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In the first chapters of The Great Gatsby, what is Nick Carraway's dream and what might...

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tammynguyen | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 5, 2013 at 12:22 AM via web

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In the first chapters of The Great Gatsby, what is Nick Carraway's dream and what might this dream represent in regard to Nick's present feelings about the East?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 5, 2013 at 3:29 AM (Answer #1)

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Nick Carraway may well initially represent Rousseau's innocent man from the uncorrupted Midwest who ventures East in order to perpetuate the prominence of his family in the land of social and financial position. Because the Midwest now "seems like the ragged edge of the universe," Nick decides to learn the bond business on the East Coast. Settling among the nouveau riche, Nick perceives himself as an ethical man who has higher standards than those with which he surrounds himself. However, he cannot drive through the Valley of Ashes without having some of the ash settle upon his own shoulders. For, the more deeply he becomes involved in personal relationships with the residents of the corrupt East and West Eggs, the more dishonest Nick Carraway grows.

On his road to financial success, Nick meets the amoral Jordan Baker, whose character has been tainted by her having cheated at a gold tournament. But, Nick professes to not impugn people's characters because he "reserves judgment"; in fact, he states that he finds dishonesty in a woman as somewhat intriguing. Nevertheless, despite his priding himself on being "one of the few honest people I know," Nick's sense of moral superiority clouds his self-perception as he becomes involved in the fast-moving superficial lives of cheap thrills, immorality, greed, and excess. In Chapter Two, for instance, Nick rides to New York with Tom Buchanan to meet Tom's mistress, Myrtle Wilson. While in the New York apartment, Nick finds himself the next morning with Mr. McKee, the husband of one of Myrtle's new firnds, the next morning:

...I was standing beside his bed and he was sitting up...with a great porfolio in his hands. looking at the photographs. 

As Nick has told Tom Buchanan, he is a bonds man.  In fact, he actually forms bonds of friendship, unlike others who form no social bonds. In Chapter Two, he narrates,

Yet high above the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.

This yellow imagery mentioned in the quote above prevails throughout, suggesting luxury and hedonism, moral decay. And, it is this moral decay that infests Nick. At last, Jordan recognizes that Nick is a "bad driver"; he has become morally corrupt himself. It is then that Nick decides to return to the Midwest, say goodbye to Jordan, and reclaim some spirituality. the young "green breast" of a new world.

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