Nick's character in The Great Gatsby Essay


 In 1925 F. Scott Fitzgerald presented one of his best and well-known novels The Great Gatsby, where he depicted the social and economic reality of his era. It seems that Fitzgerald deeply suffered from the imperfection of the value system of the time and showed the most unpleasant virtues of people living in the time of the new economy while building the main characters of the novel. Although the author couldn’t predict the economic crash that overtook America in 1929, the situation he tells us about in The Great Gatsby was one of the first signs of the coming disaster.

The character of Nick Gatsby

 Nick Carroway, one of the main characters of the book, is the first person we meet; he is a man of about thirty from a well-to-do family living in the Midwest of the country, who studied at Yale and graduated in 1915. After he took part in the Great War, he came back to the Midwest and in a while moved to New York City. The reader gets to know that in 1922 he settled in a house in a district, inhabited by wealthy families on Long Island Sound, so-called “old aristocracy”.  From the first pages, he becomes our guide through the book. The author makes him a narrator, and as he is very fair in his judgments the narration turns to be rather realistic and objective. He is not an indifferent observer and is involved in the events; due to his good sense of humor, he never bores the reader and makes the reader trust him, while we are not ready to trust other characters. Nick Carroway is a black sheep in his society.  

Special characteristics of Nick’s personality

Nick Carroway is honest to himself and toward others. His honesty, his faith, and loyalty, his understanding that a person shouldn’t be too quick with his judgments are the features, which make him very special. Nick was the only one who didn’t mislead other people in order to attract them. Other characters of the novel would show others their shallow surface gloss to impress people while the first meetings.  For example, Gatsby’s only love, and Nick’s cousin Daisy were completely different around friends and acquaintances from when she was with her husband Tom Buchanans a football player at New Haven. She is quite sure of herself and a bit arrogant around company while being always humiliated by Tom. Tom is rich and she is ready to stand his unworthy attitude his aggressive manners and even his betrayal (Tom cheated on his wife starting from their honeymoon) for the sake of her position in society, which is the highest priority for her and for many others characters.

      Nick is also the only unspoiled by money, a non-materialistic character of the novel. He came from a quite well-to-do family and we can’t assume that material benefits meant nothing for him. Other people we met in the novel, and Gatsby himself, were absolutely sure that money could buy love, friendship, and happiness. Gatsby thought that now being rich and successful he wouldn’t lose Daisy like it had happened before when he was a little cheese. And Daisy, being quite materialistic, was impressed as she valued surface gloss more than anything else. The only problem was that she had already had a rich husband. This materialism is the only explanation of corruption described in the novel. Gatsby had cultivated materialism in himself from his childhood. Dreaming of a beautiful life, and chasing material benefits he is ready to betray his morality.

      Nick’s values were very different from the materialistic values of people surrounding him.  He was ready to earn money through honest employment and valued hard jobs highly. He moved to the East searching for work and was employed as a bond salesman. Gatsby was sure that Nick would agree to his proposition to earn side-money saying “you see, I carry on a little business on the side, a sort of sideline, you understand. And I thought that if you don’t make very much. You are selling bonds, aren’t you, old sport?” (Fitzgerald, p.82). But Nick, who was sure that the money was gained, against the law, rejected the proposition: “I realize now that under different circumstances that conversation might have been one of the crises of my life. But, because the offer was obviously and tactlessly for a service to be rendered, I had no choice except to cut him off there” (Fitzgerald, p.83). And although he knew that Gatsby had a bad reputation, he didn’t judge him, as he was slow to judge and an open-minded person. He remembered his father’s words: “Whenever you feel like criticizing someone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had all of the advantages you’ve had” (Fitzgerald, p.1).

And Nicks’ answer then was: “In consequence, I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up man curious natures to me, and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores” (Fitzgerald, p.1). Despite the fact that he showed contempt for much of what Gatsby presented: the falseness, the criminality, he still liked him he liked Gatsby and was attracted not by his fancy parties but, for example, by Gatsby’s smile: “He smiled understandingly, much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it that you may come across four or five times in life. It faces or seemed to face the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrates on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey” (Fitzgerald, p.48). 


Gatsby is conceived by the reader as Nick sees him, so it makes the reader sympathize with him and his romantic lifelong pipe dream. Without Nick, we would see Gatsby as a criminal unsettled man trying to break up the marriage of his ex-girlfriend. But this would not be Gatsby that Fitzgerald wanted us to meet. Nick liked that Gatsby was a dreamer, unlike Daisy and Tom who were ruthlessly practical, who let themselves act inexcusably, and then hid behind their money.  Nick is the only person who with Gatsby’s father was present during his funerals. All of his so-called friends, who turned to be absolutely careless people, refused to come.

Impartiality makes Nick the most intelligent and reasonable character. He lived among corrupt, immoral individuals but in spite of that, he didn’t change his principles but became even greater. And it is obvious that it was really rather difficult to stand the pressure of his society, chasing the American dream. It might be easier if he became as materialistic as others were but he didn’t choose easy ways. The reader can’t stay indifferent to Nick, he respects him and it is rather clear that the story would lack insight and balance without him.