The Great Gatsby

by: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Jordan Baker

She held my hand impersonally, as a promise that she’d take care of me in a minute, and gave ear to two girls in twin yellow dresses, who stopped at the foot of the steps.

Nick writes this description of Jordan in Chapter 3, during Gatsby’s party. Jordan is clearly more of a social butterfly than Nick, and she seems to be stringing him along. But her behavior in this situation does not seem to surprise or phase Nick, who has always found her aloof and a bit cold since first meeting her at the Buchanan residence. Yet Nick continues to feel drawn in by Jordan, whose aloofness in this moment comes with a vague “promise that she’d take care of [him] in a minute.”

Jordan Baker instinctively avoided clever, shrewd men, and now I saw that this was because she felt safer on a plane where any divergence from a code would be thought impossible. She was incurably dishonest. She wasn’t able to be at a disadvantage and, given this unwillingness, I suppose she had begun dealing in subterfuges when she was very young in order to keep that cool, insolent smile turned to the world and yet satisfy the demands of her hard, jaunty body.

In Chapter 3, Nick offers his personal take on Jordan’s psychology. Specifically, he describes her superiority complex, and the way she keeps away from “clever, shrewd men” so that she can remain in a superior position. Nick posits that Jordan constantly tells lies in order to maintain an advantage over others. Whatever advantage Jordan has is linked to her beauty and fame, and Nick indicates that she uses this advantage both to satisfy her own desires and soothe her insecurities.

There was Jordan beside me, who, unlike Daisy, was too wise ever to carry well-forgotten dreams from age to age.

Nick makes this comparison between Jordan and Daisy in Chapter 7, just as the group leaves for the suburbs after the crisis in New York. Nick reflects on turning 30 years old, and even though he predicts that “a decade of loneliness” lies ahead, he reminds himself that Jordan—an actual woman—is sitting next to him. Nick finds this thought calming. In contrast to Daisy, who lives on illusions (and who is also the object of Gatsby’s idealism), Jordan lives in reality. Thus, despite being aloof, her impersonal nature comes to seem very practical.

“You said a bad driver was only safe until she met another bad driver? Well, I met another bad driver, didn’t I? I mean it was careless of me to make such a wrong guess. I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person. I thought it was your secret pride.”

In Chapter 9, Jordan rebukes Nick for brushing her aside in the midst of all the chaos with Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby. This quote is significant for two reasons. First, Jordan’s words invoke a double standard. She seems interested in Nick only so long as he is not a “bad driver” like her, which is to say as long as he can serve as a grounding presence for her. Second, Jordan’s words strike at the very core of Nick’s self-identity as “an honest, straightforward person.” This represents one of the moments that call Nick’s integrity as a narrator into question, indicating that he may not be as honest as he’s claimed.