There are several important characters in The Great Gatsby. These include Nick Carraway (the narrator), Jay Gatsby who is the central subject of the novel, as well as Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom Buchanan.
Jordan Baker, Tom's lover Myrtle Wilson, and her husband George Wilson are secondary characters, though the Wilsons both play important roles during the story’s climax, as Myrtle's death directly leads to George's murder of Gatsby.
The book also features other named characters, such as Meyer Wolfshiem and Dan Cody, but these mostly exist on the sidelines and do not play very direct roles in the story.
In what follows, we will give in-depth characterizations of the book’s most important characters, before we briefly look at the secondary characters. At the end of this section, we will also discuss some of the key relationships between the various characters in the novel.
Excerpt from the study guide:
The reader discovers very little about Gatsby in the early parts of the novel; he does not even speak a line of dialogue until Chapter III. The mystery and rumors surrounding him are all the reader knows, along with the details of his lavish parties, such as the fact that he orders “five crates of oranges and lemons” (p. 41) from New York every Friday and that the events are accompanied by a full orchestra, “no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos” (p. 42). The reader is therefore pulled into a glamorous view of Gatsby at first.
Fitzgerald's approach to revealing the secrets of Gatsby's past and present is theatrical, using devices such as Jordan's telling Nick that she has heard something “amazing” from Gatsby but not actually revealing what it is until the end of the following chapter. This echoes Gatsby's own theatrical creation of a new persona for himself, changing his name from James Gatz to Jay Gatsby and buying a showy house where he throws decadent parties.
In the end, Gatsby turns out to be quite naive and innocent in his perception of the world, convinced that money alone can solve his problems and bring Daisy back to him. Even after she has rejected him, he still defends her and tells Nick to “remember, old sport, she was very excited this afternoon. He told her those things in a way that frightened her” (p. 144). His death is a sad sign of the failure of his romantic and “incorruptible” (p. 147) dream, and also symbolically the failure of the great American dream for which he stands.