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The Great Gatsby Characters

the great gatsby characters

The Great Gatsby book was published in 1925 by Charles Scribner’s Sons. It established American author F. Scott Fitzgerald as a literary heavyweight because the novel was considered by many critics at the time as one of the finest English language novels ever written. Perhaps some of the most fascinating aspects of Fitzgerald’s masterpiece are the settings, themes, and characters from The Great Gatsby.

The book is said to be inspired by many of the parties Fitzgerald attended on Long Island’s North Shore, where a mix of people from different societies and economic classes vying for status intermingled and secretly competed with one another. The Great Gatsby Characters (especially the major ones) are supposed to represent the four major archetypes Fitzgerald encountered.

He began outlining and planning the book and The Great Gatsby characters in the early months of 1923 and completing his first draft in 1924. At that time his editor felt the characters in The Great Gatsby were indistinct which affected the novel’s overall appeal.

Themes in The Great Gatsby

The major Great Gatsby theme is that of the American Dream, along with Gender Relations and Class Inequality as secondary themes. Each one is well-balanced throughout the novel and can be compared easily to other American literary works. In his novel, Fitzgerald expresses his lack of the same idealism and optimism people before his generation held. In terms of Gender Relations, Fitzgerald tackles the marginalization of women through one of his main characters, Daisy Buchanan, a rich white woman who could be described in modern terms as a “trophy wife” to be collected and displayed. Finally, the theme of Class Inequality is explored by the varying levels of economic and social statuses that are affected by change during that period. Fluctuating circumstances force characters to acknowledge that their statuses can change quickly for better or worse.

Symbols in The Great Gatsby

  • The Green Light – Located at the end of Daisy’s dock. It is symbolic of Gatsby’s dreams and hopes.
  • Doctor T.J. Eckleburg’s Eyes – Located on the billboard that overlooks the Valley of Ashes. It is symbolic of the past which haunts modern times but ultimately vanishes.
  • Valley of Ashes – This is a stretch of land between East Egg and West Egg. It’s a wasteland overrun by industry and occupied by the ruined people that do not prosper from others’ wealth.
  • Gatsby’s Mansion – Built in West Egg. It is symbolic of the emptiness that came with the boom of the 1920s (the mansion is empty except on weekends).
  • East and West – The romanticized at the time was to head west to make one’s living and fortune, but after the stock boom of 1920, many were enticed to head back east.

The Great Gatsby Setting and Characters

Fitzgerald divides the events of the story to take place over 4 major settings: 1) East Egg; 2) West Egg; 3) The Valley of Ashes, and 4) New York City. Each setting considers and dictates the moral and social values of the characters that live there.

All the Characters in Great Gatsby

Here we list all characters in the Great Gatsby (major and minor) and provide a The Great Gatsby characters description and main setting (location) for the major ones:

The Great Gatsby Main Characters

These are the four Great Gatsby main characters and we answer the question to “Where are the characters in The Great Gatsby from?”

  • Nick Carraway – A WWI Veteran and a Yale graduate originally from the Midwest. He is the narrator of the book and Jay Gatsby’s neighbor.
  • Tom Buchanan – Daisy’s husband and a millionaire. A Yale graduate and former college football star. He is also from the Midwest, Chicago, Illinois.
  • Daisy Buchanan – The stereotypical flapper, she is attractive and a socialite. She is Nick’s cousin and comes from Louisville, Kentucky.
  • Jay Gatsby – The mystery millionaire with questionable business dealings. He comes from North Dakota and is obsessed with Daisy Buchanan whom he met in Louisville, Kentucky years before.

Minor Characters in The Great Gatsby

Fitzgerald uses minor characters in his novel to advance the plot and to provide context for the themes and symbols explored throughout. Some of these characters may have been glossed over in a first read, but prove to be much more valuable when analyzing the work in its entirety.

  • Dan Cody – A self-made millionaire in the mining industry. He was Gatsby’s early mentor and left him a significant amount of money at the time of his death.
  • Jordan Baker – A close friend of Daisy Buchanan and Nick Carraway’s girlfriend. She is an amateur golfer with a questionable reputation amid rumors of tournament cheating.
  • George Wilson – A garage owner who is disliked by Tom Buchanan and his wife, Myrtle Wilson (Tom’s mistress). While he is a minor character he plays a major part at a climactic point.
  • Meyer Wolfsheim – Jay Gatsby’s friend and mentor. He is a shady character who is connected to the 1919 World Series fix.

10 Best The Great Gatsby Quotes

The following quotes from The Great Gatsby are amongst readers’ favorites. (There are dozens more). We’ve narrowed the list down to ten of the best and most memorable quotes from this American literary classic.

  1. “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
    “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
  2. “I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”
  3. “Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.”
  4. “Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.”
  5. “And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”
  6. “I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”
  7. “Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away.”
  8. “I wasn’t actually in love, but I felt a sort of tender curiosity.”
  9. “’They’re a rotten crowd’, I should across the lawn. ‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”
  10. “Can’t repeat the past?… Why of course you can!”

What is the Main Message of The Great Gatsby?

The main message is that of the American Dream and how it differs from person to person depending on circumstances and how the decline of the Dream in the 1920s. This is demonstrated through the characters of The Great Gatsby and the concept of inherited money versus earned money. The ideal American Dream in the 1920s for many was to gain wealth but for many who were born into wealth, there was a sense or need to show that even upon inheritance they would have been successful and deserving of everything they have now. Fitzgerald focuses on the decayed moral and social values of the time and is cynical towards those that characterized greed, corruption, and empty pleasures.

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