Money has an effect on everyone in both good and bad ways. People who possess a great wealth and live in upper class society tend to exhibit decadence due to their high status. F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby contrasts differing moral aspects of wealthy lifestyles. In the artificial world of the East Coast, Nick Carraway distinguishes himself as a model of morality.
Although the glory of power and money in the East Coast overwhelms Nick, he still clings to the values he learned while growing up in the Midwest. Nick is situated in the West Egg to represent his closeness to Midwestern values and continues to believe in them as he gets older. Nick's father advises his son, stating, "'Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone [. . .] just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages you've had'" (Fitzgerald 5).
Nick's father knows that possessing money can easily lead to hauteur, so he reminds his son that he is lucky to be so successful.
Throughout the novel, Nick remains conscientious of his mannerisms because of his father's teachings. Roger Lewis claims, "The younger Carraway has one foot in the past and one in the present; his allegiance to his father's older, more careful manner is maintained at the cost of constant surveillance" (42). Nick knows better than to judge others on their immoral actions, so he is careful about what he says and does. Even when Gatsby asks Nick if he would like to be a part of Wolfsheim's illegal business, Nick chooses not to participate in Gatsby's corrupt business dealings, even though these illegal activities make a great deal of money. Nick is never shallow enough to judge Gatsby on how he makes his money illegally. Nick states, "I'm inclined to reserve all judgements" (Fitzgerald 5). Although Gatsby participates in a dishonest industry, Nick chooses not to think any less of him. Nick shows himself to be staid by reserving judgments on others because of his upbringing.
Despite East Egg's affluence and refinement, Nick shows disgust for its residents' lifestyles. It is not long after Nick meets up with the East Eggers for the first time in years when Nick becomes aware of the inhabitants instability. Nick may be related to the Buchanans, but he disapproves of East Egg's overall moral character. When Nick sees the Buchanan's lack of concern for him and their love for gossip, Nick incredulously says to himself, "Their interest rather touched me and made them less remotely rich -- nevertheless, I was confused and a little disgusted as I drove away" (Fitzgerald 24-25). Here, Nick proclaims that seeing the Buchanan's artificial concern towards him made them seem less rich and more ordinary. Nick also sees through the incessant lies that are told to him throughout the novel, yet he never outwardly acknowledges it to others if someone is lying. When Myrtle's sister, Catherine, informs Nick that Daisy will not divorce Tom because she is Catholic, Nick is, "a little shocked at the elaborateness of the lie" (Fitzgerald 38). Here, Nick knows that the only reason Tom told Catherine this is because he hopes to make his marriage seem more moral than what it really is. Tom is aware that Daisy is only with him for his money, but he would rather lie about their marriage than admit the truth. Susan Resneck Parr proclaims, "Nick, in fact, is explicit about how vulnerable people are when faced with a harsh reality that is unadorned by illusion" (61). Nick notices how the citizens of East Egg cannot accept the truth because of their overwhelming fear of having others think less of them. Like the Buchanans, Nick is surrounded by riches, yet he finds the East Eggers lifestyles disturbing.
Throughout the novel, Nick proves himself as the most realistic and honest of all the characters. Nick is well aware of the wealthy's dishonesty, yet refuses to take part in this false behavior. He knows that he is an honest person, especially when compared to the other characters in the novel. Nick justifies his honesty when he states, "I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known" (Fitzgerald 64). As well as Nick being honest with himself, he also attempts to help others recognize what's true. Although Nick is aware of the power and aristocracy of the East Egg, Nick's honesty comes out when he compares Gatsby with the Buchanans. Nick realizes Gatsby is a good person who merely lies in order to impress Daisy, while the East Eggers tend to tell lies which are innessential. Nick says to Gatsby, "They're a rotten crowd, [. . .] You're worth the whole damn bunch put together" (Fitzgerald 162). Nick's disconcerting knowledge of everyone's dishonesty makes him feel like he has to control everything himself. Because of the lies he hears from his friends, Nick feels he is the only person who has control over his life. Susan Resneck Parr states, "[h]is awareness of human vulnerability overshadows his confidence in life's promise, and so he retreats from whatever situation provokes his anxiety and unhappiness in an effort to control and establish a sense of order" (61). Nick's realism clashes with his friends' dishonesty, so in order to maintain his sense of righteousness, he always tells the truth. Despite the many lies that are told throughout the novel, Nick never takes part in dishonest actions.
Nick's passive attitude and role as an onlooker makes it clear that he wants no involvement in the issues of others. Unlike his friends, Nick possesses a passive attitude about the events that occur around him. When Nick agrees to set up a meeting for Daisy and Gatsby, Nick feels constrained to leave them alone because he feels awkward. When Daisy and Gatsby finally do meet again, Nick feels uncomfortable and says, "[a]s calmness wasn't an end in itself I made an excuse at the first possible movement and got to my feet" (Fitzgerald 92). When Nick is in a constrained enviornment, his initial response is to walk away before getting drawn into anyone else's problems. Nick is a character who sees and knows everything that goes on, but refuses to get involved in anyone else's business because he would feel wrong doing so. Charles E. Shain states, "Nick is everywhere he is needed, but he never intrudes on a presented scene" (93). Another example of Nick's passive attitude is when he is with Gatsby and the Buchanans at the hotel. When Gatsby proclaims that Daisy has never loved anyone but him, Nick says to the reader, "At this point Jordan and I tried to go but Tom and Gatsby insisted with competitive firmness that we remain" (Fitzgerald 138). Tom and Gatsby's fractiousness make Nick want no involvement in their argument, yet by him staying also shows his passive side. Although Nick is present during his friends' immoral affairs, can also be classified as an outsider who keeps mostly everything to himself. E. Casie Hermanson says, "Nick is an involved outsider, privileged or burdened with the role of witness and recorder of events" (79). Nick knowing everything that goes on with his friends' lives has both positive and negative consequences. His knowledge of these events help him see who can and cannot be trusted, yet he is also weighted with being an eyewitness to these immoral actions. Because Nick refuses to take action in the affairs of others he makes it clear that he would rather just keep his opinions to himself.
Because of Nick's Midwestern upbringing and honest teachings of his father, Nick sets high moral standards for himself. Nick is honest and refuses to engage in any of the wrongdoings in which his friends partake. Although the actions of the East Coast residents are immoral and unjust, Nick is the only character in the novel who possesses a strong sense of virtue