Nick Carraway, the narrator of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby,” serves as both a reporter of and a participant in the events that take place in this story set during the summer of 1922. While he is often confused by their actions, Nick remains fairly consistent in his opinions of Gatsby, Daisy, Tom and Jordan.
Carraway, in spite of the fact that he originally seems like he’s watching everything from the sidelines, becomes a crucial character for this novel and its messages. He has the privilege of being the only character who undergoes a significant change from the beginning of the novel to the end. However, his perspective of the people he spends his time with doesn’t change much.
Tom Buchanan is the husband of Daisy, who is Nick’s cousin. In his first appearance in the novel, Nick says that he has “two shining arrogant eyes” which “established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward” (Fitzgerald 7). Nick frequently describes Tom regarding his demeanor, indicating that he’s a “brute” multiple times. Nick sees him as harsh and ruthless. Throughout the story, Nick witnesses Tom make racist comments, commit unfaithful acts, and assault his mistress.
In the first few chapters, Daisy Buchanan invites Nick to her house for dinner. Although they are cousins, they don’t know each other very well and not much is revealed about Nick’s view on Daisy. At Daisy’s house, Nick also meets Jordan Baker and is attracted to her. Nick and Jordan begin to date but he is unsure of his feelings because she lies to him frequently.
After experiencing many horrible events, Nick sees how empty people like Daisy, Jordan and Tom are. Even though he was taught to hold back from judging others, Nick truly sees how Tom and Daisy treat those who care for them. “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back to their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made,” (Fitzgerald 179). Nick witnesses how Daisy does defend Gatsby and the horrible way that Tom behaves towards Myrtle. People like them, who took advantage of Gatsby’s wealth when he was living, but disappeared when he died. Nick realizes that people like them are capable of using their money as a shield between themselves and the wrecking they inflict on other people. Nick changes his view on Jordan because after the killing of Myrtle, she becomes the same as Tom and Daisy. He sees her as just another privileged person who destroys those around her.
Nick’s attitude toward Gatsby is contradictory. At times, he seems to disapprove of Gatsby’s decisions, but he also romanticizes and admires him. “I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction—Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. (Fitzgerald 2) It’s uncertain why Nick becomes so close to Gatsby, given that Gatsby represents everything he hates. “They’re a rotten crowd,” I shouted across the lawn. “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.” even after experiencing everything Gatsby has done and all the lies he’s told, Nick still holds him in high regard.
Nick’s self awareness sets him apart from the other characters. From the first time he interacts with others he is clearly different than them. He’s more practical and down-to-earth than other characters. Nick has what many of the other characters lack, integrity, and his sense of right and wrong helps to elevate him above the others.
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