Nick Carraway, the narrator of the novel, takes us back to the spring in 1922, when Wall Street was booming, and bootleggers were in business due to the alcohol ban. Nick travels to New York from the mid-west in order to become a bondsman. He takes residence in West Egg, next to a huge mansion which belongs to a mysterious Mr. Gatsby. Nick is reacquainted with Daisy and Tom Buchanan, a wealthy couple who lives across the bay from him. Nick befriends Gatsby, who is revealed to be infatuated with Daisy. Nick arranges for them to meet, and they began to have an affair. Tom, who is also having an affair with a married woman, confronts Daisy and Tom, and Daisy is forced to return to Tom. As Daisy and Gatsby drive off afterwards, they run over and kill Myrtle Wilson, Tom's mistress. Tom lies to Myrtle's husband, and tells him that Gatsby was the driver, when in reality, Daisy was driving. Wilson shoots Gatsby at his home afterwards, and then commits suicide. Nick is disillusioned with the life he planned for in New York, and returns west to his home town.
Nick reflects that just as Gatsby's dream of Daisy was corrupted by money and dishonesty, the American dream of happiness and individualism has disintegrated into the mere pursuit of wealth. Though Gatsby's power to transform his dreams into reality is what makes him “great,” Nick reflects that the era of dreaming—both Gatsby's dream and the American dream—is over.