From her very first appearance in the novel, Jordan Baker strikes Nick as mysterious, at once aloof and alluring. Jordan belongs to the upper crust of society. Although she moved to the east coast from somewhere in the Midwest, she has quickly risen among the social ranks to become a famous golfer—a sport played mainly among the wealthy. Yet Jordan’s rise to social prominence and affluence is founded on lies. Not only did she cheat to win her first major golf tournament, but she’s also incurably dishonest. According to Nick, Jordan constantly bends the truth in order to keep the world at a distance and protect herself from its cruelty. Nick senses Jordan’s aloof yet alluring nature when he initially encounters her lounging on a couch with Daisy in Chapter 1. He writes: “She was extended full length at her end of the divan, completely motionless, and with her chin raised a little, as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall.” Here Jordan appears distant, statuesque, and beautiful, even regal with her chin tilted into the air. Yet Nick’s description also lends her appearance an air of fragility, as if she’s posing.
Jordan’s cynical and self-centered nature marks her as one of the “new women” of the Roaring Twenties. Such new women were called “flappers,” and they became famous for flouting conventional standards of female behavior. Flappers distinguished themselves physically by bobbing their hair, dressing in short skirts, and wearing a lot of makeup. They also listened to jazz music, smoked cigarettes, openly drank alcohol, and drove cars. Most scandalous of all, flappers were known for their casual attitudes toward sexuality. Jordan’s presence in the novel draws attention to the social and political turbulence of the Jazz Age. In this sense, Jordan calls forth the larger social and historical background against which the tragic events of the novel unfold. Unlike Daisy, who leads a conventional life of marriage and children and doesn’t work (or even drink alcohol), Jordan represents a new path for women. Whereas Daisy is the object of men’s fantasy and idealism, Jordan exhibits a hard-hearted pragmatism that, for Nick at least, links her more forcefully to the real world.