Jay Gatsby (James Gatz): Born James Gatz in North Dakota, from an early age he was dedicated to moving up in society and becoming wealthy and respectable. He changed his name to Jay Gatsby after meeting Dan Cody, a wealthy older man who mentored him. Before going to Europe for the Great War, Gatsby met Daisy Fay, with whom he became infatuated, for she represented the genteel society he wished to join. After the war, Gatsby built his fortune partially through illegal activities, yet dedicated his life to attaining Daisy. His devotion to her was his major flaw: he was attentive to her at the expense of any concern for others.
Nick Carraway: The narrator of the story, Nick Carraway comes from a well-to-do mid-western family. He comes to New York to enter the bond business, and becomes involved with the affair between Gatsby and the Buchanans. Although seemingly responsible, honest and fair, Nick Carraway nevertheless shares some of the less desirable traits of his acquaintances. He can be equally careless with others’ emotions. Yet among the characters he is the only one who realizes the greatness of Gatsby compared to his contemporaries.
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Tom Buchanan: A brutal, hulking man, Tom Buchanan is a former Yale football player who, like Nick and Daisy, comes from an elite mid-western family. Despite his physical stature and his high status, Tom is an insecure and paranoid man, perpetually concerned with what he sees as the downfall of society and the loss of his own high status. He is a thorough hypocrite, condemning his wife and Gatsby for their affair while having no qualms about his own infidelity.
Daisy Fay Buchanan: Born Daisy Fay, she is a cousin of Nick. During her youth, she fell in love with Jay Gatsby, but broke off her attachment with him during the Great War because he was poor. She subsequently became the symbol of everything Gatsby desired, yet she is little more than a symbol. Daisy is insubstantial and vapid, a careless woman who uses her frail demeanor as an excuse for immaturity. She kills Myrtle Wilson while driving Gatsby’s car.
Jordan Baker: A longtime friend of Daisy, Jordan Baker is a professional golfer whose reputation has been tarnished by accusations of cheating. Her cynical, icy demeanor draws the attention of Nick Carraway, who becomes momentarily infatuated with her, yet she rejects him when she believes that he is as corrupt and decadent as she is.
Myrtle Wilson: An earthy, vital and voluptuous woman, Myrtle is the wife of George Wilson, a mechanic whom she does not love. She has been having a long-term affair with Tom Buchanan, and is incredibly jealous of Daisy. She dies when, after a fight with her husband, she runs out into the street and is hit by Gatsby’s car.
George B. Wilson: The husband of Myrtle Wilson, he is a glum, impoverished man content in his existence until he suspects that his wife is having an affair with Tom. After she is killed, Wilson goes on a murderous rampage, shooting Jay Gatsby before committing suicide himself.
Meyer Wolfsheim: A notorious underworld figure involved in organized crime, Wolfsheim is a business associate of Gatsby. A character specifically drawn from Roaring Twenties society, Wolfsheim is a mix of barbarism and refinement (his cufflinks are made from human molars), and he even claims credit for fixing the 1919 World Series. However, he is one of the few acquaintances of Gatsby who shows any concern or compassion after his murder, in contrast to the better-bred Buchanans.
Henry Gatz: He is Gatsby’s father, an elderly man who would have been condemned to poverty without his son’s care. Gatz tells Nick about his son’s grand plans and dedication to self-improvement.
Dan Cody: A wealthy man who gained his fortune from the gold rush, he was Gatsby’s mentor when Gatsby was a young man and gave him a taste of elite society. When he died, he left Gatsby some money, but Cody’s ex-wife claims it after his death.
Michaelis: Greek man and neighbor of Wilson who consoles him after Myrtle is killed.
Catherine: The sister of Myrtle Wilson who lives in New York City. Tom, Myrtle and Nick visit with her and her neighbors, the McKees.
The McKees: Neighbors of Catherine who visit with Tom, Myrtle and Nick when they are in New York City. Mr. McKee is an artist, while both McKees are gossips who are preoccupied with status and fashion.
Ewing Klipspringer: A boarder who lives in Gatsby’s house.
Owl Eyes: A guest at Gatsby’s parties who wrecks his car there, he is one of the few people who attends Gatsby’s funeral.