The Great Gatsby & Nick

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade September 2001

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In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway serves dual roles. The first one introduced, Nick Carraway is the novel's most well-developed character. The opening paragraphs of the novel reveal Nick's morals and ideals as a person. Though believing himself to have been given a fair amount of the "fundamental decencies [that are] parcelled out unequally at birth", Nick still is inclined "to reserve all judgements" (6, 5). With that inclination, he is then able to get to know most of the characters quite intimately, thus being able to see all the situations as a whole. An example that exemplifies his habit of reserving judgement is just before he meets Gatsby himself. At the first party of Gatsby's that he attends, he had not yet met the host, when already he hears of several rumors concerning Gatsby's past. Unaffected by rumors such as "[Gatsby has] killed a man once" and being "a German spy during the war", Nick still gets to know Gatsby quite well, helping the plot as well as Gatsby's character development (47, 48).

Nick's personality qualities qualify him for being a good narrator. The most honest of all characters in the story, Nick is also honest with himself. For example, although Nick cares for Jordan, he admits to himself that Jordan is dishonest and selfish, thereby not letting emotion cloud his judgement. Nick seems to be The Great Gatsby's only uncorrupted and disillusioned character. Every other character, including Gatsby himself, uses money for every need or want, such as trying to buy happiness. For example, Gatsby, who "[turns] out all right in the end," thinks he can win Daisy over by impressing her with his grand exhibitions of wealth and that it is completely possible to "fix everything just the way it was before" with it (6, 117). In contrast to Gatsby's distorted view of life, Nick retains his perspective. As he says, he "[is] within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life." (40).

Besides being a pivotal character in the plot itself in facilitating the reunion between Daisy and Tom, Nick fills his role as a narrator for the plot very well. He relates the story as he has experienced, and what others tell him. At all times, he presents the information he receives, while always striving for objectivity. His neutrality is strengthened throughout the plot to us by his disdain of Gatsby, which becomes apparent when Nick comments that "Gatsby [represents] everything for which I have an unaffected scorn" (6). He exudes such contempt for almost everything that Gatsby stands for "“ materialism, superficiality, and dishonesty "“ but is still rather fond of Gatsby. Nick's ability to criticize Gatsby and see the faults in him indicates that he judges the entire person, not just from first impressions because he is charmed into their smile, even those that are "one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it" (52). The mere fact that Nick disapproves of Gatsby helps the readers to accept Nick's reliability as a narrator "“ to present both the good and bad side of a person or a situation.

Of all the characters, Nick's personality is the most developed, and since the plot itself is told from his perspective and thoughts, he is critical to the book's story line. Fitzgerald chose wisely when he set up Nick Carraway's dual roles "“ both as a pivotal character, as well as the narrator.