Main Characters in The Great Gatsby: Character List & Analysis

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  • 0:01 The Great Gatsby
  • 1:03 Nick Carraway
  • 2:05 Tom Buchanan
  • 3:09 Daisy Buchanan
  • 4:09 Jay Gatsby
  • 5:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natarielle Powell
The four main characters in F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel 'The Great Gatsby' are connected by one man who searches for the truth behind a very big lie. Complete this lesson to discover more about the narrator, Nick Carraway, and his relationship to the other characters.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was originally published in 1925. It is set in the state of New York, on Long Island and in New York City, during the age of prohibition, illegal gambling, and jazz music. Jay Gatsby, the title character, is celebrated by some and scorned by others in this novel, which slowly unravels the truth about who he is versus who the other characters think he is. Although his identity is not immediately clear, there is no denying the fact that all that he does and says is in an effort to win back his first love.

There are four main characters in the novel: Nick Carraway, Tom Buchanan, Daisy Buchanan, and Jay Gatsby. These four characters all know each other and are connected in ways we'll look at. They're also connected by a lie concerning the death of Myrtle Wilson, a woman with whom Tom is having an affair.

Nick Carraway

Nick Caraway serves as a confidant and connector to the other main characters. He is also the narrator of the novel, acting as the reader's eyes by observing the other characters and their actions. He tells us about all the other characters and their bold behaviors, while we learn that he is a bit naive and passive.

Nick is Daisy's twice-removed cousin, knows Tom from college, and is the next door neighbor and friend to Jay Gatsby. Each the other main characters need him for a variety of reasons. Tom needs him as an ally, and Daisy needs him as a friend. Gatsby needs him to be the bridge between his past and his future with Daisy.

Tom takes Nick into his confidence and to his private apartment for a wild party with his mistress and a few other friends. Gatsby also confides in Nick, divulging his past, his unending love for Daisy, and his desire to rekindle their love of old.

Tom Buchanan

Nick and Tom knew each other in college. Tom, often boastful, frequently talks about things he knows nothing about and usually ends up sounding foolish. His wife, Daisy, often laughs at him.

Tom is also a bold liar and an adulterer. Throughout the novel, he has an affair with Myrtle Wilson, a fiery woman who is the total opposite of his wife. He even befriends Myrtle's husband and convinces him that Jay Gatsby is the man his wife has been seeing. He also tells Myrtle's husband that Gatsby is the one responsible for Myrtle's death.

He is significant to the story because he serves as a foil character for Jay Gatsby. A foil character is a character with contrasting behaviors that highlight certain qualities in another character. While Tom is loud, rugged, and somewhat ignorant, Gatsby is reserved, cultured, and intelligent. Studying the two together helps the reader get a better sense of why Daisy loves them both: Tom is everything that Gatsby isn't, and Gatsby is everything that Tom isn't.

Daisy Buchanan

Daisy's significance to the story lies in her history with Gatsby and her present relationship with Tom. Daisy is the link between the three men. This beautiful and graceful woman appears to have it all together. She dresses in lavish gowns and commands the attention of both Tom and Gatsby. However, she lives with the knowledge that her husband is cheating on her. Tom and Daisy have a baby daughter, and Daisy tells Nick that she will do well if she is a beautiful fool. Perhaps Daisy is speaking of herself as well.

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