Which characters in The Great Gatsby are shallow? List and name reasons why they are shallow.

Expert Answers

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

The characters in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald can be loosely divided into separate categories of wealth and status. Most of the wealthier and "old money" characters exhibit shallow behavior. Some characters who aspire to be wealthy exhibit the characteristics of being shallow, too.

  • Daisy Buchanan: She is probably the most shallow character in the book. She chooses to marry Tom for money because James Gatz was poor. She cares a great deal about what people think of her. She barely acknowledges her daughter, and she seems unaffected by living with the guilt of her involvement in Myrtle's death.
  • Tom Buchanan: He is racist and physically abusive. He openly cheats on his wife and lies to George Wilson's face. He looks down on those who don't have his wealth and privilege. He is very proud of his home and material possessions.
  • Jordan Baker: She cheats at golf and lies with abandon. She believes carelessness is her right, and she almost hits a road worker with her car.
  • Mr. Sloane: He looks down on Gatsby because he can ride a horse and because Gatsby does not have one.
  • Myrtle Wilson: She knows Tom is married and cheats with him anyway. She thinks she is better than her George. She spends Tom's money on vanity items in New York. She also gets a dog and doesn't take care of it.
  • The McKee's: They are very concerned with their images and appearances. They try to show off for Tom because he is rich.
Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Daisy Buchanan is completely shallow and is only concerned with her status and financial wealth. She has an affair with Jay Gatsby and contemplates leaving her husband until she discovers that Gatsby is a bootlegger. Her financial security and status prevent her from leaving Tom, and she proceeds to run over Myrtle Wilson without stopping Gatsby's car. After killing Myrtle, she skips town with Tom and hides behind her money. She doesn't even attend Gatsby's funeral towards the end of the story.

Tom Buchanan is also shallow and continually cheats on his wife. He is depicted as a completely selfish individual who uses Myrtle to satisfy his sexual desires and blatantly lies to George Wilson's face on numerous occasions. Tom is also directly responsible for Gatsby's death after he informs George that Gatsby ran over his wife. After the death of Myrtle and Gatsby, Tom skips town with his wife and experiences no remorse or guilt for his involvement in both of their deaths.

Myrtle Wilson is depicted as a shallow character who only married George because she was under the impression that he was a wealthy gentleman. She continually cheats on her lowly husband with Tom Buchanan in hopes that Tom will one day leave Daisy and marry her. Similar to Daisy, Myrtle values status and money, which explains why she carries on an affair with Tom Buchanan.

Jordan Baker is another shallow character who is best friends with Daisy. Similar to Daisy, Jordan's primary concerns are her reputation and status. She even cheats during a golf tournament and lives her life interacting with the denizens of the East and West Egg. She does not develop deep feelings for Nick and is portrayed as a rather aimless, cynical young woman.

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

Shallow characters in Gatsby would potentially include the following:

Daisy Buchanan: She's concerned with money, constantly identified with money, and too shallow to come to Gatsby's funeral, even though Gatsby put his life on the line to protect her. She, along with Tom, retreats into "vast carelessness," leaving other people to clean up the mess. 

Tom Buchanan: He believes the racist drivel he reads, such as the Goddard's Rise of the Colored Empires, which Daisy makes fun of, and he judges people as to whether they are "Nordic." He also doesn't seem to have the depth to realize how much he hurts Daisy with his affairs. Nick dismisses Tom, saying he reached such a "limited excellence" at 21 that everything afterward savored "of anticlimax."  

Myrtle Wilson: She surrounds herself with gossip magazines, a lap dog and an overfurnished apartment at Tom's expense--and she's willing to exchange sex with Tom, despite his brutality, for the stuff he gives her. 

All the people who come to Gatsby's parties and drink his champagne but who can't be bothered to attend his funeral. 

Jordan Baker: Possibly. She cheats at golf, and outside of golf seems to lead a largely aimless existence.

Nick Carraway: Possibly. He likes to be seen on the arm of a golf celebrity like Jordan, dislikes his girlfriend back home for the sweat that forms on her upper lip after tennis and doesn't have the self-awareness to realize he isn't as honest as would like to believe, but he rises to a lyrical intensity when it comes to appreciating Gatsby. 



See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial