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I'd like to have some examination about the meaning of "politician" in the first...

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coutelle | Valedictorian

Posted July 7, 2013 at 12:17 AM via web

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I'd like to have some examination about the meaning of "politician" in the first chapter of The Great Gatsby. Does it mean "a crafty intriguer", "manoeuvrer", "manipulator"?

In consequence I'm inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 7, 2013 at 1:00 AM (Answer #1)

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I think that the criticism of Nick as a "politician" is reflective of a manipulator or crafty intriguer.  Nick claims that as a result of his ability to inspire confidence from people has opened him up to the criticism that he did so to gain advantage or leverage over people.  It is here in which he uses the term "politician" as a way he was described by those who failed to effectively understand him.  The term was meant to label him as someone who is crafty and a master manipulator.  For Nick, though, nothing could be further from what he sees as the truth.  He simply sees his ability to inspire confidence in people as a result of him taking his father's advice to heart.  In his reservation of judgment, people were able to turn to him and enlist his confidence and sense of intimacy.  While Nick claims that “Most of the confidences were unsought," it becomes clear that he is authentic and relatively sincere in his interactions with others.  

For Nick, the label of a politician results from an "abnormal mind," which can be taken as someone who is insecure or jealous at such an ability.  Nick's invocation of this criticism helps to bring out his sense of grounded identity, in contrast to the notions of identity that are not grounded in reality.  Such an idea will become evident in his interactions as the novel progresses. The contrast between his sense of "groundedness" and others' lack of it will come to define much of what happens.  It is in this spirit of articulating the criticism against him, something he sees as unfair, that he would be labeled as a politician, or someone who is manipulative and crafty in getting what they want or establishing leverage against another.

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