What does the phrase "the abnormal mind" mean in this excerpt from the first chapter of The Great Gatsby? "In consequence I'm inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many...
What does the phrase "the abnormal mind" mean in this excerpt from the first chapter of The Great Gatsby?
"In consequence I'm inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men."
In Chapter One, Nick Carraway wishes to establish himself as an objective narrator, claiming that he "reserve[s] all judgments." Because of his non-judgmental nature, he claims, he has found that many people are more likely to speak candidly to him, especially those of "curious natures" and those who are "abnormal," or unlike him. The word abnormal also suggests those who are unlike Nick in not having had the advantage of possessing "a sense of the fundamental decencies" because as Nick observes, this sense is "parcelled out" unequally when one is born. Further, Nick describes the confidences given him from "abnormal minds":
Most of the confidences were unsought--...for the intimate revelations of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions.
With this introduction to himself as narrator, Nick establishes his reliability because he is normal and has had a fortunate "parcelling" of the basic decencies of human nature. So, in contrast to the confidences of others, Nick's narration is at a "moral attention"; Nick contends that unlike "abnormal" people, he is trustworthy.
Nick Carraway has been taught not to be judgmental and critical of other people. When he was young, his father attempted to inculcate in him an understanding of the fact that not everyone has grown up with the same advantages and privilege that Nick has enjoyed. As a result, Nick says, that he does try not to judge others, and this quality has attracted to him the sorts of people who others might judge harshly.
When he mentions the "abnormal mind," he is referring to these sorts of people, people who wish to avoid judgment, possibly because they have done something for which others would judge them. The nonjudgmental quality that Nick possesses, as a result of his upbringing and the fact that he is a relatively "normal person" mean that individuals with crazy stories to tell naturally gravitate to him.