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In Chapter I, the reader meets the narrator, Nick Carraway. These first four...

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bigmansearfoss00 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:52 AM via web

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In Chapter I, the reader meets the narrator, Nick Carraway. These first four  paragraphs serve as a prologue that introduces the rest of the story. What information does Nick give about himself in this prologue?

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:26 AM (Answer #1)

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The most striking piece of information that Nick reveals about himself in the exposition of the novel comes in his father's advice.  The idea of being inclusive towards others for they have not had "the advantages" that Nick has experienced can be seen as both a reflection of wealth and a repudiation of it.  The advice that Nick's father offers is advice that moves Nick to the realm of observer, for the opening warning makes clear that Nick is to recognize that others lack what he has.  From this, it becomes clear that Nick has experienced many people using him for confidence, though "most of the confidences were unsought."  This helps to bring out another element of Nick's character in that he finds himself immersed in settings into which perhaps he might not wish to immerse himself.  Certainly, this is evident when Nick describes the "foul dust" that follows Gatsby's dreams.

Another aspect of Nick's character that is evident lies in his Nick defines "value" and worth. Nick does not see the concepts of value and worth as simply financial notions of the good:  "Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth."  The notion of "fundamental decencies" is significant.  It is important because the reader understands how Nick defines value and worth in terms that exist outside of money.  So much that is to take place in the narrative equates value and money as one in the same.  In fact, this detail enhances the meaning of Nick's father's advice.  The "advantages" of which are spoken might not have anything to do with wealth.  They might be reflective of one's character and sense of dignity in a world that fails to validate it.  For Nick, the exposition allows the reader to understand how he is both a product of the world and an active agent willing to go against it.  This contrast helps to define him as both narrator of the times and a critic of them.

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