Nick Carraway The novel is seen through Nick's eyes - the young man from Minnesota, education at Yale and who fought in World War 1. He arrives in New York and is regarded as honest, tolerant, but indecisive. Throughout the novel, Nick is one with whom the characters can confide, sharing their troubled secrets. In moving to West Egg area of Long Island, Nick lives beside the class of wealthy people who have gained their fortunes recently 'new money' whose recent good fortune does not enable them to enter into fashionable society. Nick quickly befriends his neighbor, the mysterious Jay Gatsby. The story is told as Nick sees it and his thoughts and intuition shape and fashion the tale.
Jay Gatsby The title character, an extremely wealthy young man living in a Gothic mansion in West Egg is renowned for his lavish Saturday night parties, but those who attend these functions do not know Gatsby's history or how he acquired his fortune.
Slowly Nick learns about Gatsby's rise to fame and how from a lowly beginning he obtains his fortune. Gatsby's first break comes when he obtains work for a millionaire and this makes him decide to achieve his own fortune. This is driven on by his love for Daisy who he meets whilst training to be an officer in Louisville. As the story develops, Nick learns that Gatsby acquired his fortune through criminal activities, bootlegging etc. and that he is willing to do anything in order to gain Daisy's love. Nick sees Gatsby as an imperfect man, dishonest and crude, but his greatness is derived from his extraordinary optimism and his efforts to transform his dreams into reality.
Daisy Buchanan Nick's cousin, the woman with whom Gatsby is in love, met Gatsby in Louisville just before the war in 1917. Daisy was seeing a number of officers at that time, but she fell in love with Gatsby and had promised to wait for him. However, she needs attention and loves wealth and power, so when Tom Buchanan proposes to her, she decides not to wait for Gatsby, but to marry Tom. She relishes in the role of a beautiful socialite and enjoys the life Tom provides for her. She has a baby daughter by him. When Gatsby returns from the war and starts to make his fortune he moves to West Egg to be as near as possible to his love, Daisy. From the start of her marriage, Tom is unfaithful, but Daisy turns a blind eye to his infidelity.
Tom Buchanan Physically very strong and powerful, Tom is an arrogant and hypocritical bully. It is clear that he is a racist, and male chauvinist, and he never tries to live up to the moral standards he demands from those around him. He feels no guilt about his affair with Myrtle, but when he suspects Daisy of infidelity he becomes morally outraged and races towards a confrontation. Tom was a member of Nick's circle of friends at Yale.
Jordan Baker One of Daisy's friends, this is a woman with whom Nick becomes romantically involved during the novel. She is regarded as one of the new women of the 1920's, a tomboy, confident, engaged in her hobby as a golfer. She is dishonest and admits to cheating in order to win her first golf tournament and throughout the book, she is economical with the truth, a cold and unfeeling person.
Myrtle Wilson Compared to the other characters, Myrtle leads a lowly life and sees the only way to escape her lot is through her affair with Tom. Her husband, George, owns a dilapidated garage and lacks any ambition to improve their social position.