The Great Gatsby


by F. Scott Fitzgerald
"The Great Gatsby", a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is
about the American Dream, and the downfall of those who
attempt to reach its illusionary goal. Nick Carraway, the
narrator, is also a functioning character in the book,
meaning that his personality may affect the retelling of
the story. After associating at lengh with the morally
corrupt East Eggers, Nick gradually loses objectivity in
his narration because of his moral personality and
At the very beginning of the book, Nick writes that his
father had once told him, "Whenever you feel like
criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in
this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
This statement is the basis on which Nick begins to shape
his narration of the novel. Nick's moral personality is
revealed in the first few paragraphs of chapter one.
Because he is firmly seated in his moral beliefs, Nick
finds it spiritually abrasive to live in West Egg, and
ultimately moves back to the midwest, to his former home.
This move back home symbolically represents moving back to
a world of moral structure, a type of place that Nick is
accustomed to. He is not led into a downfall by the false
rewards promised by the move east. Trying to cope with
eastern people and their lifestyles, he constantly reminds
himself to attempt objectivity and reserve personal
judgments towards the other characters. For the first half
of the book, Nick evidently tries to withhold himself from
acting upon the faults he finds in other characters. He
notices defects in people's personalities and the results
of those basic defects; for example, although he realizes
that Jordan Baker is a shameless and incurable liar, he is
willing to accept the fact and reserve his judgments about
her. Nick's objectivity as a narrator is reflected in his
words describing himself-he says he "was both within and
without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the
inexhaustible variety of life" (40,9-11). By this he means
that although he played an active part in the story, he
would look at it from a distance, from a narrator's
perspective; he would report everything as it was whether
he admired it or despised it. 
Another indication of Nick's objectivity is his sense of
humor, evident in various places of the book. He describes
what he sees in a somewhat comically critical and
impersonal way. An example of this aspect of Nick's
attitude is when he hears Gatsby's ridiculous and ludicrous
life story, and says that "The very phrases were worn so
threadbare that they evoked no image except that of a
turbaned "character" leaking sawdust at every pore as he
pursued a tiger through the Bois de Boulogne." (70,15-18)
Nick begins to develop a fuller sense of moral
responsibility, however, starting at his thirtieth
birthday. He realizes that at this age, he is no longer
capable of tolerating such immorality as that of the people
from the wealthy eastern society. He personally sees how
lightly Jordan, Tom and Daisy react to the death of Myrtle
Wilson, and he is appalled. He knows that now is the time
for him to leave. Nick's moral development is perhaps
partially a result of his acting as narrator to the story.
He notices every flaw in the other characters'
personalities, and he sides with Gatsby because he can tell
the difference between Gatsby's personality and those of
the established rich people of East Egg-Gatsby lives a
selfless life in order to attain his dream, while the East
Eggers are constantly being selfishly concerned with their
material possessions, because they believe that material
alone constitutes the American Dream.
Although Nick is inclined to reserve all judgment at first,
he begins to take sides with Gatsby when he realizes that
the East Eggers' vision of the American Dream is merely a
corruption of it-that it is not material possessions alone
that fulfill this dream. As he turns thirty, Nick realizes
that his youth has passed, and he cannot continue to exist
in such a morally corrupt place. He thus sides with Gatsby
until his ultimate trip west.

Quotes: Search by Author