The Tragic Demise of Jay Gatsby: A Detailed Analysis

The renowned novel, “The Great Gatsby,” penned by the famous American author F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a literary masterpiece that transports us back to the Roaring Twenties. The narrative is filled with opulence, glamour, and the tumultuous lives of the wealthy denizens of East Egg and West Egg. At the same time, the novel ends in tragedy, with the central character, Jay Gatsby, meeting a bitter end.

This article will extensively dissect the circumstances and causes that led to Jay Gatsby’s tragic death, answering the question: how did Gatsby die?

A Brief Introduction to Jay Gatsby

Jay Gatsby, the protagonist of the novel, resides in an extravagant mansion in West Egg, New York, located on the outskirts of Long Island. Despite his modest upbringing, Gatsby manages to amass a significant wealth, primarily attributed to illicit activities like bootlegging.

Gatsby’s Journey to Wealth

Gatsby’s initial inheritance of $25,000 from his mentor gave him financial independence, but ironically, he squanders it away due to an unfortunate relationship. This incident forces Gatsby to traverse the dangerous path of bootlegging to regain his wealth.

The Era of Prohibition and Bootlegging

The 1920s marked the era of Prohibition, with the 18th Amendment banning the production and sale of alcohol. This led to the rise of illegal drinking joints known as speakeasies and the rampant smuggling of liquor, known as bootlegging. The ‘booze’ was smuggled across the Great Lakes from Canada by people working for notorious gangsters. It is suggested that Gatsby was involved in such illicit activities, rubbing shoulders with the criminal underworld, a dangerous association that played a role in his eventual demise.

The Complex Love Triangle and Gatsby’s Downfall

Gatsby’s infatuation with Daisy Buchanan, a woman of a higher social class, forms the crux of the novel. The two shared a profound relationship in their past, but their love story took a tragic turn when Gatsby had to leave for the war. Daisy, unable to hold onto her past love, marries Tom Buchanan. Despite her marriage, Daisy and Gatsby continue to harbor feelings for each other, leading to a secret affair.

Simultaneously, Tom embarks on an extramarital affair with Myrtle Wilson, George Wilson’s wife. George and Myrtle reside in the poverty-stricken area known as the Valley of Ashes. These convoluted relationships set the stage for the tragic events that would unravel, leading to Gatsby’s demise.

The Chain of Tragic Events

The first casualty in the novel is Myrtle Wilson. In a heated argument at the Plaza Hotel, Daisy chooses her husband over Gatsby. Following this confrontation, Daisy, who is driving Gatsby’s car, accidentally runs over Myrtle and continues driving without stopping to check on her.

On realizing Myrtle’s fate, Tom seizes the opportunity to pin the blame on Gatsby, insinuating that he was the driver who killed Myrtle.

The Misguided Revenge

George Wilson, devastated by his wife’s death and under the impression that Gatsby was the culprit, decides to avenge Myrtle’s death. In his grief-stricken state, George makes the erroneous connection between Gatsby and his wife’s affair, further fueling his desire for revenge.

The Tragic End of Jay Gatsby

Gatsby, choosing to shield Daisy from the consequences of her actions, takes the blame for Myrtle’s death. This decision seals his fate as George, driven by his desire for revenge, confronts Gatsby at his mansion. He finds Gatsby lounging by his pool and shoots him dead before turning the gun on himself.

The Irony of Gatsby’s Death

The irony of this tragic event is that Gatsby dies for a crime he did not commit. His death is a result of a series of misunderstandings and misguided judgments, with George believing that Gatsby was responsible for his wife’s death and had been her lover.

The Aftermath of Gatsby’s Death

Following Gatsby’s death, the novel’s narrator, Nick Carraway, holds a small funeral for him. Disillusioned by the moral decay and superficiality of the wealthy, Carraway decides to leave Long Island, marking an end to the Gilded Age dreams.


The question, “How did Gatsby die?” unveils a tragic tale of love, deception, and misunderstandings. Jay Gatsby, a man who had everything but the woman he loved, meets a tragic end, becoming a victim of his desire to protect Daisy and a casualty of George Wilson’s misguided revenge. His death symbolizes the downfall of the American Dream and the harsh realities of the Roaring Twenties.



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