Characters / The Great Gatsby

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Main Characters

    Nick 

Nick Carraway

A young man from the Midwest who comes to live in the West Egg to go into bond sales. He moves in next door to Gatsby and somehow befriends the man. Easy-going, somewhat deadpan, and optimistic, but not for long.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Given his admiration/obsession with Gatsby, lack of a desire to get married, and that scene with Mr. McKee after the party, it's not too surprising that Nick tends to raise a few eyebrows. You could easily make a case for Nick being gay (or at least bisexual). Somewhat lampshaded — he kisses Daisy at a party to avoid gossip about why he arrived without a significant other.
  • Beta Couple: With Jordan—their affair happens with much less pomp and circumstance than Gatsby and Daisy's. He eventually leaves her because he can't stand her need for drama.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: He gets very drunk at Myrtle's party. He explains it's because it's only the second time in his life he's been drunk.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Especially towards Daisy.
  • Hypocrite: Goes to great lengths to describe how honest he is, even though he never tells Daisy the identity of Tom's mistress, blames everything on Tom and Daisy and refuses to acknowledge his own bias and idolization of Gatsby.
  • Just Friends/She is Not My Girlfriend: Implied he had something like this going on at home, before coming east. He claims it's all just gossip, but he makes a point to clearly break it off before getting with Jordan.
    Of course I knew what they were referring to, but I wasn't even vaguely engaged. The fact that gossip had published the banns was one of the reasons I had come East. You can't stop going with an old friend on account of rumors, and on the other hand I had no intentions of being rumored into marriage.
  • Moral Myopia: Despite all of his talk, Nick is one of the most judgmental people in the story, painting everyone he meets as good or bad solely based on his first impressions. He also constantly criticizes the dishonesty of the Long Island elite while excusing the fact that Gatsby's entire life is built upon lies and dishonest business. Jordan of all people calls him out on it.
  • Naïve Newcomer: He's spends his whole tenure at Long Island trying to reconcile the materialism, rigid social hierarchy, and general lack of integrity to his Midwest values. Eventually he gets tired of it all and just leaves, and the experience leaves him more bitter and cynical than ever before.
  • Only Friend: Claimed to be this since he was practically the only person who went to Gatsby's funeral and even arranged it.
  • Only Sane Man: By the end of the novel, he realizes what terrible people his cousin and her husband truly are.
  • Opposites Attract: Him and Jordan. He Will Not Tell a Lie; she's a Consummate Liar.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: After Gatsby's funeral, he decided that he finally had enough of the East and decides to return home to the West.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: He becomes more and more sarcastic toward the end of the novel, since the girl people tried to hook him up with turned out to be a fraud and his friend Gatsby got killed by his cousin's abusive husband's lover's widower. Kind of a lot to swallow.
  • Unreliable Narrator: He is obsessed with Gatsby and always portrays him in a positive light, never acknowledging the man's faults while also painting himself as a martyr. He says several times that he "thoroughly disapproved" of Gatsby, he does tend to lionize Gatsby in sections of the novel, but he also casts aspersions on Gatsby.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie:
    Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest men I have ever known.

    Gatsby 

Jay Gatsby/James "Jimmy" Gatz

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 external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just so 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. Precisely at that point it vanished—and I was looking at an elegant young rough-neck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd. Some time before he introduced himself I'd got a strong impression that he was picking his words with care.
Nick's neighbor and the titular "Great Gatsby", Gatsby is a young millionaire whose weekly parties are as lavish as he is mysterious. Carries a torch for Daisy, much to his detriment.
  • Anti-Hero: He gets his money through bootlegging.
  • Byronic Hero: As a poor soldier, he fell hopelessly in love with beautiful socialite Daisy, who got married to her equal, a Jerk Jock Tom from Old Money, but he is determined to win her back. He would do—and does—anything for Daisy, who, sadly, doesn't quite deserve it. Gatsby heavily idealized and romanticized Daisy and everything about her. Gradually, it becomes obvious that Gatsby's opulent wealth comes from smuggling and organized crime, but he's more compassionate than most of the "law-abiding" characters.
  • Catchphrase: He calls everyone "old sport." Lampshaded by Tom:
    Tom: That's a great expression of yours, isn't it?
    Gatsby: What is?
    Tom: All this "old sport" business. Where'd you pick that up?
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Got into World War I as an ordinary trooper. It took only about one year to be twice decorated for bravery and promoted to Major.
  • Daydream Believer: Gatsby really believes all the stories in the magazines about millionaires. He believes in those so much, that he chooses them as the basis of his Multiple-Choice Past as a Gentleman Adventurer, that is a Cliché Storm of various dime novel. Obviously, everyone thinks they are ridiculous… at first. But given Gatsby is The Charmer, he manages to make others believe, even for a little time, in his stories.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: One of the most tragic examples considering what happened to him later.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: He pines after Daisy for years. The fact that she's now married with a child doesn't discourage him and he's determined to win her love.
  • Last-Name Basis: Very rarely does anybody refer to him as "Jay."
  • Lonely at the Top: Out of all the people that attend his parties Nick is the only person that actually seems to care about him.
  • Lonely Funeral: Nobody shows up at his funeral except for Nick, his father and the owl-eyed man from the library.
  • Love Martyr: Everything Gatsby did to raise and spend his ill-gotten money was to capture Daisy's heart. He idealizes her to the extent that he's willing to take a manslaughter rap for her. Tragically enough, Gatsby never would have been happy, for he expected too much from Daisy, wanting (and in the infamous confrontation scene, forcing) her to be the perfect memory he obsessed over.
  • Loving a Shadow: He was in love with the idea of Daisy and wanted everything to be the way it was when he first met her. Lampshaded by Nick in the narration:
    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.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: He and his party guests have all sorts of explanations of where he's from and how he made his money, some more ridiculous than others. Tom pulling the thread on some of his contradictory stories makes him backpedal a little bit.
  • Mysterious Past: Hardly anybody knows the first thing about where he came from or how he got rich. It's not until near the end of the story that we get a full picture. He's a simple farm boy from North Dakota who dreamed of making it rich, served with distinction in WWI, went to Oxford for a few years, and made his millions with a string of shady business deals.
  • Nouveau Riche: It's not entirely clear where he got his money from, but it's very clear that he wasn't born with it. It's strongly implied that he got it through less than legal means, and he primarily spends it on lavish parties.
  • Posthumous Character: Died before Nick narrated the story.
  • Rags to Riches: Born poor, he falls in love with a girl above his station and dedicates himself to making money to win her back. He's fantastically wealthy by the time the story starts, and is famous for the lavish parties he constantly throws in his opulent mansion. Alas, his love still rejects him.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Gatsby wears a pink suit a couple times in the novel. Dismissed by Tom, of course.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: At sixteen, he ran away from home to pursue his dream of becoming rich and powerful.
  • Self-Made Man: A deconstruction. He gained all of his money himself, but as he wasn't born with it the only way he could see himself becoming a millionaire was to be a criminal.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Gatsby's a sappy romantic and dreamer, in contrast with aggressive and argumentative Tom.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: He loves Daisy and no one else.
  • Social Climber: He is the son of dirt-poor farmers from the Midwest who made his fortune by bootlegging.
  • Tragic Hero: He genuinely loved Daisy with all of his heart and became rich as an attempt to win her back.
  • Unbalanced by Rival's Kid: Daisy's child serves as a symbol to Gatsby of the reality of her marriage to Tom.
  • When He Smiles: Gatsby's smile is described as disarming to a suspicious extent, so transforming that it must be hiding something.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Gatsby thinks he's in a beautiful epic romance with his dream girl, and believes she will leave her awful husband and fly away with him. Unfortunately, his dream girl is just that.

In adaptations

  • Adorkable: In the 2013 film, where his sheer awkwardness when he meets Daisy after five years is both endearing and funny.

    Daisy 

Daisy Buchanan née Fay

I looked back at my cousin, who began to ask me questions in her low, thrilling voice. 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. 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.
Nick's second cousin once removed, and wife of Tom, with whom she has a daughter. Daisy is beautiful and charming, if somewhat careless and shallow. Gatsby's love for her kicks off the plot of the novel.
  • Aroused by Their Voice: Nick says that the most memorable thing about Daisy is her voice.
    "Her voice is full of money," [Gatsby] 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…
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: At first, Daisy seems like a pure, innocent angel. Eventually, she slowly reveals herself as a selfish, shallow and materialistic woman.
  • Brainless Beauty: Seemingly, although there are hints that this is at least partly a facade and she does know how horrible her life is.
  • The Tease/The Charmer: She kind of flirts with everyone. With Jordan, it comes off as Les Yay, and with Nick, Kissing Cousins.
    Daisy: If you want to kiss me any time during the evening, Nick, just let me know and I'll be glad to arrange it for you.
  • Color Motif: She is routinely linked with the color white (a white dress, white flowers, white car, and so on).
  • Despair Event Horizon: Spends most of the film/book already having crossed it.
  • Devoted to You: Gatsby idolizes Daisy to such extent that he resorts to embezzlement and less-than-scrupulous methods of becoming rich, all done to win her heart. Sadly, Gatsby is so blindy devoted to her that he doesn't realize Daisy can't live up to his idea of her.
  • False Soulmate: Gatsby pines after Daisy for years, and is sure that if he can build a fortune and win her love, they'll live happily ever after. The fact that she's married doesn't dissuade him, and he never seems to notice how shallow, careless and self-involved she is. Things don't work out in the end.
  • Gold Digger: Only married Tom for his wealth, although she had fallen in love with him briefly at one point in their marriage.
  • Hidden Depths: She's nowhere near as vapid and ditzy as she lets on, but she finds her life a lot easier when she pretends otherwise. She's also deeply unhappy with her charmed life, but Nick's the only one who recognizes this.
  • Idle Rich: Deconstructed. The price of her life of luxury is an unhappy and possibly abusive marriage, as well as the constant facade of being a Brainless Beauty.
  • The Ingenue: To Tom's Manchild. While certainly not a virgin, her childlike innocence and disposition is a major character flaw, in that she's unable to take responsibility for herself, either to better her life or change the way her actions hurt others.
  • Jerk Ass
  • Lonely at the Top: Despite her active social life, she has very few genuine friends. Her husband is someone she can only barely tolerate, and her cousin Nick's opinion of her worsens over time.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Daisy: As per the book's Color Motif, white symbolizes purity and yellow symbolizes corruption. What flower is white outside but yellow inside?
      • Bilingual Bonus: The French for "daisy" is "marguerite", and Marguerite is the heroine-victim of Gounod's Faust. Looked at in a certain light, The Great Gatsby is a version of the Faust story....
    • Her maiden name Fay has rather unfortunate connotations as something of beauty you would do well not to associate with.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: In chapter 1, she pulls Nick aside and talks about how everything sucks, and this is the best she can do. ("[T]he best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.") But she's certainly not very smart, even without that.
  • The One That Got Away: To Gatsby. The entire plot revolves around his attempts to win Daisy back, so they can continue on with their lives like the five years that separated them never happened.
  • Parental Neglect: She and Tom seem barely aware that they have a daughter.
  • Shipper on Deck: She ships Jordan/Nick, and cheerfully admits to the latter she intends to fix them up.
  • Stepford Smiler: Pretends to be happy, but it's clear she feels very unfulfilled in her marriage.
    Daisy: It'll show you how I've gotten to feel about—things. Well, [my daugher] was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling, and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. "All right," I said, "I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool—that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool."
    You see I think everything's terrible anyhow. Everybody thinks so—the most advanced people. And I know. I've been everywhere and seen everything and done everything. Sophisticated—God, I'm sophisticated!
  • Took a Level in Jerkass
  • Tragic Dream: She really did love Gatsby, but wouldn't leave her life behind for various reasons.
  • Uptown Girl: Gatsby fell in love with her back when he was a poor soldier. He became rich so he would be more worthy of a girl from Old Money. Unfortunately, even after he's a wealthy guy he's a new money wealthy guy so the field still isn't even.
  • White Anglo-Saxon Protestant: A requirement for high society in the Roaring Twenties.
  • Your Cheating Heart: She cheats on Tom with Gatsby.

In adaptions:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Daisy's hair color in the book is somewhat ambiguous: she's described as dark-haired, but her daughter is said to have yellowy hair, and Daisy claims the girl has her hair, not Tom's—and Tom is blond. Daisy has been depicted as blonde in every film version since the '40s.
    • Dumb Blonde: Subverted; she merely pretends to be because it's easier.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Most adaptations portray Daisy more sympathetically, giving her extra scenes or lines to suggest her feelings for Gatsby are genuine.
  • Broken Bird: While she's clearly an unhappy Stepford Smiler in the novel, the movie expands on this. She fell in love with Gatsby, only for him to be sent off to war and resorting to communication via letters. After the war, Gatsby was assumed dead, and she was about to marry Tom when she receives a letter from Gatsby. She has a Heroic B.S.O.D. and tries to break off her engagement, only to be pressured by her family to go through with the marriage. Tom promptly cheats on her, is not even there for the birth of their child, and since then she has been trapped in an loveless marriage.

    Tom 

Tom Buchanan

Now he was a sturdy, straw-haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward. Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body—he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage—a cruel body.
A school acquaintance of Nick's and husband of Daisy. Tom is a millionaire who lives on the old-money East Egg.
  • Berserk Button: Myrtle says "Daisy" multiple times after he asks her to stop, and in response Tom breaks her nose.
  • The Brute: Daisy gets on to him about his roughness while he doesn't like when she mentions this.
  • Cuckold: Courtesy of Gatsby.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: His controlling behavior of Daisy belies this. Cemented when he implies to Wilson that Gatsby ran over Myrtle after finding out Daisy loved him.
  • Glory Days:
    Her husband, among various physical accomplishments, had been one of the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven—a national figure in a way, one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anti-climax. […] I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking a little wistfully for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game.
  • Has a Type: Women named after plants. Daisy, Myrtle.
  • Hypocrite: He's been cheating on his wife since their honeymoon, but God forbid if it was the other way around.
  • Idle Rich: Deconstructed. Without a job, he has plenty of time for Rich Boredom. He repeatedly cheats on his wife and he is clinging to his Glory Days as a football hero because he knows he will never top that.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Even with all of his bluster, he's painfully aware that he has nothing to offer Daisy but his money. The only time we see him truly worried about something is when it seems like Daisy is genuinely interested in Gatsby.
  • It's All About Me: At the end of the day, this sums up his personality.
  • Jerkass: A rich bully who cheats on his wife, and a white supremacist to boot. Jerkass is putting it mildly.
  • Jerk Jock: Formerly a football star, now a polo player.
  • Karma Houdini: He indirectly kills Gatsby and George after he persuaded George that Gatsby killed his wife and gets away with no consequences. However, it's said that he doesn't fully escape karma since it's implied that his marriage with Daisy is in ruins after the end of the novel. In addition, Tom along with Daisy will have to be prepare for what's to come for the next era.
  • Manchild: Nick makes this observation late in the book—Tom is unable or unwilling to change, and so self-absorbed he can't see anyone's pain but his own.
  • Parental Neglect: He and Daisy seem barely aware that they have a daughter.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: One of the early signs of Tom being a scumbag is his racism.
  • Rich Bastard: He's exactly as immoral as he is wealthy.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Tom is an idiot, no doubt about that. But when you're as rich as he is, intelligence is optional.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: By the end of the novel, Tom should be in jail several times over. There's absolutely no chance of that happening.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Gatsby's a sappy romantic and dreamer, in contrast with aggressive and argumentative Tom.
  • The Sociopath: He seems to have shades of this. For example, he was excited when he saw an accident at George's gas station and was saying that it appeared that George finally got some publicity.
  • Smug Snake: Despite strong sense of superiority, the only thing he has going for him is being much bigger and richer than everyone around him. Luckily for him, that's plenty.
  • Villainous Breakdown: To put it bluntly, he did not take Daisy having an affair with Gatsby really well.
  • White Anglo-Saxon Protestant: Naturally, considering he's an American Blue Blood. He also clings to popular racial theories that hold the White Anglo-Saxon to be a superior breed.
  • Would Hit a Girl: He slaps Myrtle in the face and breaks her nose.
  • Your Cheating Heart: He has cheated on his wife countless times. Ever since their honeymoon.

In adaptations:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Described as "straw-haired" in the book. Movie adaptations tend to change it, as they do with the other characters.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Especially in the 2013 film, where he's much more uninhibited, and is explicitly abusive towards Myrtle.

    Jordan 

Jordan Baker

Jordan Baker instinctively avoided clever, shrewd men, and now I saw that this was because she felt safer on a plane where any divergence from a code would be thought impossible. She was incurably dishonest. She wasn't able to endure being at a disadvantage, and given this unwillingness, I suppose she had begun dealing in subterfuges when she was very young in order to keep that cool, insolent smile turned to the world and yet satisfy the demands of her hard, jaunty body.
An attractive, jaunty, somewhat aloof golfer who is good friends with Daisy. She and Nick strike up a romance over the course of the novel.
  • Beta Couple: With Nick.
  • Consummate Liar: "Incurably dishonest."
  • Deadpan Snarker: Always has a sly quip ready to share with Nick for the various things they witness.
  • Drives Like Crazy/Women Drivers: By her own admission—she expects other people to compensate for her own carelessness.
    Nick: You're a rotten driver. Either you ought to be more careful or you oughtn't to drive at all.
    Jordan: I am careful.
    Nick: No, you're not.
    Jordan: Well, other people are.
    Nick: What's that got to do with it?
    Jordan: They'll keep out of my way. It takes two to make an accident.
  • The Flapper: Jordan's the modern woman of the 1920's by working (she is a pro-golf player). Her name is taken from brands of cars, and she fits the ideal appearance of a flapper by being small-chested and slim.
    She was a slender, small-breasted girl, with an erect carriage, which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet.
  • Jerkass: A thoroughly enjoyable one, but a jerkass nonetheless. Nick realizes this and dumps her for it.
  • Meaningful Name: Lost to time now, but "Jordan" and "Baker" are both the names of car companies, alluding to mobility and liberation.
  • Opposites Attract: Her and Nick. He Will Not Tell a Lie; she's a Consummate Liar.
  • Pass the Popcorn: She loves watching people dealing with their problems. This is why Nick leaves her.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The blue to Daisy's red.

In adaptions

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: In the book, Jordan has dark blond hair—"the autumn-leaf yellow of her hair"—with the autumn leave comparison being made twice. In films, she's brunette, to contrast Daisy's adaptation blondness.
  • Statuesque Stunner: In the 2013 movie, her actress is over six feet tall.

    Myrtle 

Myrtle Wilson

She was in the middle thirties, and faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can. Her face, above a spotted dress of dark blue crêpe-de-chine, contained no facet or gleam of beauty but there was an immediately perceptible vitality about her as if the nerves of her body were continually smouldering.
Wife of George, she and Tom have an affair in order to escape the unfulfilment both were feeling in their marriages.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: As per her description above.
  • Birds of a Feather: Catherine tells Nick that neither Tom or Myrtle can stand the person they're married to—although Tom is more possessive of Daisy than Myrtle was lead to believe.
  • Gold Digger/Not with Them for the Money: Zigzagged between them. She didn't become Tom's mistress for his money, but at her party it's clear she enjoys having a rich boyfriend, and flaunting that to her friends.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: She's pretty wild even for this time period.
  • Look Both Ways: Daisy accidentally kills her by running her over in Gatsby's car, but Gatsby takes the blame.
  • The Mistress: To Tom. He's a lot more open about it than most examples, mostly because he knows he can be.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Myrtle is cheating on her husband George with Tom.

In adaptions:

  • Hysterical Woman: In the 1970s film adaptation. Upon seeing Tom after he breaks off the affair, she punches her hand through the window.

    George 

George B. Wilson

He was a blonde, spiritless man, anaemic, and faintly handsome.
A grumpy, unlikable mechanic who works in a garage. He's Myrtle's husband, unfortunately for everyone involved.

Other Characters

    Wolfsheim 

Meyer Wolfsheim

A Jew who is a close business partner of Gatsby's.
  • Affably Evil: Meyer Wolfsheim is quite friendly for a gangster who wears human teeth as cufflinks.
  • Greedy Jew/Kosher Nostra: He's a shady Jewish gangster who's said to have fixed the 1919 World Series. Although he's apparently based on the life Jewish gangster Arnold Rothstein, he's generally considered to be a fairly anti-semitic character.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: A very clear allusion to Arnold Rothstein, Jewish gambler, rackateer, and mastermind behind the infamous Black Sox Scandal.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Despite being a close business partner with Gatsby, he didn't go to the funeral because it would've attracted unwanted attention to him.
    Wolfsheim: Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.
  • Professional Gambler: Described as having "fixed the World Series in 1919."

    Dr. T. J. Eckleburg 

Dr. T. J. Eckleburg

An optometrist who never actually appears, but a billboard advertising his practice, which consists of a giant pair of eyes with glasses, is a recurring symbol throughout the book.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Though only symbolically to represent the characters' guilt.
  • God: It's been interpreted by many people that the billboard represents the Eyes of God seeing everything. George Wilson outright believed that the billboard was God during his mental breakdown and believed that God wanted him to avenge Myrtle's death.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Characters/TheGreatGatsby