Which main characters in The Great Gatsby are dynamic and which are static?

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In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald presents his readers with both dynamic and static characters. The plot unfolds over an extended summer, and a few characters undergo profound growth and change in that time.

The narrator, Nick Carraway, is the novel's most dynamic character. In fact, the narrative itself is Nick's attempt to process and move on from the events of the summer. Nick moved to New York to learn the bond business, but his exposure to the carelessness and moral ambiguity of the filthy rich is his lasting lesson. In chapter 1, Nick shares,

When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart.

Daisy Buchanan is another example of a dynamic character. While the novel ends with her still married to and living with Tom, her life and her relationship will never be the same. The flaws of her marriage were laid bare during the Manhattan hotel party.

Some of Fitzgerald's characters achieve little to no growth or change throughout the novel. While Jay Gatsby lived a life of dynamism, his course during the narrative is linear. He dies clinging to the fervent belief that he can recreate the past and have Daisy as his own. Tom Buchanan, Jordan Baker, George Wilson, Myrtle Wilson, and other characters remain largely static throughout the novel. This is not to say that they are flat or minor characters, but they do not exhibit enough change, growth, or maturity to be considered dynamic characters.

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Static Characters:

  • Tom Buchanan-Daisy's extremely wealthy and arrogant husband does not change his attitude and views throughout the novel. He is callous, domineering, and angry during the entire story.
  • Daisy Buchanan-Nick's superficial cousin remains shallow throughout the novel and does not change her perspective of wealth and security. Although she attempts to regain a passion for life through her affair with Gatsby, she remains with Tom because he offers her security and money.
  • Jordan Baker-Daisy's close friend also remains shallow, cynical, and unattached throughout the entire story. Despite caring for Nick while they were together, she gets over their relationship quickly and moves on.
  • Myrtle Wilson-Tom Buchanan's mistress holds onto her dream of improving her life throughout the novel by attempting to leave her husband for Tom. Her views towards Tom and her aspirations do not change throughout the story.
  • Jay Gatsby-The protagonist of the novel does not change his feelings towards Daisy and remains optimistic about a future with her throughout the novel. Tragically, he never grasps the reality of Daisy's superficial personality and remains hopeful.

Dynamic Characters:

  • Nick Carraway-The narrator of the story moves from Minnesota to New York in 1922 to learn about the bond business. He is initially naive, open-minded, and tolerant at the beginning of the novel. As the novel progresses, Nick witnesses the superficial, dishonest lifestyles of the wealthy East Coast residents. By the end of the novel, Nick is repulsed by Gatsby's legacy, Daisy's relationship with Tom, and Jordan's dishonesty. After gaining valuable insight, he decides to go back home to escape from the shallow existence which is life on Long Island.
  • George Wilson-Myrtle's meek, faithful husband changes throughout the novel. For the majority of the story, George is a submissive, timid man who gets bullied by Tom. However, George becomes a dangerous person when he seeks to avenge his wife's death.
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I would agree that Tom, Daisy, Myrtle and Jordan are all static characters in the novel. Not a single one of them goes through any type of change. They are all portrayed as shallow, arrogant people who only think of themselves. That statement rings true until the very end of the novel for all four of them. An argument could be made for Gatsby also being static. He has gone through a big transformation, but that all happened before the summer of 1922 that Nick narrates for us. From the moment Nick meets him until that last day as he relaxes in his pool, he holds onto the hope that he can repeat the past and that Daisy will call. So that leaves Nick and George Wilson. Nick starts off the novel naïve and, as he tells us, one who reserves judgment. By the end of the summer, and into the fall after he returns to the city, he is much more aware of how shallow “those people” were and readily passes judgment on Tom and Daisy. George goes through a similar transformation. He is a weak character who can’t stand up to anyone, like Tom, at the start of the novel. By the end, though, he is determined and strong enough to murder a man and kill himself. 

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