F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 classic, The Great Gatsby, is a quintessential exploration of the gilded age, a time where wealth and corruption reigned.
The unassuming Nick Carraway narrates the story, but the true protagonist is, of course, the ludicrously wealthy and mysterious Jay Gatsby.
Gatsby is famous for throwing lavish parties at his sprawling waterfront mansion in Great Neck, Long Island. He’s charming, generous, and endlessly optimistic, but as the story unfolds, we see another side to him. Underneath all the sparkle, glitz and glamour, lies a lost and lonely man who uses his wealth to chase his dreams of finding fulfillment and love. But as the age-old saying goes, money can’t buy you happiness, and that’s what this book is all about.
Iconic Quotes from The Great Gatsby
These 50 iconic quotes from The Great Gatsby give us a fascinating glimpse of an opulent bygone era while reminding us that true wealth doesn’t come in material form.
“Thirty–the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair.”
“In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.”
“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
“It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard drinking people.”
“You see I usually find myself among strangers because I drift here and there trying to forget the sad things that happened to me.”
“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”
“I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
“His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete.”
“Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered “Listen,” a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour.”
“The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”
“Can’t repeat the past?…Why of course you can!”
“And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”
“There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams — not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.”
“I hope she’ll be a fool — that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”
“I’ve been drunk for about a week now, and I thought it might sober me up to sit in a library.”
“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
“I wasn’t actually in love, but I felt a sort of tender curiosity.”
“If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay,” said Gatsby. “You always have a green light that burns at the end of your dock.”
Daisy put her arm through his abruptly but he seemed absorbed in what he had just said. Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to him, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted things had diminished by one.”
“And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther….And one fine morning—
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
“Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.”
“There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.”
“If that was true he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about…like that ashen, fantastic figure gliding toward him through the amorphous trees.”
“He looked at her the way all women want to be looked at by a man.”
“Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.”
“They’re a rotten crowd’, I shouted across the lawn. ‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”
“He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced–or seemed to face–the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”
“The exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic in the rain.”
“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”
“Ah,” she cried, “you look so cool.”
Their eyes met, and they stared together at each other, alone in space. With an effort she glanced down at the table.You always look so cool,” she repeated.
She had told him that she loved him, and Tom Buchanan saw.”
“Reserving judgements is a matter of infinite hope.”
“All I kept thinking about, over and over, was ‘You can’t live forever; you can’t live forever.”
“It takes two to make an accident.”
“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away.
“She’s got an indiscreet voice,” I remarked. “It’s full of–” I hesitated.
“Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly.
That was it. I’d never understood before. It was full of money–that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it.”
“There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind…”
“…and for a moment I thought I loved her. But I am slow-thinking and full of interior rules that act as brakes on my desires”
“Do you ever wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it!”
“Life is much more successfully looked at from a single window.”
“She was feeling the pressure of the world outside and she wanted to see him and feel his presence beside her and be reassured that she was doing the right thing after all.”
“Each night he added to the pattern of his fancies until drowsiness closed down upon some vivid scene with an oblivious embrace. For awhile these reveries provided an outlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing.”
“It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down, as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again.”
“No–Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.”
“A stirring warmth flowed from her, as if her heart was trying to come out to you concealed in one of those breathless, thrilling words.”
“You said a bad driver was only safe until she met another bad driver? Well, I met another bad driver, didn’t I? I mean it was careless of me to makes such a wrong guess. I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person I thought it was your secret pride.”
“I’m thirty,” I said. “I’m five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor.”
She didn’t answer. Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away.”
“What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon?” cried Daisy, “and the day after that, and the next thirty years?”
“Once in a while I go off on a spree and make a fool of myself, but I always come back, and in my heart I love her all the time.”
“For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened – then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret, like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.”
“I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye. I like to walk up Fifth Avenue and pick out romantic women from the crowd and imagine that in a few minutes I was going to enter their lives, and no one would ever know or disapprove. Sometimes, in my mind, I followed them to their apartments on the corners of hidden streets, and they turned and smiled back at me before they faded through a door into warm darkness. At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others—poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner—young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.”
“The rich get richer and the poor get – children.”
“For a transitory enchanted moment, man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.”
The Great Gatsby is one of the most iconic novels of the 20th century, transporting us into a lavish world of wealth, excess, and excitement. But this cautionary tale also reminds us that no matter how much money we have, we can never buy happiness.
What are your favorite Gatsby quotes? Let me know in the comments below!