Discuss the friendship between Gatsby and Nick in The Great Gatsby

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is, perhaps, one of the great ironies of Fitzgerald's narrative that Nick Carraway initially declares that Gatsby has represented everything for which he possesses "an unaffected scorn" only to feel admiration for the man at the end as he turns and calls to him, "They're a rotten crowd....You're worth the whole damn bunch put together" (Ch.9). But, it is not until Nick himself becomes influenced by the decadence of the East from his association with Daisy and Tom Buchanan and, especially, Jordan Baker, who is a "bad driver," that he himself becomes "a bad driver. (A "bad driver" is a dishonest person--As a professional, Jordan cheated in a golf tournament.) Further, while he describes himself as not exactly in love with Jordan, he feels a "sort of tender curiosity" toward her that makes him forgive her dishonesty: "Dishonesty in a woman is a thing you never blame deeply" (Ch.3) and thus begins his hypocrisy as he declares himself "one of the few honest people I know" in the same chapter.

Eventually, after having been associated with Jay Gatsby, Nick arrives at the understanding that Gatsby is not superficial and self-serving, but truly believes in the "promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy's wing"; that is, in the American Dream. Gatsby pursues his "grail" with vigor and honesty, confronting Tom with his love for Daisy, for instance. Moreover, Gatsby exhibits tremendous loyalty as he stands in the moonlight outside Daisy's window after the death of Myrtle Wilson, hoping to somehow protect Daisy although he he is "watching over nothing" because she conspires with Tom to implicate Gatsby in the death since she was driving his 'yellow death car." Having witnessed Gatsby's willingness to sacrifice himself for his beloved, Nick acknowledges Jay Gatsby's virtue; for, he departs lest his presence "mar[red] the sacredness of the vigil." Truly, Jay Gatsby, Nick feels, has more character and integrity than the "whole damn bunch," himself included. For, in the end, Nick Carraway must return to the Midwest to regain the moral fiber that he has lost, but seen demonstrated in "the great" Gatsby. Indeed, it is a friend who improves the life of another, and Jay Gatsby, despite his illusions and materialism which Nick "scorns," proves himself a worthy man and friend.

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