- Nick Carraway – a Yale University alumnus from the Midwest, a World War I veteran, and a newly arrived resident of West Egg, age 29 (later 30) who serves as the first-person narrator. He is Gatsby's neighbor and a bond salesman. Carraway is easy-going and optimistic, although this latter quality fades as the novel progresses. He ultimately returns to the Midwest after despairing of the decadence and indifference of the eastern United States.
- Jay Gatsby (originally James "Jimmy" Gatz) – a young, mysterious millionaire with shady business connections (later revealed to be a bootlegger), originally from North Dakota. During World War I, when he was a young military officer stationed at the United States Army's Camp Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, Gatsby encountered the love of his life, the debutante Daisy Buchanan. Later, after the war, he studied briefly at Trinity College, Oxford, in England. According to Fitzgerald's wife Zelda, he partly based Gatsby on their enigmatic Long Island neighbor, Max Gerlach. A military veteran, Gerlach became a self-made millionaire due to his bootlegging endeavors and was fond of using the phrase "old sport" in his letters to Fitzgerald.
- Daisy Buchanan – a shallow, self-absorbed, and young debutante and socialite from Louisville, Kentucky, identified as a flapper. She is Nick's second cousin, once removed, and the wife of Tom Buchanan. Before marrying Tom, Daisy had a romantic relationship with Gatsby. Her choice between Gatsby and Tom is one of the novel's central conflicts. Fitzgerald's romance and life-long obsession with Ginevra King inspired the character of Daisy.
- Thomas "Tom" Buchanan – Daisy's husband, a millionaire who lives in East Egg. Tom is an imposing man of muscular build with a gruff voice and contemptuous demeanor. He was a football star at Yale and is a white supremacist. Among other literary models,[d] Buchanan has certain parallels with William "Bill" Mitchell, the Chicago businessman who married Ginevra King. Buchanan and Mitchell were both Chicagoans with an interest in polo. Also, like Ginevra's father Charles King whom Fitzgerald resented, Buchanan is an imperious Yale man and polo player from Lake Forest, Illinois.
- Jordan Baker – an amateur golfer with a sarcastic streak and an aloof attitude, and Daisy's long-time friend. She is Nick Carraway's girlfriend for most of the novel, though they grow apart towards the end. She has a shady reputation because of rumors that she had cheated in a tournament, which harmed her reputation both socially and as a golfer. Fitzgerald based Jordan on Ginevra's friend Edith Cummings, a premier amateur golfer known in the press as "The Fairway Flapper". Unlike Jordan Baker, Cummings was never suspected of cheating. The character's name is a play on the two popular automobile brands, the Jordan Motor Car Company and the Baker Motor Vehicle, both of Cleveland, Ohio, alluding to Jordan's "fast" reputation and the new freedom presented to American women, especially flappers, in the 1920s.
- George B. Wilson – a mechanic and owner of a garage. He is disliked by both his wife, Myrtle Wilson, and Tom Buchanan, who describes him as "so dumb he doesn't know he's alive". At the end of the novel, George kills Gatsby, wrongly believing he had been driving the car that killed Myrtle, and then kills himself.
- Myrtle Wilson – George's wife and Tom Buchanan's mistress. Myrtle, who possesses a fierce vitality, is desperate to find refuge from her disappointing marriage. She is accidentally killed by Gatsby's car, as she mistakenly thinks Tom is still driving it and runs after it.
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