While reading The Great Gatsby, it’s easy to get caught up in the three-way relationship between Tom, Daisy, and Jay Gatsby, but there are other characters playing smaller but important roles.
Jordan Baker, friend to Daisy (and presumably Tom) and professional golfer, offers Nick vital information almost throughout the entire novel.
What does Jordan Baker represent, and what are her character traits?
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about this intriguing woman (read more about women in The Great Gatsby).
Who Is the Character Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby?
Jordan Baker is a well-known golf pro. She’s had articles written about her, and she was featured in women’s magazines.
In the 1920s, golf was a popular sport among the well-to-do, which tells you right away that Jordan is a wealthy woman. Jordan has yet to marry but is apparently looking around.
She’s a friend to Daisy, with both women growing up in Louisville, Kentucky. We can assume that she is also a friend to Tom, although Tom doesn’t seem to have much to say to her or about her, except when he notes:
“… her family shouldn’t let her run around the country in this way.”
While she had no immediate family, Jordan does have one elderly aunt who controls her trust fund. So, while Jordan is obviously going to inherit a great deal of money at some point in her life, she doesn’t have control of it just yet.
Miss Baker is two years younger than Daisy and has seen Daisy both before and after her wedding, so she knows most of Daisy’s history.
While Nick is a cousin to Daisy, he hasn’t seen Daisy in years and doesn’t know much about her other than she married one of his old college buddies, Tom Buchanan.
What Does Jordan Baker Look Like?
When narrator Nick Carraway first introduces us to Daisy and Jordan in the first chapter, he talks more about Jordan than he does Daisy.
Daisy is described by her voice, her pale skin, and her dark hair, while Nick goes into great detail about Jordan’s physical appearance:
The younger of the two was a stranger to me. 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. If she saw me out of the corner of her eyes she gave no hint of it—indeed, I was almost surprised into murmuring an apology for having disturbed her by coming in. (1.28)
I enjoyed looking at her. She was a slender, small-breasted girl, with an erect carriage which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet. Her grey sun-strained eyes looked back at me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming discontented face. It occurred to me now that I had seen her, or a picture of her, somewhere before. (1.57)
Tom and Miss Baker sat at either end of the long couch and she read aloud to him from the “Saturday Evening Post”—the words, murmurous and uninflected, running together in a soothing tune. The lamp-light, bright on his boots and dull on the autumn-leaf yellow of her hair, glinted along the paper as she turned a page with a flutter of slender muscles in her arms.”
Nick is apparently attracted to Jordan and spent a good deal of time noting her physical attributes.
It is interesting to note that while the novel gives Daisy dark hair and Jordan blondish-red hair, in movie versions of the book, these characters are often reversed with Daisy having blonde hair and Jordan having black hair.
What Are Jordan Baker’s Best Qualities?
Jordan has many good qualities that men and women would find attractive.
She’s quick-witted and very intuitive. When the phone kept ringing at the Buchanan’s house during dinner, she quickly concluded that it was Tom’s mistress calling.
She loves being an independent woman, but she’s smart enough to know that in the 1920s, a woman would benefit from a wealthy husband and protector.
This is where golf would suit her since she could meet many like-minded gentlemen who might be good marriage material.
Jordan is athletic and enjoys a good party, but she understands about self-control and moderation, telling everyone that she had to get to bed early because she had to practice in the morning.
Finally, Jordan appears to be a loyal friend. When Daisy was having an affair with Gatsby, she didn’t say anything to anyone, even when Daisy kissed Gatsby right behind Tom’s back.
What Are Jordan Baker’s Flaws?
Perhaps her most obvious weakness is that she’s dishonest. While she doesn’t admit that up front, Nick remembers that he read about her possible cheating scandal in a magazine.
Miss Baker is also a notorious gossip. Note how she asked Nick to be quiet at dinner so she could hear what Daisy and Tom were saying about the constant phone calls and how she recounted to Nick Daisy’s change of mind about marrying Tom. Jordan fulfills a vital role in keeping Nick informed, but she does so by being a gossiper.
Jordan also seems to be quite callous to the pain and suffering of others. After seeing Myrtle’s dead body, Jordan didn’t understand why Nick didn’t want to have a late night tea at the Buchanan’s.
She calls Nick later and tells him that she’s moved out of Daisy’s house, but rather than talk about the horrible fight that happened in New York or the tragedy of Myrtle’s death, she complains that Nick wasn’t giving her enough attention. This indicates that she is also shallow and selfish.
It’s her selfishness and lack of empathy that turns Nick off completely. They break up with Jordan announcing that someone else had proposed to her.
What Does Jordan Baker Represent?
It’s easy to guess that since Jordan is going to inherit a great deal of money, she grew up in old money with a wealthy family.
She’s been friends with Daisy most of her life, and Daisy also comes from wealth.
Author F. Scott Fitzgerald had a true disdain for those who came from old money and this contempt comes across in his novel.
Baker represents the new, modern woman of the 1920s era. She’s rich, she’s unattached, she’s spoiled, and her only desire is to party and date available men.
While the novel doesn’t say that Jordan goes to bed with the men she dates, it’s implied.
Jordan drinks, smokes, and attends parties without an escort. This is all new to the 20th-century crowd, and older people saw these women (called flappers) as scandalous and lewd.
However, since Jordan is wealthy, no one says anything to her.
A poor woman, such as Myrtle Wilson, is vilified for taking a lover (read more on Myrtle Wilson Character Traits ), but rich women are allowed much more leeway due to their great wealth.
Fitzgerald gave Jordan Baker a beautiful appearance but then saddled her with ugly character traits to show his disgust for these modern, rich women.
Is Nick in Love with Jordan?
Perhaps. While Francis Scott Fitzgerald doesn’t specifically say that Nick loved Jordan (read more on F Scott Fitzgeral quotes ) , he does make it clear that Nick is attracted to her and at least briefly considered breaking up with the girl he had back in his hometown so he could be with Jordan.
It appears that Nick is more infatuated and curious about this unusual woman than actually being in love with her.
It’s Jordan’s flaws that eventually turn Nick away from her. While he hoped that there might be more between them, her dishonest character and selfishness was a deal-breaker.
Jordan definitely felt superior to other people who weren’t from old money. Nick often described her as having a “bored, haughty” face and an air about her that he found distasteful.
Living in her own little world, Jordan did not seem to have any self-realization. In Chapter 3, Nick notes:
“You’re a rotten driver,” I protested. “Either you ought to be more careful or you oughtn’t to drive at all.”
“I am careful.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Well, other people are,” she said lightly.
“What’s that got to do with it?”
“They’ll keep out of my way,” she insisted. “It takes two to make an accident.”
“Suppose you met somebody just as careless as yourself.”
“I hope I never will,” she answered. “I hate careless people. That’s why I like you.”
Jordan Baker, so caught up in her own world, doesn’t see the hypocrisy of her statement.
While Nick might be infatuated and attracted to Jordan physically, he sees a lot of serious problems in Jordan’s character.
Some Quotes that Reveal Jordan Baker’s Character
Although Jordan Baker is a gossip, she is also astute and notices many things in social situations that many people would overlook.
These exchanges include some of her best quotes:
- Chapter One:
“This Mr. Gatsby you spoke of is my neighbor-” I began. “Don’t talk. I want to hear what happens.” “Is something happening?” I inquired innocently. “You mean to say you don’t know?” said Miss Baker, honestly surprised. “I thought everybody knew.” “I don’t.” “Why-” she said hesitantly, “Tom’s got some woman in New York.” “Got some woman?” I repeated blankly. Miss Baker nodded. “She might have the decency not to telephone him at diner time. Don’t you think?” This exchange between her and Nick shows that Jordan Baker loves to engage in gossip.
- Chapter Three:
“I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties, there isn’t any privacy.” This shows how clever Jordan’s observations are. This statement is quite true when you think about it.
- Chapter Four:
“It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard-drinking people.” Here, Jordan talks about Daisy, suggesting that perhaps Daisy isn’t as squeaky clean as she leads people to believe. It also shows Jordan’s self-control.
- Chapter Seven:
‘What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon?’ cried Daisy, ‘and the day after that, and the next thirty years?’
‘Don’t be morbid,’ Jordan said. ‘Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.’ Jordan shows how spoiled she is, suggesting that life is endlessly boring, however, she also shows her youth by believing that life can open up to new possibilities when old things make way for new.
- Chapter Eight:
‘I’ve left Daisy’s house,’ she said. ‘I’m at Hempstead and I’m going down to Southampton this afternoon.’
Probably it had been tactful to leave Daisy’s house, but the act annoyed me and her next remark made me rigid.
‘You weren’t so nice to me last night.’
‘How could it have mattered then?’ Here is where Nick loses all attraction for Jordan. Her careless, unfeeling attitude about Myrtle’s and Gatsby’s death leaves Nick cold.
- Chapter Nine:
‘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 a wrong guess. I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person. I thought it was your secret pride.’
‘I’m thirty,’ I said. ‘I’m five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor.’ In their final exchange, Jordan Baker accuses Nick of being a dishonest character. For Jordan to say that and expect honesty when she can’t be honest herself shows how insensitive and self-centered she is.
While Jordan Baker doesn’t play a major role, she is an important vehicle through which Nick learns a great deal of information and history regarding Daisy and Gatsby.
In Chapter 4, What Favor Does Jordan Ask of Nick?
At Jay Gatsby’s party, Jordan tells Nick that she has something important to tell him and that Gatsby wants to ask a favor of him.
Jordan could have simply told Nick right there what Gatsby wanted, but she wants to share her insider gossip regarding what she knows about Gatsby and Daisy’s history.
This is when Jordan Baker tells Nick that Gatsby and Daisy had met 5 years earlier at Daisy’s debutant ball. Daisy fell in love with the handsome young cadet and promised to wait for him when the war was over.
However, the war ended and Gatsby did not return. Unknown to Daisy, Jay Gatsby was out making his fortune so that he would have the “right” to marry her.
Daisy believed that Gatsby was a rich man, and she couldn’t understand why he didn’t return to her. She wrote him a final letter telling him she was tired of waiting and was going to marry Tom Buchanan.
Only then did Gatsby write to her and tell her that he was earning his fortune and that he would return soon. Daisy was so upset, she got drunk and told Jordan to cancel the wedding, tell everyone that Daisy has changed her mind!
However, in the morning, Daisy’s parents told her to sober up and get ready for the wedding. Daisy did as she was told and married Tom.
This is crucial information that Jordan was sharing. She then went on to tell Nick that Gatsby’s favor was that he wanted Nick to invite Daisy to tea where he could “casually” drop by and meet with her once more.
Without knowing their history, would Nick have arranged the meeting between the married Daisy and the unmarried Gatsby ( read more on how does Nick meet Gatsby )?
And now that he knew the history, would he allow his cousin, Daisy Buchanan (read Daisy Buchanan Quotes here), to possibly meet her old lover and reignite that flame?
These questions remain unanswered, however, Nick seems moved by the story, and he does ultimately arrange the meeting.
Final Thoughts Regarding Jordan Baker Character Analysis
Jordan Baker is a busybody who seems to enjoy gossip and being in the middle of people’s affairs, as long as it doesn’t cast a bad light in her direction.
She leaves Daisy’s house only after Myrtle’s death, most likely worried that someone will suggest she had something to do with it since she knew about Tom’s affair.
Jordan Baker, while highly intuitive and intelligent, is a cheat and possibly a liar. She tells Nick that she’s agreed to marry someone else, but that is doubtful since she wasn’t seeing anyone except Nick over the summer.
By being such a stark contrast to Daisy, Jordan Baker helps us to understand other characters in the novel.
In the final analysis, Jordan Baker isn’t a bad young woman, she just has some bad character traits.
Written by Kerry Wisby – GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Owner & Founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Kerry Wisby, a former teacher with a BA in English, is the founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com. With a passion for all things 1920s, including The Great Gatsby novel, her website is the ultimate source for Roaring Twenties fashion, history, and party ideas. Read more about Kerry here.