The Great Gatsby – Character

Character Development

Jay Gatsby is the main character in The Great Gatsby.  Gatsby lives in West Egg, Long Island in his mansion. He’s known for throwing grand parties every Saturday night and is very wealthy. Almost everybody has heard of Gatsby but very few know who he is. There are many rumours about where he’s from, who he is and how he made his wealth. Gatsby is very open about who he is to those who asks but his story about him seems scripted and rehearsed. We see Gatsby as a wealthy businessman, who loves to throw extravagant parties. He has a perfect life, with every detail of what he presents to the world, carefully perfected. As we get to know Gatsby, we learn his life is all but perfect. Gatsby is a character James Gatz (his real name) has created and his house is his stage. He’s living his life through a character he created in his idealistic world. “This fella’s a regular Belasco” – Owl-Eyes, the reference to Belasco in The Great Gatsby is that Gatsby is putting on a ‘show’. Belasco was known for having realistic props to make his sets look real. Owl-Eyes referring to Gatsby as Belasco, is because his library is theatrical and seems real but as you look closer his books are uncut (they haven’t been opened) this shows Gatsby has put so much effort into perfecting his set. The appearance of Gatsby and his house is an illusion as when you look closer you see that they are fake and are just props. Gatsby met Daisy 5 years previous from when the book is set. Gatsby and Daisy were in love but when Gatsby went to war, Daisy met and married Tom Buchanan. Gatsby then dedicated his life to be socially and financially eligible to be with Daisy, during this time, Gatsby changed every aspect of who he was to be upper class and be with Daisy. When Gatsby meets Daisy again after 5 years, his guard almost completely drops, cracks in his rehearsed story start to show through. Lies about who he is are being unveiled. The desperation and the determination to get Daisy back has completely consumed who he once was, the “green light” that Gatsby believed in blinded him from reality. The green light in The Great Gatsby symbolises hope, hope that he can one day be with the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan. As long as he believes in the green light, he believes in the possibility and the chance that he can one day be with Daisy. “Gatsby believed in the green light” – Nick Carraway, when Gatsby stops believing in the green light he stopped believing in his future with Daisy. Throughout the book, Gatsby was holding onto hope, holding onto the possibility that he can be with Daisy. The green light was an illusion, it blinded Gatsby, it led him to believe that as long as the green light shone, they could have a future togeather. When Daisy doesn’t call, Gatsby stops believing, he’s left with nothing, the green light was what drove him for 5 years, the green light was his only hope. His whole stage, the character that he’s created means nothing, never did, never will and Gatsby only realises this when he stops believing in the green light.  He was a living illusion, everything we see from the outside – parties, grand rooms, fancy suits, were hiding the fact that Gatsby is sad, alone and desperate to be with Daisy. The life that he presents, the character that he shows and the set that he displays is an illusion, it’s his ideal world in an unrealistic reality.

Nick Carraway is the narrator of The Great Gatsby.He attended Yale and is a businessman. After gaining some wealth, Nick made the move to West Egg. Nick lives in a house next to Gatsby in West Egg, Long Island. We see the events through Nick’s eyes. Nick acts as the fly on the wall, telling the events as they are rather than what he perceives them to be.  Nick claims, to be honest, open-minded and a good listener but he ends up turning his back on his morals. “Whenever you feel like criticising anyone, just remember that all the people in the world haven’t had the same advantages you have” – Nick Carraways Father, Nick makes it clear from the beginning that he withdraws as much judgement as humanly possible and ignores the judgement of those around him, the advice that his father gave him supports this as he makes it clear that he believes and takes the advice to heart. He doesn’t let wealth and materialistic possessions dominate his life unlike those around him. This makes Nick the perfect narrator as he doesn’t let actions, rumours or materialism influence his judgments, his thoughts and judgments on people are true. Before Nick met Gatsby, he was shy and didn’t seem to have a desire to socialise, after meeting Gatsby at one of his parties, Nick instantly gains confidence. As Nick attends more and more parties, he gains more confidence and in turn changes some of his morals. Nick slowly becomes more drawn into the lives he’s observing and slowly picks up the some of the characteristics they carry. He starts lying to himself and doesn’t realise how judgmental he is being. Nick starts judging people on actions and wealth and often tells events, glorifying and in support of Gatsby. Nick refers to Daisy and Tom Buchanan as “careless people”, calls Jordan Baker “incurably dishonest” and East Egg “quality of distortion”. Nick is slowly turning into the kind of people that he’s observing. He becomes just as or even more judgmental than they are. The more Nick builds relationships with Daisy, Gatsby, Jordan and even Tom the least honest he becomes. Jordan says “Well, I met another bad driver… I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person. I thought it was your secret pride”. Jordan refers to them all (Daisy, Gatsby, Tom) as being ‘bad drivers’ meaning that they are all dishonest and judgmental, Jordan didn’t initially think that Nick was like them, she thought it was his honesty was “his secret pride” until she realised that he too was a ‘bad driver’. Nick soon realises he doesn’t want to be part of the world that his ‘friends’ live in. The life of the rich was appealing to Nick at first and he was intrigued to be part of the extravagance of their lives but he soon realises the person he has become isn’t someone he wants to be. This caused Nick to go back home in the Midwest.

Daisy Buchanan lives in her mansion in East Egg, Long Island with her husband Tom and her daughter, Pammy. Daisy comes from a very wealthy family and is related to Nick Carraway. Daisy Buchanan is Gatsby’s obsession, he’s devoted his life and wealthy to be worthy of her love. Daisy and Gatsby met while he was in the military. Daisy promised to wait for Gatsby while he was at war but instead met Tom Buchanan who was much wealthier and decided to marry Tom instead. Daisy is an upper-class socialite. Daisy’s shallow, materialistic, selfish but seems to be ‘in love’ with Gatsby once reunited. “There beautiful shirts” – Daisy Buchanan, when Daisy reunites with Gatsby, she breaks down in tears while Gatsby is throwing shirts around the room. The shirts represent money and Gatsby’s wealth. Gatsby is almost as wealthy as Tom making her confuse as both can afford to give her the materialistic things she desires.  She doesn’t know what to do and starts to question if Gatsby can make her happier than Tom. She rembers the memories her and Gatsby had 5 years ago but remains uncertain about a future with Gatsby. Gatsby is Daisy’s summer fling, their ‘relationship’ wasn’t going to go past summer, Daisy’s heart lies with the wealth and highest of the upper class (Tom). “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and the retreated back into their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…” – Nick Carraway, this supports that Daisy’s heart lies where the money is, she may have once loved Gatsby but when it comes down to choosing who to be with, she chooses Tom as he’s wealthier.  When Daisy is confronted and asked to ‘admit’ that she never loved Tom, she struggles with her feelings for Gatsby. She chooses to stay with Tom are partly because of financial security and because of his social stand. Gatsby isn’t from the same social circles so she goes back to Tom because he’s a safer option due to the social stand and power he carries. Daisy ignores Gatsby after the summer, she doesn’t talk nor acknowledge his existence, she didn’t even care to attend his funeral. She went back into the big house, with all her money and carried on with her life like summer never happened, It shows Daisy isn’t as innocent as she was portrayed in the beginning, and that she leads people on until she gets bored or has to make a choice without money being involved. She chooses to hide behind her wealth, making her feel invincible but in reality, lonely. She’s unhappy with Tom but is happy with the life she and Tom shares. 

Characters and Illusion

Gatsby, Nick and Daisy all help us understand how easy it is to put on a persona and how we can be so oblivious to the kind of person someone truly is. Gatsby lied about who he was and where he’s from, Nick called himself, honest and nonjudgmental but that couldn’t be further from the truth and Daisy bases judgment and opinions based on wealth and social positions. Gatsby’s life seems idealistic like he’s living the perfect life. As we get to know more about Gatsby we learn that his past isn’t exactly as he says it is. “He threw dust in your eyes just like he did in Daisy’s” – Tom Buchanan, the way Gatsby shares his life story and the way he perceives his life is almost completely opposite to the truth.Gatsby’s story about who he ‘is’ starts to collapse when he reunites with Daisy but his materialistic possessions throw “dust in the eyes” of the people around him from who he truly is acting as an illusion. Gatsby comes from a poor farming background, from a young age he was never content with who he was but it wasn’t till he found a real motive – Daisy,  to change who he was, that his life turned into an illusion. His obsession with Daisy made him ‘happy’ and gave him a ‘perfect life’ – he was rich and lives in a big mansion but after that is gone, he is sad and alone and has nothing but materialistic possessions. The dust is cleared from Daisy’s eyes and she is no longer blinded by his materialism and see’s him for who he truly is – unhappy, alone and a liar. Nick Carraway makes it clear that he is an honest and nonjudgmental guy. He holds his morals close to his heart. This makes it seem that Nick is good narrator as he’ll tell the story as it is and not how he perceives it to be. “I thought it was your secret pride” – Jordan Baker thought that Nick’s honesty and open-mindedness were his secret pride as it’s something that the others (Gatsby, Daisy, Tom and Jordan) didn’t have. Jordan soon realises that Nick is not as open minded as he once thought, calling Tom and Daisy “careless” and perceives Tom to be “a sturdy, straw haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner… arrogant eyes… dominance over his face… ” Nick is constantly judging those around him despite having ‘strong morals’. Nick staying more quiet in social situations and not getting too involved is an illusion to how judgmental he is. He’s constantly judging his ‘friends’ and East Egg. He starts telling the story of how he perceives it and not for what it is showing that the illusion of his honesty is starting to fade. Daisy Buchanan presents herself to be kind and innocent but as time goes on, her choices aren’t always for the right reason and she makes decisions based on what the beneficial outcome for her will be. Daisy married Tom because he holds the social position that she longed for, he’s very wealthier and can give her all the materialistic things she wants. When Daisy reunites with Gatsby, he’s much richer and wealthier than he once was. Daisy spends time with Gatsby, leading him on because she is attracted to his money and materialistic means. “She vanished into her rich house, into her rich, full life, leaving Gatsby – nothing” – Nick Carraway, this shows that Daisy used Gatsby as a way to past time over the summer and left him nothing when she got bored. When Daisy was forced to make a decision based on her feelings rather that money, she chooses Tom over Gatsby and completely ignores him, going on with her life like they never even once crossed paths. She chooses the life with money and the upper-class social position she desires. The illusion that Daisy is falling back in love with Gatsby after 5 years of separation is hiding that somebody’s wealth is greater than love in the life of the upper class. Gatsby, Nick and Daisy all teach us that everybody is part of an illusion, whether or not they realise. Gatsby, Nick and Daisy were all hiding who they truly were but as time goes on their true colours show and the truth comes out. Gatsby appears to have this amazing life but as we get to know him we learn he’s sad and alone and isn’t who he says he is. Nick is honest and is non-judgemental but as he progresses he is rude and judges everybody’s every move. Daisy seems kind but in reality is selfish and makes decisions based on social positions and wealth. The dust that Tom Buchanan talks about, represents illusion and how all the characters ‘blinded’ each other of who they truly are. People through ‘dust’ in other’s eyes but as you get to know them the dust clears and the illusion has gone and who they truly are, is completely clear. You don’t know how happy or unhappy, honest or judgmental, selfish or unselfish somebody is until you truly know them and the dust has cleared and the illusion is gone.

Relationships and Illusion 

Tom and Daisy’s relationship is an illusion, from the outside their marriage and their life seems perfect. They live in East Egg with their daughter Pammy in a big nice house, with lots of money and they appear to be happily married.“They weren’t happy… and yet they weren’t unhappy either” – Nick Carraway, both Tom and Daisy are unhappy in their marriages but know they are better to stay togeather rather than to get a divorce. Tom and Daisy both have affairs but continue to live with each other as if nothing can harm their perfect marriage. Tom and Daisy both are unhappy with their lives but continue to stay togeather based on their social status and the wealth they bring. Their unhappy with their marriage but are happy with their life they live togeather. They may have once loved each other but they aren’t in love anymore but if anything was to happen to the other they would be heartbroken as they do love each other – there just not in love. Their marriage is important to each other as it reassures the social position they both long for. Daisy was in love at the start of the marriage but Tom’s continual affairs have put a burden on the marriage and Daisy’s feelings. With Daisy’s unhappiness and Tom’s affairs, social class is a stronger bond than love which is why they still stay togeather. The illusion that they are happy in their marriage is to hide the fact that they are unhappy and don’t wish to be togeather.

Gatsby and Daisy met 5 years previous to when the book is set before Gatsby went away to war. Daisy went her own way and married Tom Buchanan. Over the 5 years apart, Daisy went on with life whereas post-war, Gatsby dedicated his life to be successful, having a high social position, wealthy and building a life that Daisy could fit into. Gatsby was hopeful and believed in the possibility that he and Daisy could live happily ever after, that the 5 years between them didn’t matter. “If it wasn’t for the mist, we could see your home across the bay…. You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock” – Gatsby, the mist represents the 5 years that have passed by and the green light represents the hope and the dream that they could be togeather again. As Daisy and Gatsby spend more time togeather the 5 years apart becomes obvious, Gatsby was losing hope as the past was coming between them. Gatsby still remained optimistic and hopeful, he didn’t want to admit that too much time has passed between them. The green light is an illusion that Daisy and Gatsby would work, the mist derails the illusion and brings them back to reality, their affair isn’t going to past the summer months. Daisies are white and yellow. In The Great Gatsby, white represents purity, innocence and beauty,  yellow represents fake and materialism. Daisy appears innocent and kind but in reality, is fake and materialistic, Gatsby doesn’t realise this until the end. Gatsby realises that Daisy is a rose, she is his rose, “as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is” – Nick Carraway, when you first look at a rose, you see it’s beauty and elegance, it’s perfection. When you get close to it you see it’s thorns, when you touch it, how painful it can be. When Gatsby and Daisy meet again, they’re surrounded by flowers (harmless ones like daisies) but now it is revealed that Daisy is the rose in Gatsby’s garden – the most beautiful and perfect but also the one that causes the most pain. Gatsby could dream of his life with Daisy and see her beauty and innocence but when he thought he finally could get her back and could now ‘touch’ her, she hurts him just like a rose hurts when you touch it. The reference to daisies and roses in The Great Gatsby is an illusion to Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship, he thought she was his daisy but when he accepts that he and Daisy could never be togeather, she ‘turns’ into his rose. 

Myrtle sees her relationship with Tom as an escape out of her marriage and sometimes romantic whereas Tom sees the relationship as another one of his affairs. Tom and Myrtle’s relationship, is predominantly physical attraction but after Myrtle’s death, Tom does show an emotional side that hasn’t been shown before but at the end of the day he would never leave Daisy and Myrtle is just another affair. Myrtle lives in the valley of ashes which homes the bottom of the lower class, Tom lives quite the opposite life in East Egg. Myrtle is very materialistic, “I married him (George) because I thought he was a gentleman…  but he wasn’t fit to lick my shoe… The only crazy I was was when I married him. I knew right away I made a mistake. He borrowed somebody’s best suit to get married in… I lay down and cried to beat the band all afternoon.” Myrtle married George because she thought he had more money than he actually did, when she realised he borrowed a suit, she lay down and cried away the afternoon because she realised she will be stuck in the lowest of the lower class and would never go beyond that. Myrtle knew Tom was rich when they met, the idea of being with the upper class is appealing to Myrtle, she’s in love with the idea of his wealth and not Tom. Toms wealth is an illusion, Myrtle believes that she and Tom will live a long happy life togeather eventually but they aren’t going to work, Myrtle is blinded by Toms wealth to see that he will never truly love her. Myrtle is in love with Toms wealth and Myrtle is just another affair and it could never go past that. The apartment where Tom and Myrtle meet is an illusion that their ‘relationship’ will never go past an affair.“Then she flounced over to the dog, kissed it with ecstasy, and swept into the kitchen, implying that a dozen chefs awaited her order there” – Nick Carraway is alluding that everything that happens in the apartment isn’t truly part of the reality they all live in. Tom and Myrtle live completely different lives and outside of the apartment, would never associate with each other. When they leave the apartment they go their separate ways and the fantasy is over, they don’t act like their togeather outside of the apartment. Myrtle acting like there are a dozen chefs in the kitchen is an illusion that she could never afford to have even one chef but it’s her way to dream what life would be like with Tom, the life of the upper class. The apartment is an illusion, it’s where their relationship is safe but it doesn’t leave the apartment walls.




  1. Olivia, I love that you have jumped right into this task! Your ideas need to be supported by evidence from the text. You tell me a lot of things about the character and their journey but you are using the plot to explain this. Look for areas that you can “weave” quotes into your work.


  2. For you “Nick’s Journey” analysis, I want you to consider what drives this change? It does not simply happen. Rather, we are given the impression that Nick has almost been driven into a nature that is not his.


  3. Think more about the evidence you are using- it needs to be meaningful and fully explained.
    Consider your structure. At the moment, you have a lot of “explanation” and it goes around and around. You begin to repeat things. Focus on developing the different stages of the paragraph- SEXY.


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