The Great Gatsby

comment on the art of characterisation in the great Gatsby??

this question is taken from the novel The Great Gatsby

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Social Status or Societal Position

We’re guessing you saw this one coming. Because social status is considered a defining quality by the characters in the book, it naturally becomes a means by which we, the reader, come to define the characters. That Gatsby isn’t socially in the upper class (even if he is economically) becomes the dividing line between him and Daisy, and arguably the blockade on the way to realizing his dreams. Tom is in part defined by his money (along with the abusive nature and that whole "The Hulk" thing). And Daisy? Well, we think Gatsby sums it up best when he simply says, "Her voice is full of money."


Gatsby lives in West Egg, but Daisy resides in East Egg. Having been told that East Egg is the wealthier of the two, this difference in location highlights the differences between Jay and Daisy’s societal rank. It’s also worth noting that Jordan, Nick, and Daisy are all in East Egg together, while Nick and Gatsby reside together in West Egg. This division makes sense toward the end of the novel, when Nick takes Gatsby’s side against the others – the "rotten crowd."


Gatsby ends up largely defined by his occupation – bootlegging. It is because of the stigma carried by this profession that he tries so hard to conceal it. The illegal nature of his job is a constant reminder that Gatsby got to where he is unnaturally; that he doesn’t really belong in New York’s high society. Nick, on the other hand, is "a bond man," a job that, like Nick, is straightforward and clean. Additionally, at one of his lavish parties, Gatsby insists on introducing Tom as "the polo player;" because Jay defines Tom by his physicality, Jay expresses his impression of the man by suggesting that Tom’s work is of a physical nature.

Speech and Dialogue

Gatsby’s effort to sound well-educated

For the most part, characters in The Great Gatsby are well-educated. Their speech and dialogue reflect this education, which in turn reflects their wealth and social status. The narrator takes note, however, of Gatsby’s affected speech, speech of "elaborate formalities" that borders on "absurd." It is clear to him that Gatsby must practice to sound educated and wealthy – he must practice at being a part of Daisy’s world. The fact that Nick isn’t fooled would suggest that others, too, are not so taken in by Jay’s efforts. His transformation to a man of high society is incomplete at best, and failed at worst.

Mr. Wolfsheim’s lower-class diction

Mr. Wolfsheim speaks in a dialect that indicates his lack of education, lack of class, and general lack of what wealthy, snobby people in the 1920s might have called "good breeding." Oxford becomes "Oggsford;" "Connection" becomes "gonnection." The use of different dialects works to reveal the differences between the working class and the upper class. By contrasting Wolfsheim’s and Gatsby’s diction with that of people like Nick Carraway, Fitzgerald suggests that those involved in organized crime are necessarily working class – no matter how wealthy and powerful they appear to be.