Nick Carraway, the narrator of F. Scott Fitzgerald s The Great Gatsby, assigns certain types of images and descriptive words to Tom, Daisy and Jordan and continues to elaborate on these illustration throughout the first chapter. Nick uses contrasting approaches to arrive at these character sketches; Tom is described by his physical attributes, Daisy through her mannerisms and speech, and Jordan is a character primarily defined by the gossip of her fellow personages. Each approach, however, ends in similar conclusions as each character develops certain distinguishing qualities even by the end of the first chapter. Lastly, the voices of the characters also helped to project truly palpable personalities.
Tom Buchanan is repeatedly depicted by words referring to his hulking and massive frame, producing a vivid image of sheer arrogance and power. Before Tom is even introduced, his expansive house is seen, an ostentatious mansion fit for a postcard. Tom later remarks matter-of-factly I ve got a nice place here (12). Nick s first actual encounter with Tom is a paragraph saturated with words of strength and authority: sturdy, supercilious, enormous, and aggressive, to name a few. Tom s physical body is described as cruel and this describes more than just his body, but his demeanor as well. His voice, a gruff husky tenor (11), added to his rough image. Every one of his actions is completed with unnecessary force. Tom has the tendency to manhandle Nick, manipulating nearly all of his movements. wedging his tense arm imperatively under mine, Tom Buchanan compelled me from the room as though he were moving a checker to another square. (16) The action verbs Fitzgerald employs convey Tom s brutish force. Charles Scribner III could not have been more correct when he said, I would know Tom Buchanan if I met him on the street and would avoid him (199).
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Daisy s actions and words contrast greatly with her husband, Tom, and his grave nature. Her impression on the reader is frivolous with her charming little laugh (13), and her light manner. In addition, Daisy s tendency to murmur, rumored to make people lean closer to her, also reflects on her coquettish personality. Nick s ability to read Daisy so well from her facial expressions and body language attests that her mannerisms are very illustrative; Daisy took her face in her hands I saw that turbulent emotions possessed her, so I asked what I thought would be some sedative questions. She also welcomes Nick s charming but cheesy flattery, when talking about Chicago and she treats him the same way in return by referring to him as a rose and also by saying I am p-paralyzed with happiness (13). Nick seems most liked and accepted by Daisy, thus his descriptions appear to be genial and cordial often portraying her as a vibrant and beaming individual; Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth (13-14). Daisy s spoke with Nick in her low, thrilling voice, (13) which is compared with musical notes. Her charming and gay image is evoked through her amiable and gregarious interaction with Nick.
Jordan Baker is characterized, at first, of her lack of speech or transitive actions, however, later her personality is furthermore elaborated upon by her reputation, which proceeds her. This lack of direct interaction or description creates a vague and mysterious loom surrounding Jordan. Throughout a good part of the first chapter she remains in relative anonymity with the exception of the pretentious head balancing act. Nick s first physical description is ended with: It occurred to me now that I had seen her, or a picture of her, somewhere before (15). Although one does not read too much gossip concerning Jordan in the first chapter, the little that one does learn, of her golf tournament, is heard from the Buchanans. Nick s response upon first hearing her first name is of realization, Oh,–you re Jordan Baker (23). Nick now remembers this familiar face from the old photos, and in addition remembers a critical, unpleasant story (23) but cannot remember exactly what this story was, however later Nick is reminded about the particulars of the story. Jordan s voice is described as contemptuous, and this fits well with her detached and condescending manner.
Fitzgerald, through the eyes of Nick Carraway, uses three main methods to develop his characters. However, Fitzgerald utilizes words to stimulate four of our five senses. The reader is able to really recognize the people in this novel and this is due to Fitzgerald s ability to describe Tom in his pure physical state, depict Daisy using her mannerisms and speech and to sketch Jordan through rumor and speculation.