Nick Carraway, a young man from Minnesota who recently moved to New York to learn about the bond business, opens his story by describing himself. He is tolerant, slow to judge, and a good listener. As a result, people tend to share their secrets with him, including someone named Gatsby. Gatsby, Nick says, had a beautiful dream, but the people surrounding him ruined that dream. Nick is so disgusted with these people and their New York lifestyle that he has left New York and returned to Minnesota. In the summer of 1922, however, Nick had just arrived in New York and rented a house on a part of Long Island called West Egg. Unlike the conservative, aristocratic East Egg, West Egg is home to the "new rich," those who, having made their fortunes recently, have neither the social connections nor the refinement to move among the East Egg set. West Egg is characterized by lavish displays of wealth and garish poor taste. Nick's West Egg house is next to Gatsby's mansion, a sprawling Gothic monstrosity. Nick is unlike his West Egg neighbors--he graduated from Yale and has social connections on East Egg. One night, he drives out to East Egg to have dinner with his cousin Daisy and her husband Tom Buchanan, a former member of Nick's social club at Yale. Tom, a powerful figure dressed in riding clothes, meets Nick on the porch. Inside, Daisy lounges on a couch with her friend Jordan Baker, a competitive golfer who yawns as though bored by her surroundings. Tom tries to interest the others in a racist book called The Rise of the Colored Empires, by a man named Goddard. Daisy teases Tom about the book, but is interrupted when Tom leaves the room to take a phone call. Daisy follows him, and Jordan tells Nick that the call is from Tom's lover in New York. After an awkward dinner, the party breaks up; Jordan wants to go to bed because she has a golf tournament the next day. As Nick leaves, Tom and Daisy hint that they would like him to take a romantic interest in Jordan. When Nick arrives home, he sees Gatsby for the first time, standing on the lawn with his arms reaching out toward the dark water. Nick looks out at the water, but all he can see is a distant green light that might mark the end of a dock. CHAPTER 2:
Halfway between West Egg and New York City sprawls a desolate plain, a gray valley where New York's ashes are dumped; the men who live here work at shoveling up the ashes. Over the valley of ashes, two huge blue eyes stare down from an enormous sign. These spectacle-rimmed eyes--the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg--are the last vestige of an advertising gimmick by a long-vanished eye doctor, and they watch unblinking over everything that happens in the valley of ashes. Tom drives Nick to George B. Wilson's garage, which sits on the edge of the valley of ashes. Tom's lover Myrtle is Wilson's wife, and lives there with him. Wilson is a lifeless, yet handsome man; Myrtle has a kind of desperate vitality. Tom takes Nick and Myrtle to New York, to the Morningside Heights apartment he keeps for his affair with Myrtle. Here they have a party with Myrtle's sister Catherine and a couple named McKee. Catherine has bright red hair, wears a great deal of makeup, and tells Nick that she has heard Gatsby is the nephew or cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm, the ruler of Germany during the first World War. The McKees, who live downstairs, are a horrid couple: Mr. McKee is pale and feminine, Mrs. McKee is shrill. The group proceeds to drink to excess--Nick claims that this party is only the second time in his life that he has been drunk.
The ostentatious behavior and conversation of everyone at the party repulses Nick, and he tries to leave. At the same time, he finds himself fascinated by the lurid spectacle of the group. Myrtle grows louder and more obnoxious as she drinks, and shortly after her new puppy arrives, she begins to talk about Daisy. Tom responds by lashing out with his open hand and breaking her nose, which brings the party...
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