At a Glance
- Jay Gatsby, born James Gatz, a mysterious bootlegger in love with Daisy.
- Nick Carraway, who moves to New York to become a bond man.
- Daisy Buchanan, Nick's shallow cousin, who has a brief affair with Gatsby.
- Tom Buchanan, Daisy's philandering husband.
- Jordan Baker, Daisy's best friend and Nick's girlfriend.
- Myrtle Wilson, Tom's mistress, who dies in a hit-and-run.
- George Wilson, Myrtle's husband, who kills Gatsby.
Jay Gatsby embodies the American Dream, ascending from poverty to a station of immense wealth. He is born James Gatz and grows up on his family’s farm in the midwest. He attends college in Minnesota, working as a janitor to pay his tuition, until he meets Dan Cody, a wealthy gold miner. Cody takes Gatsby under his wing, mentoring him and introducing him to the lure of wealth and materialism. Gatsby remains Cody’s protege until Cody’s death, at which point Gatsby joins the army. (Read our extended character analysis of Jay Gatsby.)
Nick Carraway narrates the novel’s events. Nick comes from a well-to-do but unglamorous upper-midwest background. When he moves to New York, where he lives in a cottage next door to the Gatsby Mansion and sells bonds on Wall Street, he is reunited with his cousin Daisy Buchanan. As a crucial link between long-lost paramours Gatsby and Daisy, Nick falls into the rushing current of the plot. (Read our extended character analysis of Nick Carraway.)
Daisy is a “golden girl,” born with money, beauty, and status. All throughout her life, her beauty and wealth have made men covet her, and she has honed her charms well. However, despite her advantages, Daisy appears to be an unhappy cynic, married to an unfaithful husband and left hoping that her daughter will be a “beautiful fool,” as she once was. (Read our extended character analysis of Daisy Buchanan.)
Tom Buchanan is a brute who embodies the preening, power-hungry narrow-mindedness of the East...
(The entire section is 425 words.)