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Nick Carraway Essay, Research Paper

Despite the title, Nick Carraway is the first character we meet, and

appropriately his role in The Great Gatsby is crucial; without him the

story would lack balance and insight. The first chapter is primarily

dedicated to establishing his personality and position in the book,

then moving on to Tom and Daisy. Nick is our guide in The Great

Gatsby; he relates the story as he has seen it and from what others

have told him. He strives at all times to be objective and to make

balanced comments just as he said in the beginning of the book, ^I^m

inclined to reserve all judgements.^ The role of Nick Carraway is so

important to the book that the character of Jay Gatsby could not

exist. His objectivity is reinforced throughout to us by his scorn of

Gatsby which becomes known to the reader when he says he, ^represented

everything for which I have unaffected scorn.^ He registers contempt

for much of what Gatsby stands for; the falseness, the criminality, but

he still likes him. His ability to laugh at Gatsby and his false

beliefs shows he^s neither charmed not wholly disgusted by Gatsby.

Nick^s amusingly contemptuous remarks show his sense of humor, and

although he is straight-laced, he does not bore the reader. Fitzgerald

tells the audience of his age, thirty, which makes the them take his

opinions seriously, as he is not some immature man. Nick is introduced

directly, but Gatsby remains a distant and unknown character for a good

while. The establishment of Nick^s reflective, tolerant personality is

essential, as are his limitations, so we just don^t dismiss him as a

character speaking the words and feelings of the author. The fact that

he disapproves of Gatsby so early on helps us to go along with his

judgements when he tells us of Gatsby and unfolds the story. Nick is

unlike the other characters of the book; he is not one of the ^careless

people.^ He has a conscience, he is not selfish, and he has decency

that is well demonstrated in his efforts for Gatsby^s funeral. His

down to earth character shows how superficial Daisy and Tom are. Daisy

and Tom are ruthlessly practical, where Gatsby^s just a dreamer. Nick

guides us between these two extremes, an indifferent observer while

being involved in the action. This is evident when Nick said, ^I was

within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by! the

inexhaustible variety of life.^ Nick^s aim to be truthful and objective

makes the reader trust him. When he says that Gatsby has a ^rare smile

with a quality of eternal reassurance in it,^ we know Nick isn^t being

charmed by his riches or parties; but is telling it to us straight.

His contempt for much of what Gatsby says, but also Nick^s tolerance,

is emphasized when Nick doesn^t mock him. The reader has no choice but

to become acquainted with Nick. The other characters lack the

dimension for us to trust them, which is what Fitzgerald is trying to

demonstrate. Seeing Gatsby through Nick^s eyes makes the reader

sympathize with him and his unattainable life long dream. Without Nick

we would perceive Gatsby as a corrupt mad man trying to disrupt an old

girlfriend^s life. This would not be the whole truth and not what

Fitzgerald would want us to see. While Gatsby and what he stands for

is clearly the focus of the book, there is an argument for saying that

Nick is the main character. Gatsby doesn^t speak till the third

chapter and he dies after three-quarters of the book. Nick is the more

in depth character and since practically every part of the story is

related to us with his thoughts and his perceptions, it is hard for him

not to be. He is the character the reader leaves the story feeling

they understand and whose actions and judgements they support, unlike

Gatsby. He is the narrator but his involvement in the events, no

matter how much he tries to stay objective, make a difference.

Fitzgerald sets up Nick Carraway^s role as a character in his own

right, not just Fitzgerald^s mouthpiece.


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