Dan Cody in The Great Gatsby: Character Analysis

Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

How exactly did the lowly James Gatz become the iconic Jay Gatsby that millions of readers have come to know and love? Turns out, he needed a little help. This lesson analyzes the character of Dan Cody and his role in shaping Jay Gatsby.

Growing Up Gatz

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Maybe a fireman or a teacher, an attorney or an astronaut? Young James Gatz, the title character in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, wanted nothing more than to become the opposite of his parents. Born into a family of poor farmers in North Dakota, James Gatz spent his nights dreaming of who he believed himself to be: a larger-than-life man of means, surrounded by a world of grandeur and and opulence. Not until a chance meeting with a meta-mogul multi-millionaire did Gatz's imagined destiny start to become a reality.

Becoming Jay Gatsby

James Gatz moved shiftlessly through Minnesota, searching for the next big break, that singular opportunity that would change his life. He found that in Dan Cody. While lounging on the shore of Lake Superior, Gatz noticed a yacht bobbing in the water. Knowing full-well that a storm was brewing, Gatz rowed out to the yacht to warn its owner -- Dan Cody. Cody brought the young man on board and asked him his name. Realizing his moment of opportunity, Gatz introduced himself as Jay Gatsby, instantly reinventing himself and closing the door on his past as a poor farmer's son.

Dan Cody

Dan Cody's role in The Great Gatsby is fairly limited, but his impact on Gatsby was profound. When Gatsby encountered Cody on Lake Superior, the yachtsman was about 50 years old. During the late 1800s, Cody had become wealthy as the result of various metal rushes in the West and eventually made his millions thanks to Montana copper. Cody had the life that Gatsby had imagined for himself as a kid and a teenager: an extravagant lifestyle, fabulous wealth, and all the power those things brought with them.

Cody, seeing something in Gatsby, immediately took him aboard the yacht, bought him some spiffy boat clothing, and proceeded to sail around the North American continent for about five years. During that time, Gatsby was a personal assistant of sorts. When Dan Cody needed a first mate, Gatsby was there. When he needed a skipper, Gatsby was there. When he needed restraint from heavy drinking, Gatsby was there.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account