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The Very Basics of "The Great Gatsby"


Protagonist; walthy young man living in West Egg(new money), famous for the lavish parties he holds every saturday: fought in WWI, attend Oxford for 5 months, in love with Daisy Buchanan, and was murdered by George.

Daisy Buchanan

Nick's second cousin and Tom's wife, the woman Gatsby loves, from Louisville where she met Gatsby, was supposed to wait for Gatsby but instead married Tom, lives in East Egg, drove the car the hit and killed Myrtle, Chooses money over everything else.

Tom Buchanan

Daisy's immensely wealthy husband, once a member of Nick's social club at Yale. Powerfully built and hailing from a socially solid old family, Tom is an arrogant, hypocritical bully. His social attitudes are laced with racism and sexism, and he never even considers trying to live up to the moral standard he demands from those around him. He has no moral qualms about his own extramarital affair with Myrtle, but when he begins to suspect Daisy and Gatsby of having an affair, he becomes outraged and forces a confrontation.

Myrtle Wilson

Married to George Wilson but is sleeping with Tom. She dies when Daisy hits her with Gatsby's car. She's large and full of life, but somewhat "thick" no matter how you look at it.

Nick Carraway

The novel's narrator, Nick is a young man from Minnesota who, after being educated at Yale and fighting in World War I (like Gatsby), goes to New York City to learn the bond business. Honest, tolerant, and inclined to reserve judgment, Nick often serves as a confidant for those with troubling secrets. After moving to West Egg, a fictional area of Long Island that is home to the newly rich, Nick befriends his next-door neighbor, the mysterious Jay Gatsby. As Daisy Buchanan's cousin, he facilitates the rekindling of the romance between her and Gatsby that ultimately fails. The Great Gatsby is told entirely through Nick's eyes; his thoughts and perceptions shape and color the story.

Jordan Baker

Daisy's friend, a woman with whom Nick becomes romantically interested (and potentially involved with) during the course of the novel. A competitive golfer, Jordan represents one of the "new women" of the 1920s—cynical, boyish, and self-centered. Jordan is beautiful, but also dishonest: she cheated in order to win her first golf tournament and continually bends the truth. She has an aura of carefree childishness that attracts Nick who sees it as pure even though she isn't the most moral.

Meyer Wolfsheim

Gatsby's friend, a prominent figure in organized crime. Before the events of the novel take place, he helped Gatsby to make his fortune bootlegging illegal liquor. Wolfsheim also rigged the Black Socks game and wears cuff-links made of molars. Their continued acquaintance suggests that Gatsby is still involved in illegal business.

George Wilson

Myrtle's husband, owner of a run-down auto shop at the edge of the valley of ashes. George loves and idealizes Myrtle, and is devastated by her affair with Tom. George is consumed with grief when Myrtle is killed. George is comparable to Gatsby in that both are dreamers and both are ruined by their unrequited love for women who love Tom.

Decline of the "American Dream"

During the 1920s, the perception of the American Dream was that an individual can achieve success in life regardless of family history or social status if they only work hard enough. This is shown to be falling apart through Gatsby. He works hard to achieve success, but the corruption of the criminal industry haunts his every action and he ultimately fails to acquire what he really wanted: Daisy

Old vs New money

Old money is a term that describes families who have been wealthy for generations (like the Hearst's, Carnegie's, and Vanderbilt's) and usually involves some self sustaining fortune through an almost mandatory set of traditions (long line of lawyers that went to Harvard). New money is aterm that decribes someone who has made a fortune in their lifetime (like Bill Gates, winning the lottery, or Gatsby's illegal fortunes).

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