The Great Gatsby chapter 1 questions, please help me a bit( answers don't need to be long  for each of following)1. Discuss the development of the main characters in chapter 1 2. major...

The Great Gatsby chapter 1 questions, please help me a bit( answers don't need to be long  for each of following)

1. Discuss the development of the main characters in chapter 1

2. major conflicts (with quotations from chapter 1 and explain each)

3, symbols and themes ( with quotations from chapter 1 and explain each)

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chapter One of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, introduces the reader to five characters:

1. Nick Carraway - Seeking "no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart," Nick buys a house sandwiched between East Egg and West Egg.  That he intends to read "a dozen volumes on banking and credit" as he mentions the country's founders sets up the conflict between the American Dream and the obsession with money in the Jazz Age, the setting of the novel.  Nick seeks to establish himself as the honest narrator as he makes such remarks as going to see "two old friends whom I scarcely knew at all."

2. Tom Buchanan - A brutish man, "seeking a little wistfully for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game," Tom comes from an "enormously wealthy" family; he is known to have great "freedom with money."  Formerly a football player at a New England college, he is now

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. 

Affectively dressed in riding clothes when Nick meets him, Nick says his voice has a "touch of paternal contempt" in it, even toward those he likes.  He, too, reads; however, the book that he alludes to is The Rise of the Coloured Empires by "this man Goddard," a work that predicts the submerging of the white race.

3. Daisy Buchanan - With "tense gayety" Daisy sits in white on the couch along with Jordan Baker.  Cousin to Nick Carraway, Daisy speaks in a low, thrilling voice that belies her superficiality.  Nick writes,

Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and bright passionate mouth--but there was an excitement in her voice tha 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.

Indeed, she is the child of the Jazz Age, an illusionary time.  Her description is much like the description of the hallway with the bright rosy-colored space, fragilely bound into the house in which there is a breeze that twists the curtains, making a shadow on the rug as "wind does on the sea."  There is something unearthly about Daisy.

4.  Jordan Baker - The other figure on the couch with Daisy, she is a slender girl with, as Nick describes her,

an erect carriage which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet.  Her grey sun-strained eyes looked back at me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming discontented face.

She is languid and self-absorbed with a "pleasing contemptuous expression"--a typical flapper of the Jazz Age.  And, as Nick realizes who she is there is the memory of an "unpleasant story" about her that tries to surface in his mind.

5.  Jay Gatsby - At the chapter's beginning, Nick declares that Gatsby represented all that he scorned, but he had "a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person."  Gatsby, Nick states, was all right; it was what preyed on him that has made Nick cynical.  Gatsby is spotted by Nick at the end of the chapter as he comes out "to determine what share was his of our local heavens" and to look at the green light on the Buchanan pier (symbol).


As Nick drives away he senses that all is not well in the Buchanan household.  He thinks Daisy should rush out of the house with the baby in her arms, but she does not.  And as he considers the rumor that Tom "had some woman in New York," Nick finds this less surprising than his depression over a book:

Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart. 


Color images emerge in this beginning chapter.  The whiteness, a symbol of purity,  is inverted in this chapter as Daisy and Jordan are dressed in white.  The color represents falseness and impurity in Fitzgerald's novel.  The "rosy-colored" space of the hallway symbolizes the fairy-tale, ephemeral quality of the Buchanan's lifestyle.   Gray which is associated in this novel with decadence, is the color of Jordan's eyes.  The green light that Gatsby seeks is associated with money and new life, his hope to attain Daisy.


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The Great Gatsby

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