The Great Gatsby: Character Profile ¡V Nick Carraway


Nick¡¦s main role in The Great Gatsby is to uncover internal binary conflicts, such as his struggle between capitulating to the romantic nature of dreams and recognizing their impracticality, loving the glamorous New York lifestyle while finding it grotesque and damaging, and characterizing himself as open-minded but showing signs of partisanship.


Quotations & Analysis:





¡§In consequence, I¡¦m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of a few veteran bores [...] I come to the admission that it has a limit¡¨

Nick, from the start, points out how he tries to not be judgmental but he knows that it is inevitable that he cannot have un­biased views of people he meet. The fact that he says being a good listener has made him a ¡§victim¡¨ of being bored already hints at how he cannot keep his promise of being non­judgmental.



¡§No ­ Gatsby turned out alright at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short­winded elations of men.¡¨


Here, Nick makes a clear differentiation between Gatsby and all other characters in the book; Gatsby is in one category while all other men and their ¡§short­winded elations¡¨ are in the other. The distinctive trait between the two groups is that Gatsby possessed this ability to dream, while the ¡§elations¡¨ or dreams of men are only ever ¡§short­winded¡¨. The undercurrent of Nick¡¦s tone suggests his appreciation for this characteristic, classifying it as a redeeming trait.



¡§He was a sturdy straw­haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward [...] It was a body capable of enormous leverage ­ a cruel body.¡¨

Through Nick¡¦s words here, readers are already exposed to his bias towards Tom as he is depicted as a ¡§cruel¡¨ and ¡§arrogant¡¨ character. The word ¡§supercilious¡¨ adds on to the arrogant image created of Tom as the sibilance creates the impression of Tom being haughty and menacing. The synecdoche used in Tom¡¦s ¡§shining arrogant eyes¡¨ also allows readers to know clearly what Nick¡¦s stance is on Tom¡¦s character, and the word ¡§shining¡¨ creates the impression of how Nick only sees the arrogance emanating from Tom, as if it is obvious by his physical appearance. The image of Tom being a menacing character is also emphasized by the words ¡§aggressively forward¡¨ as the gutturals in the word ¡§aggressively¡¨ creates jarring sounds that help create the impression of Tom being a harsh and cruel man. The word ¡§forward¡¨ creates the image of Tom towering over others, which further adds onto the image of his arrogance and sense of superiority.



I looked at Miss Baker, wondering what it was she ¡§got done¡¨. I enjoyed looking at her.¡¨

Although this quotation is Nick¡¦s description of Jordan, it essentially sums up his thoughts on the whole glamorous lifestyle of New­York. He ¡§enjoyed looking at her¡¨ as he enjoys the glamorous lifestyle and this suggests a somewhat shallow and superficial portrayal of Nick which reveals that, although he eventually finds the lives of the wealthy somewhat repulsive, he is, at least at the start, attracted to that kind of nonetheless.



¡§At first I was flattered to go places with her, because she was a golf champion, and every­one knew her name.¡¨

The fact that Nick is ¡§flattered to go places¡¨ with Jordan, not because he enjoys her company but because ¡§she was a golf champion, and every­one knew her name.¡¨ indicates Nick¡¦s shallowness as a character and his attitude towards the rich and wealthy. He doesn¡¦t attend Gatsby¡¦s parties because he genuinely enjoys being there, but because there are rich and famous people at the party. Ultimately, he enjoys the status and stature that comes with the glamorous lifestyle more than the actual lifestyle itself.



¡§Jordan Baker instinctively avoided clever, shrewd men, and now I saw that this was because she felt safer on a plane on a plane where any divergence from a code would be thought impossible.¡¨

In this quotation, Jordan Baker is revealed to be more dishonest than she may have initially appeared. Nick realises that Jordan purposely avoided ¡§clever, shrewd men¡¨ who may be able notice her deceitfulness. In essence, ¡§she was incurably dishonest.¡¨ as if lying and the art of deception had become something that was intrinsic to Jordan. This idea is further emphasized when Nick reveals that Jordan ¡§instinctively¡¨ avoided clever men. Indicating that dishonesty was something that is inseparable from Jordan, just as deceit and corruption are components that are inseparable from the glamorous lifestyle of the affluent New­Yorkers.



¡§It made no difference to me. Dishonesty in a woman is a thing you never blame deeply ­ I was casually sorry, and then I forgot.¡¨

Although this quotation is Nick¡¦s judgement on Jordan, it also represents the way in which he sees the glamorous lifestyle of the rich and wealthy. Despite discovering Jordan¡¦s dishonesty, it made no difference to him. Just as ¡§dishonesty in a woman is a thing you never blame deeply¡¨, the ¡§grotesque¡¨ and monstrous world of the wealthy does not seem to bother him. Nick¡¦s description of his own feelings as ¡§casually sorry¡¨ suggest the superficiality of his emotions as he forgets Jordan¡¦s flaws and dishonesty and indulges in her company nonetheless.



¡§My incredulity was submerged in fascination now; it was like skimming hastily through a dozen magazines.¡¨

Nick¡¦s readiness to believe Gatsby despite his earlier ¡§incredulity¡¨ reveals his uncontrollable desire to believe in Gatsby and his stories. The fact that his suspicions were  ¡§submerged¡¨ suggests this uncontrollable tendency to lean towards trusting Gatsby as opposed to being suspicious for too long. The simile reemphasizes this idea, where ¡§skimming¡¨ through these magazines is so rapid that a close inspection of the actual situation is impossible. The active voice suggests that Nick controls this skimming, as though he does not want this close inspection. To summarize, Nick¡¦s easy forgetting his suspicions suggests his internal conflict between being suspicious and being fascinated and the way in which he is ultimately won over by Gatsby.



¡§There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of [Gatsby¡¦s] dreams ­ not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion.¡¨


Nick¡¦s interpretation of how Gatsby stops being ¡§a beautiful fool¡¨ for moments is telling of Nick¡¦s own awareness of the limited capacity of expecting reality from dreams, despite his desire to believe in them. Nick¡¦s certainty in his analysis, underscored by the ¡§must¡¨, reasserts the idea that Nick firmly believes in what follows. He believes that Daisy ¡§tumbles¡¨ short of Gatsby¡¦s dreams and expectation and this word suggests an awkward inability to reach the fully realize his dreams. He blames this on the ¡§colossal vitality of dreams¡¨, where the romanticized language underscored by the importance of ¡§colossal¡¨ and ¡§vital¡¨ implies the intensity of dreams being intense.


In this scene, therefore, we see Nick blame the vast expansiveness of dreams as the reason why Daisy cannot live up to Gatsby¡¦s expectations, while at the same time revealing the beauty of dreaming through his romanticized language.



¡§I wouldn¡¦t ask too much of her,¡¨ I ventured. ¡§You can¡¦t repeat the past.¡¨


¡§Can¡¦t repeat the past?¡¨ he cried incredulously. ¡§Why of course you can!¡¨

This quotation exemplifies Nick¡¦s practical, realistic view that the hope that dreams can be converted into reality is futile. Fitzgerald juxtaposes Nick¡¦s stable, reasonable ¡§venturing¡¨ tone with an ¡§incredulous¡¨, wild tone that Gatsby carries to accentuate the fact that Nick¡¦s thoughtful tone seems more logical and reasonable than Gatsby¡¦s wild tone, suggesting the impracticality to dreaming. From this, it can be seen that Nick mentally recognizes the limited potential of dreams to transform into reality.



¡§I was reminded of something ­ an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that I had heard somewhere a long time ago.¡¨

Shortly after his conversation with Gatsby on p.110, Nick seems to contradict his earlier practical statement with this clearly romanticized account of dreams. While Nick previously viewed them as impractical, this romanticization reveals his belief in the redemptive nature of dreams that is exemplified most prominently in Gatsby.



¡§Jordan put her hand on my arm. Won¡¦t you come in, Nick? No, thanks. I was feeling a little sick and I wanted to be alone. But Jordan lingered for a moment more. I¡¦d be damned if I¡¦d go in; I¡¦d had enough of all of them for one day, and suddenly that included Jordan too.¡¨

For Nick, this moment seems to be a moment of realisation, the moment where he finally begins to take a clear moral stand. His realisation that he had turned thirty earlier in the chapter is another indication that Nick had finally ¡§grown up¡¨. He no longer reserves his judgement and his views on Tom, Daisy and Jordan were now clear. Nick¡¦s moral conscience seems to have been awakened after Myrtle¡¦s death and as Nick decides to reject Tom¡¦s offer of inviting him into the house, he is demonstrating to the reader that ultimately, he is unwilling to sacrifice his moral conscience in exchange for wealth and power. Nick appears to have become so disgusted with Tom, Daisy and Jordan that ¡§[he¡¦d] be damned if [he¡¦d went] in¡¨.


Hence, this quotation acts as a turning point in Nick¡¦s life as he changes from the man who ¡§[is] inclined to reserve all judgements¡¨ (1) into someone who has become so revolted by the moral corruption of the wealthy that he refuses to spend any more time with the Buchanan's and Jordan, who to Nick, represents the morally corrupt upper­class of New York.



¡§What¡¦s the matter, Nick? Do you object to shaking hands with me? Yes. You know what I think of you.¡¨

Nick¡¦s refusal to shake Tom¡¦s hand in this quotation is a clear indication of his disapproval and disgust at the moral corruption of the social elite and the line ¡§You know what I think of you.¡¨ also provides the reader with a indication of Nick¡¦s disapproval of Tom as he makes his condemnation clear face to face.



¡§They were careless people, Tom and Daisy­they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into 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¡K¡¨

This quotation emphasizes the grotesque and often distorted morals of the wealthy who, instead of facing the consequences that result from their actions, choose to hide behind a shield of money. As a result the wealthy seem to lack a sense of guilt for their reckless behavior and thus, Fitzgerald utilizes this quotation to reveal the distorted moral standards that come with money and wealth.



¡§... for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.¡¨

Nick¡¦s comparison of all dreams to what he deems to be one of the greatest dreams in human history suggests his appreciation for the romanticized beauty of ¡§aesthetic contemplation¡¨. The awestruck image Fitzgerald paints of the Dutch sailors with their ¡§[breaths held]¡¨ portrays his, and thus Nicks, appreciation for the beauty of dreams. However, Nick¡¦s description of the discovery of a whole continent as the ¡§last time in history¡¨ that reality lived up to our dreams expresses his belief that only a discovery on this scale can actually be capable of fulfilling our dreams and that, therefore, Gatsby¡¦s realities would inevitably fall short of his expectations. This internal conflict between the beauty of having dreams and the way in which reality inevitably falls short of what has been dreamt of underscores Nick¡¦s internal conflict once again.



¡§Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that¡¦s not matter ­­ to­morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther¡K And one fine morning­­­¡¨

This quotation ends The Great Gatsby with the internal conflict that Nick has been struggling with throughout the course of the novel: between believing in our ability to achieve what we dream of and the fear that the these dreams will continue ¡§elud[ing] us¡¨. Yet, this quotation ends unfinished, with hyphens replacing words to indicate Nick¡¦s faltering as his inability to assert his opinion that we will reach the dream we are ¡§[running]¡¨ towards.