Nick and the reader weren’t certain he existed. Only a select few could claim that they have seen and conversed with him. Eventually though, Nick ends up meeting him on accident in a bit of an ironic twist. To Nick, Gatsby was a man with limitless charm and ambition. An entire paragraph was dedicated to describing how positive and reassuring his smile was.
Gatsby’s troubled past contradicts with his present personality. After Gatsby dies, Nick is torn between believing that Gatsby is a great friend and that Gatsby is a corrupt bootlegger. In order to believe that Gatsby is a good friend, Nick must forget about Gatsby’s criminal past. By erasing the obscene word on Gatsby’s steps, Nick is choosing to erase Gatsby’s corrupt past and remember Gatsby as a good friend. Barbara also mentions how frequently Fitzgerald mentions eyesight and Gatsby’s vanishings.
While Jay Gatsby was praised by Fitzgerald and other characters throughout the Great Gatsby only his success separates him from anyone else with a dream and self-discipline. Fitzgerald utilizes Nick Carraway in setting Gatsby on an elusive pedestal. Throughout the book Nick narrates his view of his curious neighbor and the honorable qualities he perceives in him. His reputation for lavish parties and insurmountable wealth further his climb into seemingly impassable righteousness as characters throughout the book fawn over Gatsby’s boisterous parties. His polished variant of his life story only builds the argument that he is indeed great.
Without even considering Nick’s insight, Gatsby immediately dismisses what Nick has to say. Again, Gatsby is making an attempt to separate himself from Nick on the basis that he belongs to an elite social class while Nick does not. In both of these quotes, Gatsby speaks to Nick in a snobby, patronizing way. Gatsby’s constant need to reaffirm his own position regarding affluence shows that he, himself, does not entirely believe in his high social standing. Gatsby used to be very poor, but obtained an excessive amount of wealth at some point in his life.
Certainly, the novel has evidence to support this claim. For example, after Nick disapprovingly walks away from Gatsby who is standing on his front porch he states, “The lawn and drive had been crowded with the faces of those who guessed at his corruption-and he had stood on those, steps, concealing his incorruptible dream, as he waved them good-by” (Fitzgerald 154). Similarly, critics suggest that Gatsby’s relative and short encounter with his American validate that he attained his American Dream. In fact, Gatsby’s undeterring hope and positive outlook further signify that he had reached the pinnacle of his desires at this moment in the novel. However, this example does not prove that Gatsby embodied his dream but rather displays the downfall of his scandalous methods that ultimately resulted in the corruption that led to his death.
He’s talking to Gatsby, who is determined to catch his dream, and tells him that his dream is basically an illusion and he’s unable to obtain his dream. Gatsby, of course, refuse to believe Nick’s realism and wants to continue to attempt his dream. Nick seems more contemplative and clinical while Gatsby feels determined and corrigible. This quote shows that Nick is trying to warn Gatsby that you can’t change the past while Gatsby refuses to believe it. In short, Gatsby struggles against time.
“‘You're worth the whole damn bunch put together.’” (The Great Gatsby, 154). This is one of the last things that Nick has ever said to Gatsby before he is eliminated by George Wilson. While Gatsby was in love with the image of Daisy and falling even deeper in love, Nick was falling for Gatsby in a sense. He stopped caring about his strong abhor with the wealthy East Egg crowd because Gatsby was West Egg and new money. He did not hold the general arrogance that those of Old Money did.
The first glimpse of Gatsby is introduced in the first chapter while Nick is “exempting him from his reaction” of a “uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever” already placing Gatsby in a position of moral ambiguity (Fitzgerald 2). When Gatsby’s full character is brought into the novel he is said to have “‘killed a man’” and been “‘a German spy during the war’” to show other supporting characters ambiguity toward the rumors surrounding his luxurious parties (Fitzgerald 44). Thus, already
“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” (Fitzgerald 4). Nick goes west for a while, but comes back east to sell bonds. He rents a small gardener’s house in between Gatsby and another godly rich East Egg. After the meeting, Gatsby whisked Nick away to Gatsby’s grand parties, gantlet outings to the city, but all for the chance, for Gatsby to meet Daisy, Nick’s cousin.
It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you might come across four or five times in your life. […] 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 343) Gatsby may just be so magical that everyone talks about him like this. Or one can consider the large context of the book. Great Gatsby is about romanticism, about how building someone up to impossible, dreamlike standards can only end poorly. When Nick first meets Gatsby, he is instantly swept away, and spends the rest of the novel discussing this man’s triumphs and secrets.