F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is usually on any short list of nominees for the Great American Novel. But what makes the story--and Gatsby--so great? The novel is narrated by Nick Carraway one year after he has returned to the Midwest following an eventful stay on Long Island in 1922, the beginning of the Jazz Age. Nick works as at a bond trading firm in NYC, but rents a bungalow in West Egg, next to a mysterious millionaire named Jay Gatsby.
One night Nick is invited to dinner by his cousin, Daisy Buchanan, and her husband Tom. While there he realizes that Daisy is a shallow little snit who seems barely interested by her own three year old daughter and that Tom is a racist, philandering jock. At the dinner Nick meets the beautiful golfing champion Jordan Baker who is staying with the Buchanans. When Nick returns home, he is surprised by the odd appearance of Jay Gatsby standing outside his mansion, staring intently at a green light on the Buchanans' dock.
One Sunday afternoon, Nick goes to New York with Tom where they meet Myrtle Wilson, Tom's mistress. They attend a small party at which Myrtle begins to behave like an entitled socialite; like Tom's wife Daisy. Tom, already drunk, responds by breaking her nose after she repeatedly mentions Daisy's name. Revolted by the scene, Nick leaves.
Nick is soon invited to another party, this time by Gatsby. This time the party is an affair with moneyed guests from NYC attending in fancy cars and clothes. Nick finds Jordan at the party and they begin a romance of sorts by going off in search of the elusive Gatsby. It is midnight before Nick finally meets his host and Jordan questions whether Gatsby is the Oxford man who claims to be, or the bootlegger that others suspect.
Nick and Gatsby strike up a friendship and after a day spent in New York that includes a meeting with a gangster reputed to have been involved in the fixing of the 1919 World Series, Nick seriously begins to question Gatsby's story about coming from a wealthy family and going to school in England, though he believes that Gatsby was telling the truth about being deeply wounded by a failed love affair.
Jordan later confirms Nick's suspicion, and it shocked to find that Gatsby's doomed affair was with none other than Daisy. Gatsby was just a soldier at the time and losing Daisy to the wealthy Tom Buchanan, he became possessed with the idea of amassing his own fortune and winning her back. Nick finds out that Gatsby wants him to be the one who arranges their reunion.
The reunion takes place over tea at Nick's but quickly moves on to Gatsby's mansion. Daisy cries over Gatsby's silk shirts; Gatsby realizes that he's made Daisy into a object of goodness she can never live up to. He begins to lose interest in her, but still dances with her at a second party at his mansion to which Daisy and Tom are invited. Gatsby's dream of reigniting past passions still burns.
One Sunday afternoon, all five major characters decide to go to New York, where they rent a room at the Plaza and get drunk. The tension rises and soon Tom and Gatsby are arguing over Daisy, specifically which of them she loves. Daisy confesses that she does love Gatsby, but she feels sorry for Tom and begs that they leave. Tom tells her to drive home with Gatsby, that it mark the end of the affair. Daisy leaves, driving Gatsby's car. On the way home, she runs over and kills Myrtle Wilson, not even stopping to find out what happened. Nick, Jordan and Tom come upon the scene soon after and Tom explains to Myrtle's husband--his own mechanic--that that he didn't own the car despite the fact that it was he who was seen driving it to New York earlier.
Myrtle's husband finds out from Tom that Gatsby is the owner of the car that killed his wife and shoots Gatsby to death in his pool before turning the gun on himself. Tom and Daisy leave town, Tom still unaware that his wife is responsible for the death of his mistress and Nick heads back to tving had enough of the amorality and immorality of the East Coast.