Nick Carraway, the narrator of the story, made this statement. He was reflecting on past events that had a great influence on him. He remarks, “… 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 except from my reaction… ” Nick describes Gatsby at the beginning of his account and says that Gatsby “turned out alright in the end. ” How justified is Nick in saying this? Before we can make up our mind about Gatsby, we first have to trust what Nick says about him is true.
We see Gatsby only through the eyes of Nick, so all our opinions of him are based on what Nick reports. We believe what Nick says because he makes us trust him through his comments on the first few pages. He says that he reserves all judgements – therefore we can assume that what he writes about Gatsby is the truth. Nick did not always approve of Gatsby – indeed, on the very first page of the book Nick says, “Gatsby represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn”. Before getting to know Gatsby Nick did not really like or approve of him. Gatsby’s mansion gives the impression of a flamboyant showman living there.
With Nick’s description of Gatsby’s mansion (“… a factual imitation of some Hi?? tel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side… and a marble swimming pool… “) expectations are that Gatsby would have the same character as his residence – grand, and imposing. When Nick first meets Gatsby it is at one of his parties. He hears a lot of rumours about him, none of them good – which further creates the misconception that Gatsby is a man of mystery. When he actually meets Gatsby for the first time he comes across as a very innocuous formal man; quite unlike the man the rumours about him suggest.
Nick becomes disillusioned with Gatsby because he does not live up to his expectations. He says that “my first impression, that he was a person of some undefined consequence, had gradually faded and he had become simply the proprietor of an elaborate roadhouse next door. ” This comment implies that Gatsby, to Nick, was just an ordinary person with a lot of money, and consequently not worthy of any especial interest. Nick sees that Gatsby is not all that people think of him, or that he makes himself out to be. He can see that Gatsby puts on a front to conceal the real person underneath.
Gatsby’s front at times seems ridiculous; by calling everyone ‘old sport’ and wearing a pink suit makes Gatsby into a figure of fun rather than a person to be admired. Nick disapproved of Gatsby’s lies. Gatsby said that he was the son of wealthy people in the Middle West and that all his relations were dead. He said he was educated at Oxford because it was a family tradition. At the time Gatsby told Nick this, he suspected he was lying because what he said didn’t ring true. “With an effort I managed to restrain my incredulous laughter”. The things that Gatsby said were so contrived that Nick felt that they couldn’t possibly be true.
Another thing that makes Nick dislike Gatsby is his shady business dealings, with Wolfsheim. Nick finds out later that Gatsby made his money through bootlegging; he didn’t inherit it from his parents as he had earlier stated. Nick didn’t altogether trust Gatsby at any time, and didn’t ever get to know him very well – … “For all I knew he was going to rob the house in a moment; I wouldn’t have been surprised to see sinister faces, the faces of ‘Wolfsheim’s people’, behind him in the dark shrubbery. ” Despite Nick’s scepticism towards Gatsby he could not help but admire him.
From the beginning when Nick first met Gatsby he recognised his faults, but despite these faults Nick liked Gatsby. Nick is attracted to Gatsby’s bright and understanding smile. When he first met Gatsby, Nick said this about Gatsby’s smile – “… 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… ” This sentence describes more than Gatsby’s smile; it could well be describing Gatsby himself. Nick recognises the admirable qualities in Gatsby that are missing from the rest of the people in their social circle.
These qualities such as hope and drive and ambition set him apart from everyone else. The people in Gatsby’s social circle – Daisy, Tom, Jordan – none of these people have any drive or ambition to do anything because they have never had to. They have spent their lives drifting, spending money but never doing anything worthwhile. Tom and Daisy spent a year in France after they were married; not working, or like Gatsby or Nick, on war service, but just in the pursuit of pleasure. The Buchanans had no direction or purpose to their lives; the money they had meant that they never had to work for anything, or plan anything in their lives.
Daisy says, “I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything. ” Later on she says, “What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon? And the day after that, and the next thirty years? ” These comments show how pointless and shallow Daisy’s life is. She has never had to plan anything, or work for anything. Her life is spent wasting time and money because she doesn’t have anything else to do. She went from rich parents to a rich husband and so does not know what it is like to work for anything or to plan for the future.
All this is in great contrast to Gatsby, who has had to work hard for his wealth, and planned his life around Daisy and winning her back. Gatsby’s capacity for hard work and his dreaming are shown by the schedule that his father brings with him to Gatsby’s funeral. This schedule shows a glimpse into the mind of the young Gatsby; as his father says, “… he was bound to get ahead. ” The schedule for planning his days and his general resolves show that Gatsby was different from the rest since his youth. He always had a plan for his life; he always wanted to improve himself, and make for himself a better way of life.
It is this quality in Gatsby that made him idolise Daisy and reach for the perfect future with her. It was not so much Daisy’s beauty or personality that made Gatsby love her; it was Gatsby’s need for a dream, for something to work towards. To Gatsby, anything in life was possible; Nick describes Gatsby as having an ‘extraordinary gift for hope’ – however impossible it is that his dream will be achieved, Gatsby never gave up hope. It was these qualities in Gatsby that made such an impression on Nick. Nick alone out the rest of the characters recognised that Gatsby’s gift for hope and his power to dream made him great, despite his flaws.