What is Nick's first impression of the Buchanans and Jordan Baker in "The Great Gatsby"?

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droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We don't see Nick encounter the Buchanans, whom he first knew separately, for the first time. Daisy is Nick's secound cousin, he had known Tom in college, "and just after the war I spent two days with them in Chicago," so he has already known the two both separately and as a couple. Nick has a particular impression that Tom especially would never settle permanently anywhere, but "would drift on forever seeking, a little wistfully, for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game."

However, the Tom that Nick meets has "changed since his New Haven years," and apparently not for the better. "Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face," suggesting that this arrogance was not so much in evidence before, and he gave the impression of "leaning aggressively forward." His expression is "supercilious" and he wears "effeminate" clothing as if to hide the power of his "cruel" body. Overall, Nick seems to observe a general sense of arrogance and cruelty in Tom which he does not recognize, a man capable of "fractiousness" and "paternal contempt."

Daisy seems to be behaving in a way less dissimilar to what Nick expects, but there is still an overwhelming impression of falseness about her. Her laugh, while "charming," is also "absurd," and Nick recognizes the "way she had" of fixing all attention on him as if to promise "there was no one in the world she so much wanted to see." Perhaps because these mannerisms are not new in Daisy, however, Nick still finds her "thrilling," "sad and lovely," and overall "charming." But her insincerity continues to assert itself, and ultimately, while Nick is drawn to Daisy and wants to help her, he is left knowing he is not like the Buchanans:

It made me uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick of some sort to exact a contributory emotion from me. I waited, and sure enough, in a moment she looked at me with an absolute smirk on her lovely face, as if she had asserted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged.

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Nick first sees Tom again after several years, he says,

Now [Tom] 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 leaning aggressively forward.

This description is hardly favorable. "Supercilious" means that Tom is very proud and superior and generally treats others with contempt (rather than, say, respect, courtesy, or even civility). To describe him as "arrogant" means, again, that he acts as though he believes himself to be superior to other people. In general, Nick describes Tom as aggressive, as though he lacks compassion or feeling for others, and this impression certainly seems to be correct.

When Nick sees Daisy again, he seems to find her "charming," with a "thrilling voice," to which he delights to listen.

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

It seems as though he is somewhat enchanted by her. Though she acts like someone who is used to getting her way, he is—at least initially—more aware of Daisy's charms than her defects.

When Nick meets Jordan for the first time, he describes her as raising her chin "as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall." She has a way of making him feel as though he ought to apologize for something, though he's done nothing wrong and has no reason to feel this way. In other words, she's very haughty and snobbish.

luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nick's first impressions upon seeing Tom and Daisy again, are not favorable.  At the end of the first chapter, Nick says, "...I was confused and a little disgusted as I drove away."  What disgusts him is not their wealth, but their lack of character and decency. He finds out that Tom is having an affair and that Daisy is aware of it, and Daisy implies that it's not Tom's first affair. He is also disgusted when Tom spout his prejudicial thoughts.   Tom is also shown to be petulant and selfish in the first chapter, both through his actions and through what Daisy says about him. Nick also has a less than favorable opinion of Jordan Baker.  He recalls having heard rumors that she cheats at golf.   Despite these first impressions, though, Nick is open-minded and accepts Tom, Daisy, and Jordan for who they are and allows for the possibility of redemption.  He tells the reader he is open-minded and accepting in the opening lines of the book, so the reader is prepared for Nick to be this way despite his digust with these three characters in the first chapter.

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The Great Gatsby

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