The things that make a book great are subtle and complicated. Perhaps some of them are indefinable. But readers can at least touch on some of the basic elements that make The Great Gatsby what it is and on some of the meanings it has for perceptive readers.
Jordan Baker Daisy's beautiful friend and Nick's sometime lover. Jordan is one of the new women of the 1920s-cynical, boyish, and self-centered. She cheated to win her first golf tournament and often bends the truth. Daisy Buchanan Nick's cousin and Gatsby's object of adoration. During the war, Daisy broke her promise to wait for Gatsby and married powerful, wealthy Tom Buchanan. Tom Buchanan Daisy's husband. Tom, who is a former member of Nick's social club at Yale, comes from old money. An arrogant, bigoted, powerful-built bully, Tom cheats on Daisy but is outraged at the thought that Daisy and Gatsby may be having an affair. George Wilson, Myrtle's husband. George Wilson is the lifeless, exhausted owner of a run-down auto shop at the edge of the valley of ashes. Myrtle Wilson, Tom's lover and George wife. Myrtle is fiercely vital and desperate to improve her lot in life. Tom threats her as a mere object of desire.
Nick Carraway, the narrator, is the other sort of hero in this novel. As he tells himself, Nick is slow-thinking. He does not learn immediately from his experience with Gatsby, but slowly, and in retrospect. Jay Gatsby is a mythic character. Not only is he an embodiment of that conflict between illusion and reality at the heart of American life; he is a personification of the American romantic hero, the true heir of the American dream. "There was something gorgeous about him" (Fitzgerald 3). He is a creature of myth in whom is incarnated the aspiration of his race.
The heady New York lifestyle and America, which encourages and then crushes self-invention and grand dreams.
II. Contrasting Settings
Fitzgerald uses strongly contrasting settings for his novel. East Egg is one of two fictional islands off long Island, New York. It is the place for the very wealthy and privileged. Daisy and Tom Buchanan have their mansion there. West Egg is for those who have recently acquired wealth, such as Gatsby, or can afford, like Nick, to rent a small house there. Gatsby, in spite of his riches, would not be accepted in East Egg. The valley of ashes is where the poor people live, the outcasts of the American Dream. This is where the