What was Nick's relationship with Jordan in The Great Gatsby?

Nick's relationship with Jordan in The Great Gatsby is complicated and fraught with tension. They end up dating for much of the novel, but Nick brings their relationship to an end following Jordan's callous treatment of Myrtle's death.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Nick's relationship with Jordan in The Great Gatsby begins as infatuation on his part, moves into a romantic one, and ultimately falls apart when Nick sees flaws in Jordan that he cannot accept. In many ways, the trajectory of their relationship parallels Nick's relationship with many of the other characters in the novel. He admires Jordan initially and is impressed when he realizes that she is the relatively famous golf star. He finds her attractive and is interested in pursuing a romantic relationship.

However, Nick ultimately comes to see Jordan as cold and aloof and enjoying a certain feeling of superiority to people outside of their ilk, just as Tom and Daisy feel. Jordan is described using words such as “looking with contemptuous interest,” responding to Nick “absently” as if she has weightier thoughts on her mind than giving him her full attention, having “an urbane distaste for the concrete,” and having a “bored, haughty” face and air about her. These descriptions support his ultimate realization that she believes herself to be superior to others outside of their social stratum.

Initially, Nick is flattered by Jordan’s attentions to him and willingness to date him. He writes,

At first I was flattered to go places with her because she was a golf champion and everyone knew her by name.

He does not believe that he is in love with her, but his feelings for Jordan deepen. Eventually, however, he begins to see Jordan in a similar light to how he sees Daisy and Tom, who do what is in their best interests regardless of ethics or the impact on others and who, in many ways, view themselves as impervious to social constraints and restrictions or even punishments because of their social status. While not anywhere on the same level, Jordan's lying about the placement of her golf ball in a tournament parallels Daisy's eluding responsibility as the driver of Gatsby's car when it ran Myrtle down.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 5, 2021
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Nick's relationship with the golfer and socialite Jordan Baker is romantic in nature, born of a mutual attraction. Nick is simultaneously infatuated with and repelled by Jordan's modernity, like her carefree and "careless" attitude with its liberation from traditional social expectations.

In this way, the conflicted aspect of Nick's attraction to Jordan parallels his feelings about Gatsby, which are similarly paradoxical. Just as with Jordan, Nick is awed by the force of Gatsby's self-made character while also disgusted by its vulgarity. Fitzgerald highlights the two characters' mirroring by having Jordan serve as the primary go-between in Gatsby's pursuit of Daisy and as Nick's source for the backstory of how the two doomed lovers first met.

Jordan, like Gatsby, represents a key foil to Nick's defining characteristics, like his midwestern reserve and moral rectitude. Nick comes to New York after feeling "restless" since returning home from the war, and the opportunity to live and work there in the year he turns thirty provides the novel's setting.

New York represents all the glittery promise of twentieth-century America, as well as its decadence and moral decay. Those are the same contrasting elements that exist within Jordan and Gatsby's characters, as they are products of that environment as much as George and Myrtle are of theirs. Jordan's charms begin as irresistible to Nick, as she is much more casual and flirtatious than he, which he clearly likes and responds to. He mentions an "entanglement" with a girl back home, but his commitment to her does not prevent him getting increasingly closer to Jordan. Jordan's levity and abandon, as much as her driving, tempt Nick toward playing a dangerous game with clear moral stakes for him. Gatsby and Myrtle are both victims of New York's cruel indifference, further embodied in Jordan's callous regard towards news of Myrtle and in Jordan's inability to comfort Nick in his distress.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 24, 2020
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Nick finds himself attracted to Jordan's lean, hard, androgynous golfer's body as well as her cool, self-possessed manner. They have much in common: first, they are both from the same social class. Second, Jordan is Daisy's childhood friend and Nick is Daisy's cousin; they are both connected to the Buchanans. Both also get entangled with Gatsby, acting as intermediaries for the meeting Gatsby is anxious to set up with Daisy at Nick's house. It seems almost inevitable that they would "fall in" together to make a foursome with Tom and Daisy.

At moments Nick seems to be falling in love with Jordan, but he has a prior entanglement with a girl back home, one mentioned incessantly by Daisy when he first comes to dinner at the Buchanan house. Further, at the same moment he is accusing Jordan of being dishonest and praising himself as the "cardinal" virtue of honesty, he is also revealing that he has not been upfront with his girlfriend back home. 

Nick and Jordan have a complicated and ultimately unsatisfactory relationship that ends abruptly, unable to withstand the shock of Myrtle's and Gatsby's deaths. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Nick is going out with Jordan for most of the novel, but he always feels that she is not trustworthy and he breaks up with her after he finds how indifferent she is to tragedy.

Jordan and Nick meet in the first chapter. Although attracted to her, Nick has a relationship to end before he can become involved with her, which contrasts his ethics and her dishonesty. Ironically, Nick finds Jordan's openness about her character attractive, as when he criticizes her driving:

“I am careful."

“No, you’re not.”

“Well, other people are....They’ll keep out of my way,” she insisted. “It takes two to make an accident.”

“Suppose you met somebody just as careless as yourself.”

“I hope I never will,” she answered. “I hate careless people. That’s why I like you.” (Ch. 3)

It is after this conversation that Nick first finds himself feeling truly in love with Jordan.

The relationship ends after the death of Myrtle Wilson, Tom's mistress, run down by Daisy. Tom, Nick, and Jordan reach the accident scene soon after. Nick is hit hard by the death, but Jordan takes it casually:

“Won’t you come in, Nick?”

“No, thanks.”

I was feeling a little sick and I wanted to be alone. But Jordan lingered for a moment more.

“It’s only half-past nine,” she said. (Ch. 7)

Soon after, Nick realizes that he can no longer tolerate Jordan’s callousness and indifference:

“I’m thirty,” I said. “I’m five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor.” (Ch. 9)

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial