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Hello! What does Nick mean when he says in the first chapter of The Great Gatsby that...

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coutelle | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted April 12, 2013 at 6:03 PM via web

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Hello! What does Nick mean when he says in the first chapter of The Great Gatsby that "he was going to bring back (reintegrate?) all such things into (his) life?

I was rather literary in college—one year I wrote a series of very solemn and obvious editorials for the “Yale News’—and now I was going to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most limited of all specialists, the “well-rounded” man. This isn't just an epigram—life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all.
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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 13, 2013 at 1:54 PM (Answer #1)

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The "things" that Nick intends to "bring back" are tendencies toward judgement, expressed from a standpoint of intellectual superiority. He will once again claim, express and publish his opinions on others.

This is a tendency that Nick - in retrospect - recognizes is a habit without empathy and a narrow way to live one's life - thus his cynical  assessment of the "well-rounded" man.

In a way, the novel stands as the achievement of Nick's aim as he states it in this passage. (In the narrative he expresses his judgements on the people he encounters over the summer. As the storyteller, he becomes, again, "literary".)

Nick arrives in the east with aspirations to become sophisticated. He seems to imagine that he will encounter erudite, intellectual, and cultured people in the east. As a new college graduate, Nick is entering the adult world for the first time and the impressions he has of this world are vague but positive. 

The passage quoted here is telling. Here Nick describes himself and his ambitions. 

Having been "literary" once, Nick intends to be literary again. The views he holds at the beginning of the summer seem rather narrow to him as he narrates this story. Thus the jaded statement, "life is more successfully looked at from a single window". 

In recalling his high hopes for life in the east, Nick is admitting that he was pompous (like Gatsby and Tom and Daisy) but did not know it. He was also prepared to jump into self-improvement (like Gatsby) without thought of difficulty. 

The idea that Nick has half-baked ambitions of his own and dares to dream proudly that he has moved east permanently helps to connect him to the other characters in the novel. Nick has his flaws, just like everyone else, and they relate to an exaggerated self-concept (conceit). 

Nick hopes to remake himself in the east as a "well-rounded" man. This connects him, in terms of his rather vain ambition, to Gatsby and helps to explain the affinity that grows up between the two men. They are not so different, ultimately.

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