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Best Character Analysis: Nick Carraway – The Great Gatsby

Posted by Halle Edwards | May 7, 2016 7:00:00 PM

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Nick Carraway is The Great Gatsby’s narrator, but he isn’t the protagonist (main character).

This makes Nick himself somewhat tricky to observe, since we see the whole novel through his eyes. How can you watch the narrator? This difficulty is compounded by the fact that Nick is an unreliable narrator – basically, a narrator that doesn’t always tell us the truth about what’s happening.

In this post we will explore what we objectively know about Nick, what he does in the novel, his famous lines, common essay topics/discussion topics about Nick, and finally some FAQs about Mr. Carraway.

 

Article Roadmap

  1. Nick as a character
    • Nick's background
    • Actions in the novel
  2. Character Analysis
    • Quotes about and by Nick
    • Nick as a narrator
    • Nick as a character
    • FAQ clarifying confusing points about Nick

 

Quick Note on Our Citations

Our citation format in this guide is (chapter.paragraph). We're using this system since there are many editions of Gatsby, so using page numbers would only work for students with our copy of the book. To find a quotation we cite via chapter and paragraph in your book, you can either eyeball it (Paragraph 1-50: beginning of chapter; 50-100: middle of chapter; 100-on: end of chapter), or use the search function if you're using an online or eReader version of the text.

 

Nick Carraway's Background

Nick grew up in the “middle West,” (what we call the Midwest), in a wealthy family that was “something of a clan” (1.5). His family made their money from a wholesale hardware business his grandfather’s brother began after sending a substitute to fight for him in the Civil War. Nick attended Yale, like his father, and then fought in WWI.

Upon his return, he found the Midwest incredibly boring and so set off for New York to become a bond salesman: “I enjoyed the counter-raid so thoroughly that I came back restless. Instead of being the warm center of the world the middle-west now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe—so I decided to go east and learn the bond business” (1.6). Of course, we later find out that Nick’s also getting away from a woman who expects that they’re getting married, but Nick downplays this fact in his narration, which is one of our clues to his dishonesty.

To see how Nick's background intersects with the stories of the other characters in the novel, check out our Great Gatsby timeline.

 

Nick's Actions in the Novel

This is a summary of everything Nick does during the novel, leaving out flashbacks he hears from other characters. (For a complete summary of the plot, check out our book summary!)

At the beginning of The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway takes up residence in West Egg, in a small house next to Gatsby’s enormous mansion. The year is 1922, the stock market is booming, and Nick has found work as a bond salesman.

In Chapter 1, he is invited to his cousin Daisy Buchanan’s home to have dinner with her and her husband Tom, an old college acquaintance of his. There he meets Jordan Baker, Daisy’s friend and a professional golfer.

In Chapter 2, while hanging out with Tom he ends up being dragged first to George Wilson’s garage to meet Tom’s mistress Myrtle Wilson, and then to the apartment Tom keeps for Myrtle in Manhattan. They invite over a bunch of friends and a drunken party ensues. Nick witnesses some of Tom’s ugliest behavior, including his physical abuse of Myrtle.

In Chapter 3, Nick is invited to attend one of Jay Gatsby’s famous parties. There, he finally meets Gatsby, and also sees Jordan again. After seeing Jordan again at that party, they begin to date, and also does his best to win over her old Aunt, who controls her money. Once he starts dating Jordan he vows to stop sending weekly letters to the woman back in the Midwest. (Though, in typical Nick fashion, he never confirms that he stops sending the letters.) He also mentions a brief affair with a woman in his office that he lets fizzle out.

After meeting Gatsby in Chapter 3 they begin spending time together. In Chapter 4 they drive to Manhattan together. At first he’s pretty wary of Gatsby and his story. This wariness of Gatsby is compounded by Nick’s poor (and very anti-Semitic!) impression of Meyer Wolfsheim, one of Gatsby’s associates. Later in Chapter 4, Nick meets up with Jordan in the plaza hotel and she tells him about Daisy and Gatsby’s romantic history (which she heard all about at the previous party).

Nick agrees to arrange a meeting between Daisy and Gatsby, which occurs in Chapter 5.

In Chapter 6, Nick goes to Gatsby’s house and witnesses an awkward exchange between Gatsby, a couple named Sloane, and Tom Buchanan. The trio had stopped by Gatsby’s house and Gatsby misreads how serious they are about having dinner together. Later, Tom and Daisy attend one of Gatsby’s parties. Tom is immediately suspicious about where Gatsby gets his money while Daisy has a bad time, looking down her nose at the affair. Gatsby confides in Nick afterwards that he wants to repeat his past with Daisy.

In Chapter 7, Nick is invited along to a lunch party at Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s house, along with Gatsby and Jordan. Gatsby is hoping Daisy will tell Tom that she never loved him and is leaving him for Gatsby, but starts to feel nervous doing that in Tom’s house. Daisy is anxious as well and suggests they all go to Manhattan. Nick rides to Manhattan with Tom and Jordan, in Gatsby’s yellow car. They stop by the Wilson’s garage, where he learns that George has discovered Myrtle’s affair, but not the man she is cheating on him with.

In Manhattan, the group rents a room at the Plaza hotel. A bunch of secrets come out, including the fact that Tom knows Gatsby is a bootlegger. Daisy tries to say she never loved Tom but can’t stand by the statement, Tom, satisfied he’s won, tells Gatsby to take Daisy back home in his yellow car while he drives back with Nick and Jordan.

 

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Perhaps the least subtle car in the history of cars.

 

On the way back, they come along Myrtle Wilson’s death scene: she has been hit by the yellow car. Later that night, Nick stays outside of the Buchanans’ house while waiting for a cab back to West Egg, too disgusted with their behavior to go inside. He sees Gatsby waiting outside – he wants to make sure Daisy is alright. Meanwhile, Nick spots Tom and Daisy inside looking like co-conspirators.

In Chapter 8, Nick goes to work but can’t concentrate. Jordan calls him to say where she’s staying, but he’s disgusted she doesn’t seem shaken by Myrtle’s death and they fight and break up. Nick later spends time with Gatsby in his mansion and learns his whole life story. The next day, Gatsby is shot and killed by George Wilson (and George kills himself).

In Chapter 9, Nick struggles to arrange a funeral for Gatsby, which in the end is only attended by Gatsby’s father and Owl Eyes. Disgusted with the morally lawless life in the East, he decides to retreat back home to the Midwest.

 

Nick Carraway Quotes

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had." (1.1-2)

The first lines establish Nick as thoughtful, thorough, privileged, and judgmental. This line also sets the tone for the first few pages, where Nick tells us about his background and tries to encourage the reader to trust his judgment. While he comes off as thoughtful and observant, we also get the sense he is judgmental and a bit snobby.

To see more analysis of why the novel begins how it does, and what Nick's father's advice means for him as a character and as a narrator, read our article on the beginning of The Great Gatsby.

 

When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction—Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. (1.4)

Another quote from the first few pages of the novel, this line sets up the novel’s big question: why does Nick become so close to Gatsby, given that Gatsby represents everything he hates? It also hints to the reader that Nick will come to care about Gatsby deeply while everyone else will earn his “unaffected scorn.” While this doesn’t give away the plot, it does help the reader be a bit suspicious of everyone but Gatsby going into the story.

 

Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known. (3.171)

This is likely the moment when you start to suspect Nick doesn’t always tell the truth – if everyone “suspects” themselves of one of the cardinal virtues (the implication being they aren’t actually virtuous), if Nick says he’s honest, perhaps he’s not? Furthermore, if someone has to claim that they are honest, that often suggests that they do things that aren’t exactly trustworthy.

 

Suddenly I wasn't thinking of Daisy and Gatsby any more but of this clean, hard, limited person who dealt in universal skepticism and who leaned back jauntily just within the circle of my arm. A phrase began to beat in my ears with a sort of heady excitement: "There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired." (4.164)

Nick’s interactions with Jordan are some of the only places where we get a sense of any vulnerability or emotion from Nick. In particular, Nick seems quite attracted to Jordan and being with her makes a phrase “beat” in his ears with “heady excitement.” If there are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired, it would appear Nick is happy to be the pursuer at this particular moment.

 

"They're a rotten crowd," I shouted across the lawn. "You're worth the whole damn bunch put together." (8.45)

This line, which comes after Myrtle’s death and Tom, Daisy, and Jordan’s cold reaction to it, establishes that Nick has firmly come down on Gatsby’s side in the conflict between the Buchanans and Gatsby. It also shows Nick’s disenchantment with the whole wealthy east coast crowd and also that, at this point, he is devoted to Gatsby and determined to protect his legacy. This hints to us that our once seemingly impartial narrator is now seeing Gatsby more generously than he sees others.

 

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning—— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. (9.153-4)

This is Nick’s conclusion to his story, which can be read as cynical, hopeful, or realistic, depending on how you interpret it. You can read in detail about these lines in our article about the novel’s ending.

 

Nick Carraway Character Analysis 

Nick is the narrator, but he is not omniscient (he can’t see everything), and he’s also very human and flawed. In other words, he’s an unreliable narrator, sometimes because he’s not present for a certain event, other times because he presents the story out of order, and finally because he sometimes obscures the truth. (It takes most students two reads of the novel to even catch the fact that Nick has a woman waiting for him back in the Midwest.)

Because of his unreliable narrator status, the central questions many teachers try to get at with Nick is to explore his role in the story, how the story would be different without his narration, and how he compares to Gatsby.

In short, you often have to analyze Nick as a character, not the narrator. This can be tricky because you have to compare Nick’s narration with his dialogue, his actions, and how he chooses to tell the story. You also have to realize that when you’re analyzing the other characters, you’re doing that based on information from Nick, which may or may not be reliable. Basically, nothing we hear in the novel can be completely accurate since it comes through the (necessarily) flawed point of view of a single person.

Anyway, the best way to analyze Nick himself is to choose a few passages to close read, and use what you observe from close-reading to build a larger argument. Pay close attention tomoments, especially Nick’s encounters with Jordan, that give you a glimpse at Nick’s emotions and vulnerabilities. We will demonstrate this in action below!

 

body_rosetinted.jpgPictured: the rose-tinted glasses Nick apparently starts to see Gatsby through.

 

Nick as Narrator

Why is Nick the narrator and not Gatsby?

Since Nick gives a roughly chronological account of the summer of 1922, we get to see the development of Gatsby from mysterious party-giver to love-struck dreamer to tragic figure (who rose from humble roots and became rich, all in a failed attempt to win over Daisy). If Gatsby was the narrator, it would be harder for Fitzgerald to show that progression, unless Gatsby relayed his life story way out of order, which might have been hard to accomplish from Gatsby’s POV.

The novel would have also been a much more straightforward story, probably with less suspense: Gatsby was born poor in South Dakota, became friends with Dan Cody, learned how to act rich, lost Cody’s inheritance, fell in love with Daisy, fought in the war, became determined to win her back, turned to crime. In short, Fitzgerald could have told the same story, but it would have had much less suspense and mystery, plus it would have been much harder to relay the aftermath of Gatsby’s death. Unless the point of view abruptly switched after Gatsby was shot, the reader would have no idea what exactly happened to Gatsby, what happened to George Wilson, and finally wouldn’t be able to see Gatsby’s funeral.

Plus, with a narrator other than Gatsby himself, it’s easier to analyze Gatsby as a character. Nick is very observant, and he is able to notice things about Gatsby, like the way he misses social cues, subtle shifts in his mood, and even smaller details like his arresting smile. We probably wouldn’t have seen these facets of Gatsby if Gatsby himself were telling the story.

Finally, since Nick is both “within and without” the New York elite, he is an excellent ticket in to the reader – he can both introduce us to certain facets of that world while also sharing in much of our shock and skepticism. Nick is just like the “new student at school” or “new employee” trope that so many movies and TV shows use as a way to introduce viewers into a new world. With Gatsby as narrator, it would be harder to observe all the details of the New York social elite.

 

Nick Carraway: Unreliable Narrator?

In many ways, Nick is an unreliable narrator: he’s dishonest about his own shortcomings (downplaying his affairs with other women, as well as his alcohol use), and he doesn’t tell us everything he knows about the characters upfront (for example, he waits until Chapter 6 to tell us the truth about Gatsby’s origins, even though he knows the whole time he’s telling the story, and even then glosses over unflattering details like the details of Gatsby’s criminal enterprises), and he’s often harsh in his judgments (and additionally anti-Semitic, racist, and misogynistic).

As a reader, you should be skeptical of Nick because of how he opens the story, namely that he spends a few pages basically trying to prove himself a reliable source (see our beginning summary for more on this), and later, how he characterizes himself as “one of the few honest people I have ever known” (3.171). After all, does an honest person really have to defend their own honesty?

However, despite how judgmental he is, Nick is a very observant person, especially in regard to other people, their body language, and social situations. For example, in Chapter 6, Nick immediately senses Gatsby isn’t really welcome at the Sloanes’ house before Tom says it outright. Nick is also able to accurately predict Daisy won’t leave Tom at the end of Chapter 1, after observing her standing in the door with Tom: “I was confused and a little disgusted as I drove away. It seemed to me that the thing for Daisy to do was to rush out of the house, child in arms—but apparently there were no such intentions in her head” (1.150). If only Jay could have seen Daisy’s intentions so clearly!

We also come away with a very clear understanding of the messy climax (Myrtle’s death at the hands of Daisy in Gatsby’s car, George Wilson’s psychological decay and murder/suicide of Gatsby), since Nick tells the events from his point of view but also from Michaelis’s, who owns a coffee shop near George Wilson’s garage. In short, Nick delegates to another narrator when he knows he doesn’t have enough information, and makes sure the reader comes away with a clear understanding of the fundamental events of the tragedy.

In short, you shouldn’t believe everything Nick says, especially his snobbier asides, but you can take his larger characterizations and version of events seriously. But as you read, try to separate Nick’s judgments about people from his observations!

 

Is Nick actually the hero of the story?

A hero, or protagonist, is generally the character whose actions propel the story forward, who the story focuses on, and they are usually tested or thwarted by an antagonist.

So in the most traditional sense, Gatsby is the hero – he drives the action of the story by getting Jordan and Nick to reintroduce him to Daisy (which leads to the affair, confrontation in Manhattan, the death of Myrtle, and then the murder-suicide), he goes up against an antagonist of sorts (Tom), and the story ends with his death. Gatsby’s story is thus a cynical take on the traditional rags-to-riches story.

However, some people see the protagonist as also the person who changes the most in the course of a story. In this case, you might argue that since Nick changes a lot during the novel (see below), while Gatsby during the story itself doesn’t change dramatically (his big character changes come before the chronology of the novel), that Nick is in fact the protagonist. Nick’s story is a take on the coming of age narrative – he even has an important birthday (30) in the novel!

Basically, if you think the protagonist is the character who propels the action of the story, and someone who has an antagonist, it’s Gatsby. But if you think the protagonist is the person who changes the most, you could argue Nick is the hero.

 

Nick as a Character

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We never get a physical description of Nick, so don't blame yourself if your mental image of him is bland and amorphous like this fellow.

 

How does Nick change throughout the novel?

Nick starts out naïve and hopeful about his summer, and his future in New York more generally, as revealed through his narration (this optimism about his own life is mixed up with his sharp, snarky characterizations of others, which remain mostly the same all through the novel).

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees—just as things grow in fast movies—I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer. There was so much to read for one thing and so much fine health to be pulled down out of the young breath-giving air. (1.11-12) (emphasis added) 

As the summer goes on, he meets someone wildly more hopeful than he is – Gatsby, of course – and he begins to be more cynical in how he views his own life in comparison, realizing that there are certain memories and feelings he can no longer access. 

Through all he said, even through his appalling sentimentality, I was reminded of something—an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that I had heard somewhere a long time ago. For a moment a phrase tried to take shape in my mouth and my lips parted like a dumb man's, as though there was more struggling upon them than a wisp of startled air. But they made no sound and what I had almost remembered was uncommunicable forever. (6.135) (emphasis added)

Finally, after the deaths of Myrtle, Gatsby, and Wilson, as well as the passing of his thirtieth birthday, Nick is thoroughly disenchanted, cynical, regretful, even angry, as he tries to protect Gatsby’s legacy in the face of an uncaring world, as well as a renewed awareness of his own mortality. 

"I'm thirty," I said. "I'm five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor." She didn't answer. Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away. (9.125-6)

After Gatsby's death the East was haunted for me like that, distorted beyond my eyes' power of correction. (9.127)

On the last night, with my trunk packed and my car sold to the grocer, I went over and looked at that huge incoherent failure of a house once more. On the white steps an obscene word, scrawled by some boy with a piece of brick, stood out clearly in the moonlight and I erased it, drawing my shoe raspingly along the stone.  (9.150)

In short, as much as this is a novel about Gatsby’s failed dream/love for Daisy, you could also argue it tells the story of Nick’s loss of hope and innocence as he enters his 30s.

 

How does Nick feel about Gatsby? Why does he come to like him so much?

Nick goes from initially taken with Gatsby, to skeptical, to admiring, even idealizing him, over the course of the book. When he first meets Gatsby in Chapter 3, he is drawn in by his smile and immediately senses a peer and friend, before of course Gatsby reveals himself as THE Jay Gatsby:

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 faced—or seemed to face—the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just so 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. (3.73)

In Chapter 4, Nick is highly skeptical of Gatsby’s story about his past, although he is somewhat impressed by the medal from “little Montenegro” (4.32). 

He looked at me sideways—and I knew why Jordan Baker had believed he was lying. He hurried the phrase "educated at Oxford," or swallowed it or choked on it as though it had bothered him before. And with this doubt his whole statement fell to pieces and I wondered if there wasn't something a little sinister about him after all. (4.24)

He also seems increasingly skeptical after his encounter with Meyer Wolfshiem, who Nick describes very anti-Semitically. When Wolfshiem vouches for Gatsby’s “fine breeding,” (4.99) Nick seems even more suspicious of Gatsby’s origins.

In Chapter 5, as Nick observes the reunion between Gatsby and Daisy, he first sees Gatsby as much more human and flawed (especially in the first few minutes of the encounter, when Gatsby is incredibly awkward), and then sees Gatsby has transformed and “literally glowed” (5.87). As Nick watches Gatsby blossom in Daisy’s presence, I think Nick himself is won over by Gatsby. Notice how warm Nick’s description is:

But there was a change in Gatsby that was simply confounding. He literally glowed; without a word or a gesture of exultation a new well-being radiated from him and filled the little room (5.87)

In Chapter 6, Nick honestly and frankly observes how Gatsby is snubbed by the Sloanes, but he seems more like he’s pitying Gatsby than making fun of him. It almost seems like he’s trying to protect Gatsby by cutting off the scene just as Gatsby comes out the door, coat in hand, after the Sloanes have coldly left him behind:

Tom and I shook hands, the rest of us exchanged a cool nod and they trotted quickly down the drive, disappearing under the August foliage just as Gatsby with hat and light overcoat in hand came out the front door. (6.59)

By Chapter 7, during the confrontation in the hotel, Nick is firmly on Gatsby’s side, to the point that he is elated when Gatsby reveals that he did, in fact, attend Oxford but didn’t graduate:

I wanted to get up and slap him on the back. I had one of those renewals of complete faith in him that I'd experienced before. (7.221)

As the rest of the novel plays out, Nick becomes more admiring of Gatsby, even as he comes to dislike the Buchanans (and Jordan, by extension) more and more.

Why exactly Nick becomes so taken with Gatsby is, I think, up to the reader. In my reading, Nick, as someone who rarely steps outside of social boundaries and rarely gets “carried away” with love or emotion (see how coldly he ends not one but three love affairs in the book!), is admiring and even somewhat jealous of Gatsby, who is so determined to build a certain life for himself that he manages to transform the poor James Gatz into the infamous, wealthy Jay Gatsby. 

On the last night, with my trunk packed and my car sold to the grocer, I went over and looked at that huge incoherent failure of a house once more. On the white steps an obscene word, scrawled by some boy with a piece of brick, stood out clearly in the moonlight and I erased it, drawing my shoe raspingly along the stone. (9.150)

Gatsby’s fate also becomes entangled with Nick’s own increased cynicism, both about his future and life in New York, so he clings to the memory of Gatsby and becomes determined to tell his story.

 

Is Nick Carraway Gay?

At first, this might not seem plausible – Nick dates Jordan during the book (and also admits to a few other love affairs with women) and at one point confesses to being “half in love with [Jordan].” So why do people think Nick is gay?

First of all, consider the odd moment at the end of Chapter 2 that seems to suggest Nick goes home with Mr. McKee:

"Come to lunch some day," he suggested, as we groaned down in the elevator.

"Where?"

"Anywhere."

"Keep your hands off the lever," snapped the elevator boy.

"I beg your pardon," said Mr. McKee with dignity, "I didn't know I was touching it."

"All right," I agreed, "I'll be glad to."

. . . I was standing beside his bed and he was sitting up between the sheets, clad in his underwear, with a great portfolio in his hands.

"Beauty and the Beast . . . Loneliness . . . Old Grocery Horse . . . Brook'n Bridge . . . ."

Then I was lying half asleep in the cold lower level of the Pennsylvania Station, staring at the morning "Tribune" and waiting for the four o'clock train. (2.128-136)

Nick’s narration is confused and sporadic as he was quite drunk after the party. However, what we do see – the elevator boy chiding him to “keep your hands off the lever” (hint hint wink wink nudge nudge), shortly followed by Nick saying “I was standing beside [Mr. McKee’s bed and he was sitting up between the sheets, clad in his underwear”—seems to pretty strongly suggest a sexual encounter. And in a novel that is so short and carefully constructed, why add this short scene unless it’s supposed to help us understand Nick?

Some people see that scene as a confirmation of Nick’s sexual preference, or at least an indication he’s attracted to men as well as women. However, since this was the 1920s, he couldn’t exactly be out and proud, which is why he would never frankly admit to being attracted to men in his sober narration. So instead, as the theory goes, his love for and attraction to for Gatsby is mirrored through a filter of intense admiration. So, using this reading, The Great Gatsby is narrated by a man suffered from unrequited love.

Do you have to take this reading as fact? Not at all. But if you’re curious you can check out a fuller write-up of the “Nick as gay” reading and decide for yourself.

 

Final Questions

These are questions students often have about Nick after reading the book, but ones that don’t always come up in classroom discussions or essay topics. Read on if you still have unanswered questions about Nick!

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Also, be sure to let us know in the comments if you have more questions about Nick!

 

What’s up with Nick and Jordan’s relationship? Do they actually like each other?

Nick says in his opening narration that most people in the east have earned his “unaffected scorn,” so it’s confusing to see him cozy up to Jordan in the next few chapters (1.4). However, keep in mind that scorn is earned over the course of the novel, and Nick writes the opening narration looking back at everything. So before the tragic conclusion, Nick actually is strongly attracted to Jordan and hasn’t yet realized that her attractive skepticism actually means she can be callous and uncaring. Our quote above from Chapter 4, as Nick finds himself attracted to the “hard, clean, limited” Jordan, illustrates that strong initial attraction.

But post break-up, do they still feel anything for each other? Their break-up scene is really helpful to analyze to answer this question: 

"Nevertheless you did throw me over," said Jordan suddenly. "You threw me over on the telephone. I don't give a damn about you now but it was a new experience for me and I felt a little dizzy for a while."

We shook hands.

"Oh, and do you remember—" she added, "——a conversation we had once about driving a car?"

"Why—not exactly."

"You said a bad driver was only safe until she met another bad driver? Well, I met another bad driver, didn't I? I mean it was careless of me to make such a wrong guess. I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person. I thought it was your secret pride."

"I'm thirty," I said. "I'm five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor."

She didn't answer. Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away. (9.130-136)

Jordan, for her part, seems to admit to having genuinely liked Nick when they break up at the end and was quite hurt. And Nick, for once, is a mess of emotions: “angry” and “half in love.” So despite Nick’s earlier proclamation that everyone from the east coast is the object of his “unaffected scorn,” it would seem his attachment to Jordan is a bit more complicated: he’s disgusted by some of her behavior and yet still feels a strong attraction to her, strong enough that he’s angry and sorry during their break-up.

Of course, if you subscribe to the “Nick loves Gatsby” theory you could chalk much of this scene up to repressed desires, especially Nick’s comment about not wanting to lie to himself.

 

Why does Nick say “you’re better than the whole damn bunch of them”?

This statement officially marks Nick’s disillusionment with the East Coast, old money crowd. Remember that this line comes after the car accident, and the scene in the hotel just before that, so he’s just seen Daisy and Tom’s ugliest behavior. Nick is proud of the statement since it was one of the last things he ever got to say to Gatsby.

What can be a bit harder to spot is when exactly Nick’s earlier distrust of Gatsby morphed into respect. I argued above it begins in Chapter 5, when he watches Gatsby’s reunion with Daisy and sees Gatsby transformed and enraptured by love.

 

What’s Next?

Nick sets the stage in Chapter 1 by first explaining why he can be trusted as a narrator. Read our summary of Chapter 1 for more analysis as to why Nick’s opening makes him a bit suspicious as a narrator.

Want to read more about Nick and Jordan’s relationship? Curious as to why they get together despite their differences in background? Read about love, desire, and relationships in Gatsby for more on their relationship.

Did Fitzgerald see himself as more of a Carraway or a Gatsby? Read our history of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life for more on the man behind the book.

 

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Halle Edwards
About the Author

Halle Edwards graduated from Stanford University with honors. In high school, she earned 99th percentile ACT scores as well as 99th percentile scores on SAT subject tests. She also took nine AP classes, earning a perfect score of 5 on seven AP tests. As a graduate of a large public high school who tackled the college admission process largely on her own, she is passionate about helping high school students from different backgrounds get the knowledge they need to be successful in the college admissions process.



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