It is the late spring of 1922.
Nick Carraway, the narrator and central character in the novel, introduces himself.
Nick is a mid-westerner, an Ivy League graduate, and a veteran of World War 1. Feeling restless after the war he has decided to leave the mid-west to come to New York and work in the bond business. He rents a small house on Long Island. He takes the train to and from the City to work.
Nick has a wealthy neighbor in a very big house next door – a man named Gatsby.
Also on Long Island, but across the bay from Nick’s place, live his old friends Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Tom was Nick’s college classmate, and Daisy is Nick’s second cousin. Nick has not seen them in recent years, but he becomes reacquainted since they live so close by. He goes to their place across the bay for dinner.
Tom Buchanan is very rich, very physical, and very arrogant about his position of privilege. He sees the world in terms of class and race distinctions.
Daisy is beautiful. In the way she looks, and the way she speaks, she is enchanting: “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 cared for her found difficult to forget.”
Tom is just as attracted to Daisy as the next fellow, but he has a mistress as well.
Nick meets Daisy’s friend Jordan Baker, a golfer, “a slender small breasted girl with an erect carriage which she accented by throwing her body back at the shoulders like a young cadet.”
Tom and Daisy have a child, and they have plenty of money, and in his hard way Tom seems to have things the way he wants them. But Daisy is unhappy.
In the evening, after returning home from dinner with the Buchanans and Jordan Baker, Nick glimpses his rich neighbor Gatsby standing on the lawn of his big house, facing the bay, and staring out into it.