Jordan’s situation and appearance

Jordan Baker is a professional golfer of some fame – the 1920s was an era when golf became extremely popular amongst both sexes. She was originally from Louisville and a friend of Daisy’s from ‘girlhood’. She now lives with an aged aunt but spends much of her time at the Buchanans’ house. She must be aged 21 during the events of the novel, having told Nick she was 16 in 1917. 

Jordan is described as physically quite androgynous, wearing white dresses but having quite a masculine body. Nick describes her as:

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.

Jordan is often described as tanned, with ‘golden arms’, ‘her face the same brown tint as the fingerless glove on her knee’, ‘her brown hand waved a jaunty salute. The words ‘jaunty’, jauntily’ and ‘jauntiness’ are used repeatedly, and exclusively, about her. 

Poised independence

Nick describes Jordan as presenting a ‘bored haughty face’ to the world which ‘concealed something’ and he explains her ‘subterfuge’ as a cover for how she satisfied her physical needs:

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 endure being 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.

It seems that Jordan wants to exploit the code that does not question the morals of a ‘lady’, whilst enjoying the life of an emancipated woman. Jordan is associated with cheating at golf, lying when she damages a car, and is also described by Nick as a ‘rotten driver’ leading to a discussion about being ‘careless’. 

The carelessness of privilege

Jordan reveals that she believes others will take responsibility for driving safely, as ‘it takes two to make an accident’. She retains her detachment from difficult emotional situations and is described as a ‘clean, hard, limited person, who dealt in universal scepticism.’ Her comment about driving is revisited in Chapter 9, when Jordan tells Nick that she considers him to be a ‘bad driver’, clearly referring to his conduct in their relationship.

This episode is juxtaposed with Nick’s assessment of the Buchanans (which implicitly includes their wealthy circle, of which Jordan is a member) as ‘careless people’ who:

smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness…

Nick expands the terms of reference for this metaphor to include irresponsibility at every level. Jordan is not guilty of causing Myrtle’s death, except in unwittingly being misidentified as Tom’s wife. However, she is far less deeply affected than Nick, inviting Nick into the Buchanans’ house as if nothing had happened - ‘it’s only half past nine’, she says. Just like Tom and Daisy, Jordan distances herself from involvement in trauma, by moving away and failing to attend Gatsby’s funeral. In her later conversation with Nick she does not reflect on the accident and Gatsby’s death, but is more concerned with Nick’s treatment of herself on the night Myrtle was killed.

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