and rents a small bungalow on the fashionable island of West Egg.
The rising action for him begins when his distant cousin, Daisy Buchanan, invites him to have lunch at her house with her husband Tom, her friend Jordan Baker, and herself. From that point forward, Nick is pulled into the tangled web of the careless lifestyle of the extremely wealthy from East Egg. He soon begins to date Jordan, whom he finds to be a shallow and selfish female and an incurable liar. He is taken by Tom to meet Myrtle, his mistress, and is drawn into a wild party at her apartment, that ends with Tom breaking her nose. He is taken to lunch by his neighbor, Jay Gatsby, and meets his business associate, Meyer Wolfsheim, a racketeer who fixed the World Series. He is innocently ensnared in the affair between Gatsby and Daisy and is in the hotel room when Tom confronts Gatsby about the affair. Ironically, the day of the Gatsby/Tom argument happens to be Nick's thirtieth birthday, a mark of the passing of youth.
It is also the day that marks the climax of Nick's plot, for he realizes that the lifestyle in the East is too shallow and careless for him. He does not want to be associated with people as uncaring and immoral as the Buchanan's; it is on this climatic day that Daisy kills Myrtle in a hit-and-run accident and acts like nothing has happened. Nick makes the decision, unconsciously at first, to return to the Midwest and marry his hometown sweetheart. When Gatsby is needlessly shot by Wilson and no one shows up at his funeral, Nick knows he has made the correct decision. His story ends in comedy, for he has found his true self, which definitely belongs to the moral Midwest.Gatsby's plot is much more complex, for it unfolds through a series of flashbacks and really begins long before the chronology of the actual story told in the novel. As a poor, young soldier stationed in Louisville, he meets and falls in love with Daisy Fay, the most popular and wealthy girl in town. Attracted to Gatsby herself, Daisy plans to run away and marry him, but her parents step in to prevent it. After Gatsby is sent to fight the war in Europe, Daisy remains faithful to him for a while; but she soon grows restless and impatient for Gatsby to return. When he does not come home, she meets, falls in love with, and marries Tom Buchanan, a very wealthy young man from Chicago. Gatsby is crushed at the news and determines he will devote his life to winning Daisy back for himself. It is an impossible dream, but one to which he is totally committed. When the plot actually begins in the book, Gatsby has amassed a fortune through bootlegging and other illegal means. He buys an ostentatious mansion, directly across the bay from Daisy Buchanan. He gives extravagant parties on a regular basis to which everyone is invited, in hopes that Daisy my some day show up at one of them.
When Nick Carraway moves into the bungalow next door, Gatsby befriends him. He soon finds out that Nick is a distant cousin to Daisy, and he thinks his dream is a step closer to reality. He has Nick invite Daisy over for a tea, to which Gatsby is also invited. The affair between Gatsby and Daisy develops from that point forward. Gatsby feels like he has found his holy grail; unfortunately, the affair for Daisy is just a relief to her boredom in life. She ha no intention of leaving the security of her lifestyle with Tom to be with Gatsby. What she would really like is to have both men in her life. Tom, however, will not allow that. When he realizes that Daisy is involved with Gatsby, he confronts her lover. Gatsby naively tells Tom that Daisy does not love him and has never loved him. Tom forces Daisy into a decision, and she cannot say that she has never loved Tom. As a result, Tom is the victor, for he has Daisy for a wife and Gatsby has a shattered dream, meaning a shattered life. Even though the scene in the room at the Plaza Hotel is the moment of climax for Gatsby, he refuses to give up.
Even after Daisy accidentally kills Myrtle and refuses to stop at the scene of the accident, Gatsby stands by her, willing to take the blame in her place. He goes to the Buchanan house and keeps a vigil outside her window, to make sure she is safe. Daisy is truly unworthy of such devotion, but Gatsby never realizes that. His dream, his ideal, is too important; it has been the motivating factor of his entire adult life.