Of all the boring books from high school that coughed up dust and out-of-style references in your face, The Great Gatsby stood out. Frankly, you enjoyed reading about the lifestyles of the rich and the famous and the slightly stalkerish of the 1920s—the same way you enjoyed your Gatsby-themed prom. Great Gatsby quotes stand the test of time.
Though published in 1925, The Great Gatsby quotes are still relevant almost 100 years later.
1. Dolla dolla bills yo
“‘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… high in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl.”
The entire plot of The Great Gatsby surrounds money. Gatsby got rich so that he could impress Daisy. Daisy married Tom because he could provide an affluent lifestyle for her (and she “fell in love”). Today, money runs everything. The amount of wealth the top one percent of America makes up at least 20 percent of the country’s wealth. Not to mention every other rapper (and their mother) spends their life rapping about being a millionaire.
2. Living in a material world, and I am a material girl (or boy)
“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy–they smashed 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.”
Fancy cars. Helicopters. Yachts. Mansions on the beach (or on Long Island). Welcome to materialistic America. If you don’t have these things, along with 15 pairs of Louboutins, how do you even live? We like things more than we like people sometimes. The idea of higher class living has appealed to all of us at one point or another. Today, we still live in a world where inventors like Elon Musk spend millions of dollars on five homes in Bel Air, as opposed to just one.
3. Networking is life
“…He had a grand vision for his life since he was a boy…. No amount of fire could challenge the fairytale he had stored up in his heart… But I had the uneasy feeling that he was guarding secrets.”
Every party Gatsby threw gave his guests an opportunity to get drunk and meet new people. Networking runs your professional and social circles, whether you network with people in your field or meet people that you could play golf with next week. Nick Carraway got to know the elites when he moved to New York and Daisy introduced him to her and Tom’s friends, and then Nick’s connection to Daisy piqued Gatsby’s interest. Nick formed shallow friendships with the elites of East and West End, and similar to those shallow friendships he formed, we too form those shallow friendships on social media today. Friending that one acquaintance from class for a new like on all your pictures could come in handy one day when you need to shoot them a message about a new crush that happens to be a mutual friend of both of you.
4. Project X, The Great Gatsby-fied
“He gives large parties, and I like large parties–they’re so intimate. Small parties, there isn’t any privacy.”
Gatsby’s parties were literally the Project Xs of the 1920s, except not as trashy and very classy indeed. We get wrapped up in the parties every weekend that we probably don’t even know the hosts of some of the parties we go to, like Gatsby. People saw him, but they didn’t know who he was. And they didn’t care. They didn’t know all the very real, very beautiful reasons why he threw these parties. To them, it was just something to do on a Saturday night. Gatsby’s parties are like the equivalent of spring break debauchery in today’s world.
5. The American Dream
“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.”
Millions of people come to America every year to achieve the American Dream that looms over our country. For some immigrants coming from violent countries in the midst of war, America offers a safe haven. For immigrants coming from countries at peace, but still don’t provide as many opportunities as the States, they come for those chances. For some, like Gatsby, the American Dream was a way for him to redefine the poverty he was born into.
6. You don’t always get the girl
“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.”
You’d think that after all of the grand romantic gestures, Gatsby would’ve gotten Daisy (not that she deserved him, honestly). He remade his entire life to get the person he thought would be his forever. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you don’t end up with your one true love, and it kills you. You can’t tell me that whenever your ex puts up a picture with his new girl on Facebook that your heart doesn’t sink a bit. Granted, social media makes it hard to avoid your ex’s pictures and subtweets. We can’t all be like Gatsby and purposely moved across the bay from our Daisy.
7. Gatsby, the OG Catfish
“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life…”
We’re all guilty of trying to be someone other than ourselves. Whether it was in high school where all you desperately wanted to fit in or at work one day when you wanted to appeal to your coworkers in a way that they related to, but you didn’t. It happens. Gatsby did it. He created a whole new person in his journey to win Daisy back. Think Catfish. A “catfish” creates a new identity, obsessed with impressing others. They often “catfish” because of some insecurities they have. Remind you of Gatsby? He molded himself into someone that he thought Daisy would love.
8. Old Money vs. New Money
“‘They’re a rotten crowd,’ I shouted across the lawn. ‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.’ I’ve always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him…”
The conversation of old money versus new money has raged for centuries. The people who belong to old money look down on the ones who belong to new money because since they just entered a higher economic class, they sometimes tend to overcompensate with grand displays of wealth. Tom and Daisy belonged to old money, which was one of the first things that made Tom not like Gatsby. In Manhattan, these old money and new money lines still exist, big and bold. The Upper East Side houses the Waldorfs and the Vanderbilts. Newbies, those who didn’t inherit their fortune, like Tina Fey, Denzel Washington and Matt Damon call the Upper West Side home.
9. Nostalgia at its finest
“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.”
We all have a bad habit of throwing ourselves into memories from the past when we miss someone or something. Gatsby can’t let go of what he had with Daisy and tries to bring out the feelings she once had for him. Tom goes on and on about his glory days in college. Nick longed for the excitement he felt when he fought in WWI, which brought him back to New York. Feeling nostalgic for the past happens to all of us, but you can’t repeat the past. We all have little something we carry with us or look at to remind us of things that no longer are. I mean, just rewatching your own Snap story 12 times the next morning after a night out feels nostalgic.
“As we crossed Blackwell’s Island a limousine passed us, driven by a white chauffeur, in which sat three modish Negroes, two bucks and a girl. I laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in haughty rivalry.”
Tom refers to the white race as the superior race. And at one point when Nick goes into the city, he’s surprised to see black people in a limo being driven by a white driver. Not to mention the rise of the Jazz Age in the 1920s brought light some of the bent up feelings people had about blacks, even after slavery had been abolished and all people were supposed to be treated equally. It brought out the extremists that had hidden those feelings because society told them to. The rise of the Jazz age increased membership in the Ku Klux Klan tremendously. Similarly, white extremists have begun to show themselves more now than they were 10 years ago.
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Written by Molly Snelling
11. IT’S PSL SZN
“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”
With fall comes the end of midterms and the end of working up a sweat while you run five minutes late to every class. Celebrate the start of the best season of the year with the return of the pumpkin spice latte. Embrace your inner basic bitch and snap a picture of a fall tree for your Instagram while you’re at it. Fitzgerald knows best—fall offers a time to start anew, so take advantage of this seasonal change by putting your best foot forward for the rest of the semester. Preferably in your new fall booties or some Adidas to match that PSL.
“All I kept thinking about, over and over, was ‘You can’t live forever; you can’t live forever.’”
These were Myrtle’s thoughts as she began her affair with Tom. In a modern context, these words possess a levity that appeals to our millennial desire for spontaneity. You Only Live Once, so why not give in to your friend peer pressuring you to go out on a Tuesday when you have a test Thursday? Repeat Myrtle’s mantra next time you find yourself deciding between Sunday Funday and locking yourself away in stacks.
13. YOU’RE #BLESSED
“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one . . . just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
We all like to whine, bitch and moan. But at the expense of someone else? Not necessary and not cool. Fitzgerald the sage pulls through here reminding us we don’t know the full story of that person who just made us irrationally annoyed. Give them the benefit of the doubt, and focus instead on all the good things you have in your life. Like that fact that your mom sends you selfies with your dog when you’re sad. Or that the Kardashians have enough drama going on right now to help you thoroughly procrastinate that research paper due next week.
14. ILLUSION VERSUS REALITY
“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.”
Even today, illusions consume our society. Instagram and Snapchat have enabled us to alter our real selves by way of filters, creating an illusion for those viewing us from their personal screens. Don’t be that girl who feels the need to use FaceTune on every picture. Taking ownership of the real you will inherently give you the confidence you need to be that strong, independent woman (or man).
15. EMPIRE STATE OF MIND
“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.”
The city that never sleep sparks the fancy of countless college students struggling to determine where their lives post-grad will begin. I cannot count myself out of this group. As my cousin Billy recently told me, “You’ll be so underpaid, but it’ll be the best years of your life.” We can’t get the magic of NYC out of our brains, willingly diving into every cliché we know comes along with it—the cramped apartment in some obscure, rundown building, the necessity of at least four roommates in order to pay the rent, the monthly struggle to make ends meet and to find a cheaper coffee shop to satisfy our addiction. Despite it all, for some of us the glitz, glam and possibility of New York outweigh these potential discomforts.
16. GIRL POWER
“I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”
Daisy, I have to disagree. In one of the most memorable quotes in all of The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald confines a woman’s ability to succeed to how far her beauty can get her. Though sexism and misogyny continue to rear their ugly heads in our society today, women band together to assert their worth and strengthen their collective voice. Women had to prove themselves in Fitzgerald’s time just as we have to prove ourselves today, but we are not alone. #MeToo.
17. SUNDAY VIBES
“I’ve been drunk for about a week now, and I thought it might sober me up to sit in a library.”
Preach. Sometimes you’ve done such a great job of neglecting your school work and all responsibility in general that the library acts as that nagging mom we all need to help us get back on track. Plus, this quote doesn’t exactly imply studying. You can really just sit in the library in your hungover stupor, hoping something about the old books and the other more grounded people surrounding you will eventually inspire you to pick up the pieces of your shambly life.
18. NAME A BETTER SQUAD…I’LL WAIT
“Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.”
Find your people and stick with them. Don’t waste any time with those fake friends who make you feel special for a hot minute before they drop you. Your real squad has been with you through thick and think—through the breakups and all the mistakes you made freshman year spring break on that boat with those random people you didn’t know…? Never mind. Thank your friends for putting up with you and show them you love them in more ways than just picking up the next round of drinks.
19. TIME TO DTR
“There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired.”
How does that relationship status on Facebook look? Either we pine over our crushes or we fend off swarms of suitors. According to this Gatsby truth, we define ourselves through our relationships to other people. You might identify with Kelly Clarkson’s banger Miss Independent, but you’ve still come to that place by deciding against what you recognize as the norm. Whether you’re FBO or free as a bird, own your status and remember that it’s more important to find the people who will get late night pizza with you than the love of your life. But if you can find someone who is both, wife her up.
20. NO RAGRETS
“Can’t repeat the past? … Why of course you can!”
College often feels very cyclical. Remember that bar you loved freshman year that you outgrew? It’s about to make a comeback. Or what about your addiction to cheesy bread that it took you the entirety of sophomore year to overcome? Sorry, you just relapsed. That guy who left the picture a while ago texted you again? Classic. Go with your gut and let the past resurface when it presents a positive opportunity. Some things should remain in the past, so use your best judgment to navigate the labyrinth of emotions, experiences and relationships. But always remember, college lets you feel like an adult without the consequences of actually being one, so no ragrets.
21. YOU DON’T HAVE TO TELL ME TWICE
“’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.”
That just about sums it up. Tell me something I don’t know.
THE TRUTH: WHAT STUDENTS REALLY THINK ABOUT THE GREAT GATSBY:
“Though I sometimes have difficulty relating to Fitzgerald’s stories, I think The Great Gatsby’s concept of the green light is brilliant. The notion of yearning for a consequential and validating Something, while not knowing exactly what it is you long for or whether that Something will live up to your expectations is a feeling that completely resonates with me.” – Claudia Muratore, senior, University of Virginia
“I like that Gatsby is a total undermining of the American Dream, which is something you don’t totally expect out of the 1920’s. It’s the gilded age of American bourgeois seen through the lens of an average Joe. It’s also applicable today, as it’s a commentary of the male gaze, which hasn’t changed much for the better in the 100 years since the book has been written. Gatsby romanticizes Daisy Buchanan by projecting his own version of perfection onto this woman he barely knows, attempting to possess her in is mind. This still rings ironic. Plus, the language evokes a sort of loneliness—the way every character strives for something vague in the distance but, by nature of its vagueness (you know, that green light off in the distance), can never achieve it.” – Serena Gleklen, senior, Georgetown University
“I think The Great Gatsby is overrated. It’s sort of a rite of passage in every American teenager’s high school English curriculum, but what does it really boil down to other than a big cliche? Life is hard and true love doesn’t even end up being true. The only really likable character in the novel is Nick, and his personality is pretty bland. I’m not trying to hate on a ‘great American classic,’ but I personally think Fitzgerald was just writing for the market.” – Sam Evans, sophomore, University of Tennessee
“I liked The Great Gatsby, because it’s one of my favorites by the Lost Generation. It uses fun imagery to tell a story of extravagance, but it also tells the important story of the rise and fall of the American Dream. I think F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of the best American writers, and Gatsby is an example of his success.” – Katherine Robb, senior, St. Joseph’s University
“The Great Gatsby is obviously amazing, because of its movie rendition with one of the best soundtracks to ever grace the big screen—but that couldn’t have happened without the text itself. All of the characters in Fitzgerald’s text bring a different layer of depth to the plot line, giving it a general sense of mystery that I love.” – Christopher Bowman, senior, Yale University
*Updated on October 25, 2017 by Molly Snelling to include 11 more quotes and “What Students Really Think of The Great Gatsby.”