Linda Yang 楊子儀 97121382
Prof. Joel Janicki
22 May 2011
Nick Carraway’s Self-understanding in The Great Gatsby
At the first sight of the title, The Great Gatsby, one might expect to have a vivid picture of how this Gatsby be presented as a legendary person; however, the central puzzle of The Great Gatsby is actually the seemingly simple and heart-to-heart Nick Carraway, who eventually transforms into a whole new version of himself that even he himself has not expected to be. Unlike the static characters in The Great Gatsby, including Jay Gatsby, Daisy Fay, Jordan Baker, and Tom Buchanan, Nick changes substantially during the course of the novel, which ...view middle of the document...
Being slowly immersed in the world of the interwoven relationship of the other characters in The Great Gatsby, Nick gradually changes in the end. As Jordan rebukes him for being just as dishonest and careless as the rest of them, Nick realizes that he is changed and will never be the same. Due to Gatsby’s death, Nick reaches the climax
of his understanding of life and self awareness. “I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all -- Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners,
and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life (Fitzgerald, 178).” Nick now is aware of the bareness and sterility of the East, of a world that pervades the material-centered thinking. After seeing what has happened, Nick declares that he wants “the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever (Fitzgerald, 2)” and knows the best way is to return home despite of the fact that he used to believe that no one could return to the past. Nick ends with his realization that his fascination for a gleaming and dazzling East is lost, whose standards are built upon superficial, immoral, and materialistic life. The final lines of the text suggest the inevitability of inability to separate the dreams of the past with the reality of the present.
Nick presents the story as if he were the writer of the story; however, he is also a figure in the novel, involved in the action. Consequently, we see Gatsby only through the eyes of Nick. It is he that makes Gatsby “great” for us. On the surface, Gatsby’s illegal business dealings and dubious background make him both attractive and repulsive -- the people enjoying his riches at his parties are intrigued by him, but
few know his whereabouts or the source of his wealth. Nick is one of these few and the only person who really comes to understand and appreciate the moral reality of
this Mr. Nobody from Nowhere in the end. Gatsby represents almost all of the addictions for which Nick has an affected scorn, but he gradually likes him and admires him as the events move on. “If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life . . . It was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again (Fitzgerald, 2).” What makes Gatsby “great” to Nick is not the luxurious lifestyle or the enigmatic wealth, but his true personality; Nick slowly discovers that Gatsby doesn’t care about treasure or social status but the finest and most foolish...