Compare the similarities and differences between Gatsby and Nick in The Great Gatsby.

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troutmiller eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both Nick and Jay come from the Midwest.  Both of them see Tom for who he is.  He is an aloof elitist who thinks only of himself and his money.  However, both of them put up with Tom and remain "gentlemen" while he acts like a jerk.  Both Nick and Jay work hard for the money that they make, although they have different goals for that money.  Unlike Tom who has everything handed to him from family money.  Both men are from modest upbringings. Both men even go out of their way to please others.  Nick makes sure to have all of the right touches waiting for Daisy when she comes to "visit"/mean Jay (even though Jay goes overboard with helping him).  Jay constantly throws parties so that someday Daisy will visit.  Both men represent the West Egg's way of thinking and their morals.

Where they differ is in how they deal with Daisy and Tom. Jay finally tells Tom that Daisy loves him and will leave Tom for him. He is confrontational from that point on.  Nick doesn't confront Tom quite like that.  He is less aggressive.  Instead, he asks Tom what he told Wilson that afternoon.  He did refuse to shake Tom's hand, but he wasn't as confrontational.  He pretty much just let Tom and Daisy go. One last thing that the two did not have in common is that Nick was always truthful. Jay was not always.  He lied about how he got his money and he lied about his past.  He was a criminal when it came down to it.  Nick wasn't.  Nick was always a good guy, but he never would have the money that Jay had.

davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although both men hail originally from the Midwest, it's Nick who displays more in the way of old-fashioned Midwestern values. For one thing, he's much more grounded than Gatsby. He's certainly ambitious in life, but not insanely so. Certainly we can't imagine him making the kind of moral compromises that Jay finds himself making, or engaging in any of Jay's various criminal activities. Nick's attitude to the denizens of East Egg is much more cynical than Jay's. Gatsby wants to belong to the social elite, yearns to be accepted by them. Nick has no such ambitions; he'll happily attend social gatherings with the likes of Tom and Daisy, but he always keeps his distance, knowing that the East Eggers will never truly accept a parvenu as one of their own.

Nick, like Jay, subscribes to the myth of the American Dream. But his particular version is so much more realistic, more attainable. And this puts Nick in a prime position as narrator to provide a balanced, disinterested perspective on all the excess, shameless social climbing, insane wealth, and affairs that provide much of the action of The Great Gatsby.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby have goals of attaining wealth and move east from the Midwest. Nick and Jay also share modest upbringings and know relatively the same people from the East Egg. Both characters are portrayed as genuine, compassionate people who don't quite fit in with the elite society of the East and West Egg. Both Nick and Jay have good intentions and are likable characters throughout the novel. Both men also share a dislike for the rude, arrogant Tom Buchanan.

Despite their many similarities, Nick and Jay have different occupations, love interests, and perceptions of society. Nick is in the bond business while Jay Gatsby is an illegal bootlegger. Nick is attracted to Jordan Baker while Gatsby is madly in love with Daisy Buchanan. Nick has a relative distaste for the elite society while Jay Gatsby seems to embrace the lifestyle of the West Egg. Jay also goes out of his way to transform his identity to win back Daisy's heart while Nick does not alter his appearance or personality.

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The Great Gatsby

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