Played by: Neil Hamilton (1926), Macdonald Carey (1949), Sam Waterston (1974), Paul Rudd (2000), Tobey Maguire (2013)
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 / Ambiguously Bi: He strikes up a relationship with Jordan, but 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. 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.
- Just Friends: 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.
- Minnesota Nice: Considers himself a nice, traditional Midwesterner.
- 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.
Played by: Warner Baxter (1926), Alan Ladd (1949), Robert Redford (1974), Toby Stephens (2000), Leonardo DiCaprio (2013)
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 them so much that he chooses them as the basis of his Multiple-Choice Past as a Gentleman Adventurer, a Cliché Storm pastiche of various dime novels and pulps. 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: Twice over... and never quite admitting it either time.
- 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.
- Fake Brit: Within the context of the story, he affects a slight accent and a number of mannerisms to make himself seem more sophisticated and less Nouveau Riche.
- 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.
- Mr. Vice Guy: Gatsby has issues. Like, a lot of issues. The fact that he's a criminal only scratches the surface of this man's flaws as a human being. And yet, he's probably the nicest character in the book. No wonder Nick is so heartbroken by his death.
- 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 and Conspicuous Consumption to try to impress Daisy. And he affects an accent and mannerisms to make himself seem more cultivated than he is.
- 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.
- Riddle for the Ages: What was that other brand of crime he was mixed up in that Tom's sources didn't want to talk about? Another big sports fix? Contract killing? Nick will never know, and so neither will we.
- 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: In his real backstory, it's mentioned that he quickly grew contemptuous of women precisely because it was easy for him to seduce them. Once he falls for Daisy, he's never tempted by anyone 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.
Daisy Buchanan née Fay
Played by: Lois Wilson (1926), Betty Field (1949), Mia Farrow (1974), Mira Sorvino (2000), Carey Mulligan (2013)
Nick's second cousin once removed and the 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
- The Beard: Nick chooses to publicly kiss Daisy at a party in order to dispel rumors about his sexuality (considering that he was a still-unmarried man in his late twenties, which back then was very frowned upon).
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: At first, Daisy seems to be a pure, innocent angel. Eventually, she 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 that she does know how horrible her life is, merely choosing to play the part of a bimbo as to avoid further struggle.
- The Charmer: Daisy is a charming socialite.
- 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.
- Dumb Blonde: In the 2013 film adaptation, in which she is played by the blonde Carey Mulligan.
- 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.
- 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:
- As per the book's Color Motif, white symbolizes purity and yellow symbolizes corruption. What flower is white outside but yellow inside?
- Doubles as 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!
- The Tease: She kind of flirts with everyone. With Jordan, it comes off as Homoerotic Subtext, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 BSoD 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.
- Dumb Blonde: As a result of Adaptation Dye-Job, this winds up subverted or at least played with. Daisy is implied, both in the novel and adaptations, to be at least partly faking her foolish socialite persona.
- Villainous Breakdown: She's not exactly a "villain," but she completely loses it in the 1974 film when George shows up at her and Tom's home.
Thomas "Tom" Buchanan
Played by: Hale Hamilton (1926), Barry Sullivan (1949), Bruce Dern (1974), Martin Donovan (2000), Joel Edgerton (2013)
A school acquaintance of Nick's and husband of Daisy. Tom is a millionaire who lives on the old-money East Egg.
- Angry White Man: A proto-example, being wealthy, privileged, and given to complaining about the browner races of the world outbreeding his own kind if they aren't kept in their place.
- Bastard Boyfriend: To Daisy and Myrtle both, going as far as to break the nose of the latter. Ouch.
- Berserk Button: Myrtle says "Daisy" multiple times after he asks her to stop, and in response Tom breaks her nose.
- Big Bad: The one that Gatsby fights against for Daisy's affection.
- The Brute: Daisy gets on to him about his roughness while he doesn't like when she mentions this.
- Cuckold: Courtesy of Gatsby.
- 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.
- He's been cheating on his wife since their honeymoon, he doesn't care that Daisy and Gatsby were together before she married him and is shocked by the idea that Daisy would leave him (even if she is cheating) - but once you bring an affair partner over for dinner, you're "sneering at family life and family institutions" and leading to the beginning of the end for civilization.
- He can't even keep his affairs discreet. He insists that Nick, Daisy's cousin and good friend, meets his mistress Myrtle (which obviously puts Nick in an uncomfortable situation) but feels that he's not really disloyal because he insists that Myrtle has no right to say Daisy's name, and that really he still loves Daisy.
- 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 them.
- 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.
- Jerkass Has a Point: He may be one of the least sympathetic characters of American literature, but he's quite right to point out that Gatsby's criminal history makes him a bad match for Daisy.
- Jerk Jock: Formerly a football star, now a polo player.
- 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.
- Not So Different: He and George Wilson seem like polar opposites, but they both have hot tempers and a jealous streak for the wives they barely seem to care about.
- 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.
Played by: Carmelita Geraghty (1926), Ruth Hussey (1949), Lois Chiles (1974), Francie Swift (2000), Elizabeth Debicki (2013)
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.
- 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 freedom and liberation.
- Opposites Attract: Her and Nick. He Will Not Tell a Lie; she's a Consummate Liar. She explicitly says that this is why she's attracted to him. And indeed for his part Nick doesn't believe her at the end when she claims she's now engaged to somebody else.
- Pass the Popcorn: She loves watching people dealing with their problems. This is why Nick leaves her.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The cool-headed blue to Daisy's more emotional red.
- 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.
Played by: Georgia Hale (1926), Shelley Winters (1949), Karen Black (1974), Heather Goldenhersh (2000), Isla Fisher (2013)
Wife of George, she and Tom have an affair in order to escape the unfulfillment 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: Zig Zagged Trope between this and Not with Them for the Money. 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.
- Hysterical Woman: In the 1970s film adaptation. Upon seeing Tom after he breaks off the affair, she punches her hand through the window.
George B. Wilson
Played by: William Powell (1926), Howard Da Silva (1949), Scott Wilson (1974), Bill Camp (2000), Jason Clarke (2013)
Played by: Howard Da Silva (1974), Jerry Grayson (2000), Amitabh Bachchan (2013)
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.
- Creepy Souvenir: He wears "the finest specimen of human molars" as cufflinks, just to underscore that he's bad news. May or may not be Battle Trophies, given his line of work.
- Greedy Jew: 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.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Callous as his non-attendance of Gatsby's funeral seems, he's right that it would have attracted unwanted attention.
- Kosher Nostra: A Jewish gangster based on Arnold Rothstein.
- 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. EckleburgAn 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.