- Nick Carraway—a Yale University graduate from the Midwest, a World War I veteran, and, at the start of the plot, a newly arrived resident of West Egg, age 29 (later 30). He also serves as the first-person narrator of the novel. He is Gatsby's next-door neighbor and a bond salesman. He is easy-going, occasionally sarcastic, and somewhat optimistic, although this latter quality fades as the novel progresses. He is more grounded and more practical than the other characters, and is always in awe of their lifestyles and morals.
- Jay Gatsby (originally James "Jimmy" Gatz)—a young, mysterious millionaire with shady business connections (later revealed to be a bootlegger), originally from North Dakota. He is obsessed with Daisy Buchanan, a beautiful debutante whom he met when he was a young military officer stationed at the Army's Camp Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, during World War I. Gatsby is also said to have briefly studied at Trinity College, Oxford in England after the end of the war. According to Fitzgerald's wife Zelda, the character was based on the bootlegger and former World War I officer, Max Gerlach.
- Daisy Buchanan—an attractive, though shallow and self-absorbed, 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 she married Tom, Daisy had a romantic relationship with Gatsby. Her choice between Gatsby and Tom is one of the central conflicts in the novel. The character of Daisy is believed to have been inspired by Fitzgerald's youthful romances with Ginevra King.
- Thomas "Tom" Buchanan—a millionaire who lives in East Egg, and Daisy's husband. Tom is an imposing man of muscular build with a "husky tenor" voice and arrogant demeanor. He was a football star at Yale University. Buchanan has parallels with William Mitchell, the Chicagoan who married Ginevra King. Buchanan and Mitchell were both Chicagoans with an interest in polo. Like Ginevra's father, whom Fitzgerald resented, Buchanan attended Yale and is a white supremacist.
- Jordan Baker—an amateur golfer and Daisy Buchanan's long-time friend with a sarcastic streak and an aloof attitude. She is Nick Carraway's girlfriend for most of the novel, though they grow apart towards the end. She has a slightly shady reputation because of rumors that she had cheated in a tournament, which harmed her reputation socially and as a golfer. Fitzgerald told Maxwell Perkins that Jordan was based on the golfer Edith Cummings, a friend of Ginevra King, though Cummings was never suspected of cheating. Her 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 Americans, especially women, 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, he kills Gatsby, wrongly believing that 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 thinks it is Tom still driving and runs after it (driven by Daisy, though Gatsby takes the blame for the accident).
- Meyer Wolfsheim[c]—a Jewish friend and mentor of Gatsby's, described as a gambler who fixed the 1919 World Series. Wolfsheim appears only twice in the novel, the second time refusing to attend Gatsby's funeral. He is a clear allusion to Arnold Rothstein, a New York crime kingpin who was notoriously blamed for the Black Sox Scandal that tainted the 1919 World Series.
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