The Great Gatsby
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"The Great Gatsby" Characters Analysis

By F. Scott Fitzgerald

classics | 166 pages | Published in 2021

ISBN_13:9780743273565
ISBN_10:0743273567

Estimated read time: 8 min read

In F. Scott Fitzgerald's iconic novel "The Great Gatsby," a captivating cast of characters weaves a tale of love, wealth, and the American Dream in the Roaring Twenties. Each character plays a crucial role in exploring the themes of the novel and developing the complex narrative. This character analysis delves into the personalities, backgrounds, relationships, and character arcs of key individuals from "The Great Gatsby."

List of Characters

NameRole
Jay GatsbyProtagonist
Nick CarrawayNarrator
Daisy BuchananGatsby's love interest
Tom BuchananDaisy's husband
Jordan BakerDaisy's friend
Myrtle WilsonTom's mistress
George WilsonMyrtle's husband
Meyer WolfsheimGatsby's associate
Owl EyesSymbolic character

Role Identification

  1. Jay Gatsby: The central character and protagonist of the novel. Gatsby is a self-made millionaire who throws lavish parties to win back his lost love, Daisy Buchanan.
  2. Nick Carraway: The novel's narrator and Gatsby's neighbor. Nick is a Midwesterner who moves to New York, becoming a witness to the extravagant lifestyles and corruption of the elite.
  3. Daisy Buchanan: A beautiful and wealthy socialite. Daisy is caught between her love for Gatsby and her marriage to Tom Buchanan, ultimately representing the allure and superficiality of the American Dream.
  4. Tom Buchanan: Daisy's husband and a former college football player. Tom is arrogant, controlling, and embodies the old-money aristocracy that Gatsby so desperately tries to infiltrate.
  5. Jordan Baker: Daisy's friend and a professional golfer. Jordan is portrayed as independent and morally ambiguous, serving as a symbol of the carefree yet morally bankrupt nature of the upper class.
  6. Myrtle Wilson: George Wilson's wife and Tom Buchanan's mistress. Myrtle is a working-class woman who desires a more lavish lifestyle, showcasing the consequences of chasing after the unattainable.
  7. George Wilson: The owner of a small garage and Myrtle's husband. George is a hardworking but naive man whose life becomes entangled with the dramatic events surrounding Gatsby and the Buchanans.
  8. Meyer Wolfsheim: Gatsby's mysterious associate from his past. Wolfsheim is a shadowy figure involved in organized crime, highlighting the corruption and immorality beneath the surface of the luxurious New York society.
  9. Owl Eyes: A minor character who serves as a symbol of disillusionment and the crumbling facade of the Jazz Age.

Character Descriptions and Traits

Jay Gatsby

Jay Gatsby is a man of mystery and larger-than-life presence. He is described as having a perfectly disciplined body and a magnetic smile. Gatsby is known for his extravagant parties, elegant clothing, and wealth, but beneath this facade lies an enigmatic and lonely individual. He is characterized by his unyielding love for Daisy, his relentless pursuit of the American Dream, and his tragic flaws, such as his inability to accept reality.

Nick Carraway

Nick Carraway serves as the eyes and ears of the readers, providing a glimpse into the lives of the wealthy and privileged. He is presented as a reserved and honest individual, trying to navigate the complexities of the elite society he finds himself in. Nick's reliability, moral compass, and introspective nature make him both a participant and an observer in the events of the story.

Daisy Buchanan

Daisy Buchanan embodies the beauty, charm, and vulnerability associated with the "flapper" culture of the 1920s. She is depicted as fragile and ethereal, with a voice that is seductive yet full of uncertainty. Daisy embodies the hollowness of the wealthy class, torn between her desire for freedom and her attachment to the comforts and security of her social status.

Tom Buchanan

Tom Buchanan exudes power, arrogance, and toxic masculinity. He is described as a physically imposing figure with a "hard mouth" and a condescending attitude towards others. Tom represents the old aristocracy and the established order, using his wealth and privilege to control those around him. His infidelity and violent nature further emphasize the corruption and decay within the upper class.

Jordan Baker

Jordan Baker symbolizes the emancipation of women in the 1920s. She is portrayed as self-assured, independent, and untrustworthy. Jordan's association with dishonesty reflects the moral decay prevalent in the society of the time, where individuals of all classes indulge in dishonest practices to protect themselves.

Myrtle Wilson

Myrtle Wilson is described as voluptuous and full of vitality, in stark contrast to her dull and impoverished surroundings. She is presented as a desperate character, yearning for a life of wealth and luxury that she perceives as the pinnacle of success. Myrtle's pursuit of material happiness leads to her downfall, representing the consequences of misplaced desires.

George Wilson

George Wilson represents the working-class individuals who are left behind in the pursuit of the American Dream. He is portrayed as naive, trusting, and hardworking. George's eventual unraveling further highlights the vast divide between the social classes and the tragic consequences of societal inequalities.

Meyer Wolfsheim

Meyer Wolfsheim is a mysterious and shadowy character. As Gatsby's associate, he personifies the criminal activities and shady dealings that underpin the extravagant lifestyles of the rich. Wolfsheim's inclusion emphasizes the facade of respectability that the upper class maintains while participating in illegal activities.

Owl Eyes

Owl Eyes is a minor character who epitomizes disillusionment and represents the decay of the Jazz Age. He is the only partygoer at Gatsby's mansion who sees beyond the glittering surface and recognizes the emptiness and false glamour of the wealthy elite.

Character Background

Jay Gatsby

Jay Gatsby's true identity is revealed as James Gatz, a poor young man from North Dakota. His transformation into a wealthy figure occurs through illegal activities and self-reinvention. Gatsby's background, although unclear to many, involves a love affair with Daisy that motivates his pursuit of wealth and social status.

Nick Carraway

Nick Carraway comes from a prominent and respected Midwestern family. Seeking opportunities in the bond business, Nick moves to New York and rents a small cottage next to Gatsby's opulent mansion.

Daisy and Tom Buchanan

Daisy Fay grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, as a member of a wealthy family. She marries Tom Buchanan, a former classmate of Nick's at Yale and an heir to a fortune.

Jordan Baker

Jordan Baker is a professional golfer from a wealthy family. She shares a mutual attraction with Nick Carraway and is a close friend and confidante of Daisy Buchanan.

Myrtle and George Wilson

Myrtle Wilson, born Myrtle McKee, is of a lower social class and married to George Wilson, who runs a small car repair shop.

Character Arcs

Jay Gatsby

Gatsby's character arc revolves around his pursuit of the elusive American Dream and his undying love for Daisy Buchanan. Despite achieving immense wealth and success, Gatsby remains discontent and isolated. His ultimate downfall comes when he becomes entangled in a web of deceit, leading to his tragic demise.

Nick Carraway

Nick's character arc involves his gradual disillusionment with the glitz and glamour of the upper class. He starts off in awe of the wealthy elite but becomes disenchanted as he witnesses their moral corruption and hedonism. Nick's transformation prompts him to reassess his own values and distance himself from the shallow materialism he once admired.

Daisy Buchanan

Daisy's character arc revolves around her struggle between love and societal expectations. Her inability to fully commit to Gatsby, despite her feelings for him, highlights the constraints placed on women during that time period. Daisy exemplifies the shallow and materialistic nature of the upper class, choosing security and social standing over love.

Relationships

The relationships between the characters provide insight into their motivations, desires, and the overall themes presented in "The Great Gatsby."

Jay Gatsby's relationship with Daisy Buchanan lies at the heart of the novel. Gatsby's obsession with Daisy drives his relentless pursuit of wealth and success, hoping to win her back. However, their reunion is short-lived, and the unattainability of the past contributes to Gatsby's downfall.

Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker's relationship represents the disillusionment and moral decay of the upper class. While there is an initial attraction between them, their romance remains somewhat superficial and emblematic of the lack of genuine connections within this society.

Daisy's marriage to Tom Buchanan is a loveless union based on social stature and wealth. Their relationship is marred by infidelity and emotional manipulation, offering a critique of the institution of marriage within the upper class.

Myrtle Wilson's affair with Tom Buchanan highlights the class divide and the destructive consequences of pursuing the unattainable. Myrtle's relationship with Tom ultimately leads to tragedy for both her and her husband, George.

In summary, "The Great Gatsby" features a diverse array of characters whose personalities, backgrounds, relationships, and character arcs contribute to the exploration of the novel's themes. Through F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterful storytelling, readers are transported to the glamorous yet morally bankrupt world of the 1920s, where dreams collide with harsh realities.