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What does Nick mean in Chapter 9 when he says, "I'm thirty. I'm five years too old to...

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steve99 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 18, 2011 at 9:12 PM via web

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What does Nick mean in Chapter 9 when he says, "I'm thirty. I'm five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor"?

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 19, 2011 at 2:23 AM (Answer #1)

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As the moral pivot of the novel The Great Gatsby, the narrator, Nick Carraway, declares himself fair and honest, stating in the first chapter that he is "inclined to reserve all judgments."  Now, in the final chapter, he recognizes that he has been influenced by the hollowness and deception of the "careless people" such as Jordan Baker and Daisy and Tom Buchanan who no longer have any interest in Jay Gatsby now that he is dead--"that intense personal interest to which everyone has some vague right at the end."

It is this realization of the "quality of distortion" to East Egg that precipitates Tom's decision to return home to the Midwest.  But, before he departs, Tom wishes to "put things in order," so he meets with Jordan Baker, who tells him that like her he is "a bad driver"

"I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person.  I thought it was your secret pride."

"I'm thirty," I said.  "I'm five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor."

She didn't answer.  Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away.

As "a bad driver" like Jordan, Nick has not considered the consequences of his actions and how they affect others around him.  But, with his statement that he is too old to lie, Nick now admits his failing to be as non-judgmental as he has professed to be in the first chapter.  Perhaps, Nick realizes that to be judgmental is inevitable, for only the ingenuous are so.  Now, in Chapter Nine, Nick evinces a spiritual growth; he knows that it is human to pass judgment, and he does so as he states that Tom and Daisy are "careless people."

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