What Was Significant About Nick's 30th Birthday

In Chapter 7 of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, what was so significant about Nick's 30th birthday?

 

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dneshan | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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There are many things that Nick says in the novel that seem to be for no reason but, at the same time, have great significance – this happens to be one of them.  Chapter 7 brings about a small get-together at the Biltmore Hotel including Tom, Daisy, Nick, Jordan, and Gatsby.  During this party, Gatsby and Tom get into a huge argument in which Tom reveals many of Gatsby’s shady secrets to Daisy, Jordan, and Nick.  Nick realizes after the entire fight is over that this was his 30th birthday.  The major significance is that Nick is so involved in the lives of the people around him that he does not even recognize such a major milestone in his own life.  Throughout the novel it is evident that Nick does not count himself as important as he does his relationship with the other characters and trying to be involved in the lives of those characters.  It is Nick’s statement about remembering his birthday that allows the reader to be aware of this.   

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Chapter 7 of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, the main characters -- the Buchanans, Jordan, Nick, and Gatsby -- are at Tom and Daisy's home in East Egg, the stifling heat exacerbating the tensions that already permeate the atmosphere. The infidelities and animosities that weave through and among the assembled are taking their toll, and it is clear that nobody is particularly happy these days. The group decides to go into the city, where the situation worsens. 

The atmosphere among the characters continues to sour, until, tired of Tom's tirades, Gatsby finally blurts out that Daisy only married Tom because she was tired of waiting for Gatsby to amass the wealth necessary to satisfy her longing for financial security -- a definition of comfort that far exceeded any rational, middle class concept of such. Tom rebuts Gatsby's assertion, shouting that he and Daisy love each other, and that, while he may stray from time to time, he continues to love her, prompting Daisy to call her husband "revolting."

Through it all, Nick silently observes, only rarely commenting. Finally, a thought occurs to him:

I just remembered that today's my birthday.

"I was thirty. Before me stretched the portentous menacing road of a new decade."

Nick's comment that it is his birthday serves as a sudden reminder to himself of his presence among these unhappy, rich people. Heretofore, in the course of the chapter, Nick has served as the ubiquitous observer of others. Now, he is reaffirming his existence, and that he has, consciously or not, sublimated is own identity to those in whose world he has immersed himself since moving to Long Island. The thirtieth birthday is considered a major milestone in many peoples' lives, marking, in a sense, the final transition from youth to the sometimes brutal realities of adulthood. This milestone, however, crept up on Fitzgerald's narrator. Nick has invested so much of his life in the travails and intrigues of this mercurial group of people that he forgot his own thirtieth birthday. He has done so as the lives of those around him continue their gradual but steady descent into the ennui that the author has so studiously depicted in his novel. Not only has his birthday come and (almost) gone, without his noticing, but the decade ahead, Nick notes ominously, will deprive the wealthy in whose world he has entered of that which has distinguished them. The Great Depression lies ahead, and it is in hindsight that Nick suggests his transition into adulthood, and the harsh realities that portends, will not be much fun.

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