Last week we asked you, our readers, to tell us what personality type you think fits Jay Gatsby, the protagonist of the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. (In case you missed it, you can find that article here.) The response we received was insightful and thought-provoking:
- Many of you saw Gatsby as an Advocate, since he falls head over heels in love with Daisy and focuses on creating an ideal world for the two of them.
- Many others thought Gatsby is an Architect, a personality type known for analyzing and planning everything – but not necessarily for being great with emotions.
- Some of you supposed that he could be a Prospecting personality, pointing out that his ability to spot opportunities helps him become very wealthy, very quickly.
- And a few guessed that he’s a Commander or Consul, since he can be charismatic and he likes to experience life.
The biggest question seemed to be whether Gatsby is a Thinking or Feeling personality type – your responses were almost evenly split on this point. Arguments can be made both ways. So, in our analysis below, we’ll give a little extra attention to the Nature personality scale.
So, what is Gatsby’s personality type?
We think Gatsby is a Turbulent Architect (INTJ-T). Here’s why.
(Note: We’ll discuss some specific details and examples from the book below. If you haven’t read The Great Gatsby yet and want to avoid spoilers, you may want to come back to this article later.)
Like most Introverted personalities, Gatsby often prefers to stay quietly in the background, even at his own wild parties. He also spends a lot of time alone, gazing across the bay at the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock and thinking about his deepest desires.
Gatsby tries to fit in among the wealthy, high-profile people who visit his mansion, but he is often socially awkward. As an outsider and an Architect who normally wouldn’t care much about social conventions, Gatsby can’t quite pick up on all the subtleties of upper-class society’s many social codes.
He also prefers to rely on himself as much as possible, only pulling other people, like Nick (our devoted narrator), into his plans when necessary. This tendency is more typical of Introverts, especially independent Analysts. In fact, Turbulent Architects are the personality types most likely to say they consciously avoid having to depend on others.
On the surface, Gatsby is quite caught up in materialism. He seems to measure his life by his possessions. (It could even be argued that he views Daisy as a possession.) This may make him seem like a concrete, Observant personality type. On the other hand, he also views his wealth and possessions as a necessary step toward his larger goals.
Gatsby is a dreamer, constantly envisioning a better future for himself and focusing on what is possible, rather than what is practical. Like many Intuitive personalities, he often seems somewhat distracted or detached from what’s happening around him. Nick can see Daisy’s flaws, but Gatsby can’t – or won’t.
There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams – not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way.
This is a common challenge in Architects’ romantic relationships. They’re always creating a world in their heads that is more perfect than reality, and they need their romantic partners to fit their fantasy in some way. Daisy is not up to the task, and she knows it.
Even so, Gatsby never gives up on his dream of winning her back. His Intuitive personality trait provides the main source of his idealism, or what Nick refers to as Gatsby’s “extraordinary gift for hope.”
For all his dreaming and fantasizing, Gatsby is also a Thinking personality type who relies on his head rather than his heart – most of the time. His own feelings tend to catch him off guard. When he tells Nick about falling for Daisy, he admits, “I can’t describe to you how surprised I was to find out I loved her, old sport.” For Gatsby, the experience of falling in love is both shocking and profound, and he loses his objectivity where Daisy is concerned.
That’s why some of Gatsby’s decisions might not seem rational to us as readers. But Gatsby believes, fundamentally, that Daisy has always loved him and that she never loved Tom. With that “truth” as a starting point, he comes up with a logical explanation for why Daisy married Tom: “I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me.” He goes into problem-solving mode and arrives at a strategic and seemingly rational solution. All he has to do is:
- Get rich (because Daisy will never marry a poor man).
- Buy a mansion near Daisy’s home (so she’ll hear about his growing reputation).
- Throw extravagant parties to draw Daisy to his house (since she’s a socialite who likes fancy, expensive things).
- Win her back (because all this effort proves his love and devotion).
It all makes sense, on a purely logical level – it’s a plan.
But Gatsby fails to factor in one very important part of the equation: human emotion. Daisy has changed over time, shaped by her experiences marrying Tom and becoming a mother, and her emotions affect her behavior. A Feeling personality type would be more sensitive to Daisy’s emotions and better able to empathize with her situation. Gatsby also seriously underestimates how far Daisy and Tom will go to protect the security and privilege that come with their desirable social status.
A few of our readers suggested that Gatsby may not be a great fit as an Advocate (INFJ) or other Diplomat personality type because he’s not much of an altruist. He does make sacrifices for Daisy, but he’s mainly focused on getting what he wants, rather than helping other people or acting for the greater good. As much as his overwhelming love for Daisy may make him seem like a Feeling personality type, we suspect that has more to do with his Turbulent Identity. (More on that in a moment.)
From his daily self-improvement schedule in his youth to his elaborate scheme to get Daisy back, Gatsby is a planner. He is orderly, cautious, and deliberate. He comes up with a plan for achieving every goal, then he executes it. This decisive, thorough approach is characteristic of Judging Architects, who along with Commanders (ENTJ), are the personality types most likely to say they are dedicated and focused on their goals.
Gatsby is good at spotting and taking advantage of opportunities when they arise, but on the whole, he is not spontaneous and relaxed like Prospecting personalities tend to be. With each passing year that he doesn’t have Daisy in his life, he becomes more determined, yet also more inflexible and resistant to change. Notably, Turbulent Architects are the personality types most likely to regard compromise as defeat.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning –
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
We’re pretty sure F. Scott Fitzgerald wasn’t thinking about personality theory when he wrote The Great Gatsby, but this famous passage from the book actually captures the outlook of Constant Improvers (Introverted, Turbulent personality types) quite well. Gatsby believes that his success depends on his own performance, and that if he just tries harder, he’ll achieve his goals. He has to. He has staked his entire life on his dream of a perfect future with Daisy.
Turbulent personality types are prone to experiencing a wide range of strong emotions, which can make things especially difficult for a Thinking type like Gatsby, who prefers to hide his feelings. Gatsby’s Turbulence helps explain why his reaction to falling in love is so extreme and why his pursuit of Daisy is so intense. He often seems self-assured, but his increasing worry, doubt, and desperation are also evident throughout the book. Clearly, he doesn’t have the Assertive confidence that things will turn out okay whether Daisy chooses to be with him or not.
Gatsby also spends a lot of time thinking about his past, which is another Turbulent tendency. We often think of Analysts as forward-thinking personalities, focused on the future – and they are. But Turbulent Architects, along with Turbulent Logicians (INTP-T), are also the most likely of all personality types to wish they could significantly change their past.
Gatsby thinks he’s moving toward his ideal future, not understanding that the possibility of a life with Daisy is already behind him. And that past can’t be repeated, recaptured, or changed.
Gatsby is a sympathetic figure, and all the more so because we’re seeing him through Nick’s eyes. Nick empathizes with Gatsby when no one else will. He frequently mentions the negative aspects of Gatsby’s behavior, yet he romanticizes him at the same time. Like Nick, we as readers may also be willing to overlook Gatsby’s flaws and remember what makes him special.
After all, in the end, Gatsby is just a man in love, trying to make a better life for himself and find a place where he belongs. There’s a lot more to admire in Gatsby’s earnestness and hopefulness than in the carelessness of privileged people like Tom and Daisy. Most readers, regardless of their personality type, can see something in Gatsby that they relate to. That’s a big part of what has made The Great Gatsby so enduring for nearly 100 years.
With that in mind, we’ll leave you with a comment from one of our 16Personalities community members:
Even though he is no saint by any stretch of the imagination, I think he is still worthy of respect. His intelligence, his strong will and drive for success, his grand vision… He is an impressive and inspiring character in both good and bad ways.
So, old sport – do you agree with our assessment? While there’s no “right” answer when it comes to typing fictional characters, thinking about their motivations and behavior can help us understand aspects of personality type. We love hearing from our readers, so we invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below!