Based upon the storyline of The Great Gatsby, who benefits the most from the story? How does it affect the audience?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Of all the novel's characters, only Nick experienced any personal growth or gained any moral insight as a result of what happened in New York that summer of 1922. By developing his friendship and affection for Gatsby and by living through the experiences that led up to Gatsby's murder, Nick learned more about some of the realities of life than he learned about the bond business. At the conclusion of the novel, Nick left the East; he returned to his Midwest where he believed that people behave in more moral and responsible ways. 

When Nick first arrived in the East and became reacquainted with Tom and Daisy, he was drawn into their world of "old money," great wealth and privilege. As both a bystander and a participant, he watched as his new friend Gatsby was destroyed by social forces he could never understand.

Nick came to believe Tom and Daisy and the social class they represented had been corrupted by their money and had lost their human decency:

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made . . . .

As a result, Nick went home. He had been made heartsick by the tragedy of Gatsby's life and death,  but he had learned some hard lessons about human nature and had solidified his own moral code. Back home in the Midwest, Nick no longer hesitated to make moral judgments about human conduct.

Readers have identified with many themes in the novel, applying them to their own lives in individual ways. Some admire Gatsby for his dedication to his romantic dreams; others feel that Gatsby was foolish, that he wasted his life 

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