Nick Carroway – Character Notes
Nick is the narrator of the novel. He portrays himself as the perfect narrator. He contradicts himself. He appears tolerant, open minded, quiet and a good listener. He tells us that others him their secrets. Daisy asks Nick if he is engaged, however, Nick denies this. His name (Carroway) is the same as the seed – symbolises his insignificance He doesn’t drive the novel, but however, observes it. Nick is from a privileged background. Nick’s principles are quite contradicted as he says he hates New York society (i.e. West Egg) but he admires Jay Gatsby.
Nick seems indecisive as Tom leads him to New York. Tom takes Nick to meet his “mistress”. Once in NY, Nick makes it clear that he wants to leave. He is repelled by the vulgarity and tastelessness, but he is fascinated by the party that is unfolding. We also get the hint that he is not a trustworthy narrator (fully) Nick’s sexuality is questioned as there are gay implications. This, again, makes us question his reliability. At the end of chapter 2 we witness Nick in McKee’s bedroom after the party with Tom and Myrtle. It is unclear whether they were intimate or not.
In chapter 3, our reliability of Nick as narrator makes us judge him further. He starts abandoning his Midwestern values and is enjoying his surroundings. We notice this in his fancy for Jordan Baker who is dishonest, cynical and selfish. He admires Gatsby who flaunts his wealth. Nick tries to imply that he is unbiased, which shows that he is aware that his actions contradict his first lines. This questions his reliability. Why would Nick, who claims to be honest, find himself attracted to Jordan, who is the complete opposite? He has acknowledged her dishonesty, through her suggestion that she moved her ball from a bad lie. He contradicts himself through his line about not blaming women for their dishonesty deeply. Nick is clearly lonely and he shows us this through his description of New York, as he reports the events that he is not a part of.
Nick changes his perception of Gatsby when he finds that he is across the bay from Daisy. He finds that he did this to be close to her. Gatsby, in his eyes, is no longer a show off.
Nick is happy to be a go-between for Gatsby and Daisy. This, once again, makes us question his reliability as the narrator. Is he as honest as he claims? Will he be prepared to go ahead with their meeting, knowing Gatsby’s intention?
Nick, in this final chapter, has gone into isolation. This furthers the reflection of his identification with Gatsby. The reader then learns how Nick believes that Gatsby “turned out alright”. In Nick’s eyes, Gatsby embodied an ability to dream and escape his past. This dream was possibly (untimely) impossible but Nick cherishes and values it nonetheless. Nick is the author and he wants his words to define Gatsby.