Jay Gatsby
Portrayed byWarner Baxter
Alan Ladd
Robert Redford
Toby Stephens
Leonardo DiCaprio
Biographical information
Also known asJames Gatz


ResidenceJay Gatsby's mansion, West Egg, New York


Family members

Henry C. Gatz (father)


 Jay Gatsby (born James Gatz) is the title character of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel The Great Gatsby. Gatsby is a fabulously wealthy man.

In 1907, Seventeen-year-old James Gatz despised the imprecations of poverty so much he dropped out of St. Olaf College in Minnesota only a few weeks into his first semester. It was later revealed that he couldn't bear working as a janitor to support himself through college.

After changing his birth name to Jay Gatsby, he reunited with mentor Dan Cody, a copper tycoon who then invited him to join his ten-year yacht trek from Girl Bay. Over the next five years, Gatsby learned the ways of the wealthy until Cody's death. Cody's mistress then cheated Gatsby out of a $25,000 bequest meant for him.

In 1917, during his training to join the infantry in preparation to join World War I, 27-year-old Gatsby fell in love with 18-year-old Daisy Fay, who was everything he's not: rich and from a patrician East Coast family.

During the war, Gatsby reached the rank of Major, which commanded the heavy machine guns of his regiment, and became decorated for valour from his participation in the Marne and the Argonne. After the war ended, he attended Trinity College, Oxford. While there, he received a letter from Daisy, telling him that she had married the equally aristocratic Tom Buchanan. Gatsby then decides to commit his life to becoming a man of wealth and stature he believes would win Daisy's love.

Gatsby returns home to the US where it's being transformed by the Prohibition, a period in American history when gangsters were able to earn vast wealth and sometimes mix with the connected upper classes. Gatsby takes advantage of this opportunity by making a fortune from bootlegging, thanks to his association with various gangsters, such as Meyer Wolfsheim who is, as Gatsby later tells Nick, "the man who fixed the World's Series back in 1919."

With his vast income readily available, Gatsby purchases a 12-bedroom mansion in West Egg of Long Island, home to the nouveau riche, on the opposite side of a lake from the old-money East Egg, where Daisy Buchanan, her husband Tom and their three-year-old daughter live.

At his West Egg mansion, Gatsby hosts a weekend-long party every weekend, open to all comers, as an attempt to attract Daisy as one of party guests from East Egg. Through Nick Carraway, Gatsby finally has a chance to meet Daisy. Through a series of meetings, Gatsby tries to convince Daisy to leave her adulterous husband Tom as he isn't convinced Daisy's happy with her marriage.

At the Buchanans' home Jordan, Nick, Gatsby and the Buchanans decide to have a party in New York City. Tom asks Gatsby if he could borrow his yellow Rolls Royce to drive up to the city. Gatsby agrees. On the way to New York City, Tom makes a detour at a gas station in "the Valley of Ashes", a run-down part of Long Island, to fill up his tank. Garage owner George Wilson shares a concern that his wife, Myrtle, may be having an affair, but he doesn't know with whom. This unnerves Tom as Myrtle is his secret mistress and so he leaves in a hurry.

During the party in a high-class hotel suite, a casual party conversation evolves into a confrontation between Daisy, Gatsby and Tom. In a fit of anger Gatsby points out that Daisy loves him, not Tom. Daisy reveals she "did once love Tom", which forces Gatsby to realise she'll never leave Tom for him. The party breaks up with Daisy leaving NYC in Gatsby's yellow Rolls Royce as the driver with Gatsby as her passenger. Her husband Tom leave with Jordan and Nick in Jordan's car.

From her upstairs room at the gas station, Myrtle sees the approaching yellow Rolls Royce. Mistakenly believing it's Tom returning for her, she runs out to meet Tom, but the car knocks her over, killing her instantly. Panic-sickened Daisy drives away from the scene of the accident. Arriving at Daisy's home in East Egg, Gatsby promises Daisy he would take the responsibility if they were ever caught.

Myrtle's grief-sickened husband George Wilson traces the sightings of the yellow car to the Buchanan home in East Egg, then to Gatsby's home in West Egg where he fires his gun at Gatsby, killing him instantly, before taking his own life. Gatsby was 32 years old.

Of all Gatsby's high society friends, only one attends Gatsby's funeral. Also at the funeral are narrator Nick Carraway and Gatsby's father, Henry C. Gatz, who reveals to Nick that Gatsby's real name was James "Jimmy" Gatz and that he is proud of Jimmy's achievement as a self-made millionaire.

Personality Edit

Gatsby's never ending devotion to Daisy stems from his obsessive desire to achieve the "old money" social status, which he cannot possibly achieve due to his modest background. However, he continues to hold on to hope, thus going out of his way to get Daisy. Gatsby's obsession with his goal of becoming old money rich blinds him from the reality of society. A woman of high birth and social standing like Daisy will never marry a bootlegger from modest beginnings. Gatsby could never accept that fact and ultimately died with his hope intact.

Film portrayals Edit



  • The character is based on the bootlegger and former World War I officer Max Gerlach, according to Some Sort of Epic Grandeur, Matthew J Bruccoli's biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  • As his relentless quest for Daisy demonstrates, Gatsby has an extraordinary ability to transform his hopes and dreams into reality; at the beginning of the novel, he appears to the reader just as he desires to appear to the world. This talent for self-invention is what gives Gatsby his quality of “greatness”.
The Great Gatsby
Characters Jay Gatsby | Nick Carraway | Daisy Buchanan | Tom Buchanan | Jordan Baker | Myrtle Wilson | George Wilson
Films The Great Gatsby (1926 film) | The Great Gatsby (1949 film) | The Great Gatsby (1974 film) | The Great Gatsby (2000 film) | The Great Gatsby (2013 film)

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