The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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In The Great Gatsby, how do Nick's values compare to the other characters'?  

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Susan Smith eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Throughout Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Nick attempts to distinguish himself from the other characters.  He regards himself as one of the "few honest people that I have ever known."  Coming from the Mid-west, as all the major characters do, Nick does not have a vastly different background from the rest of the characters.  In fact, he is related to Daisy and he went to school with Tom Buchanan.  By his own admission his family "have been prominent, well-to-do people . . .for three generations." In terms of values or background, it is not clear how much different Nick is from the others. Even though he does not have the vast amount of wealth that Tom or Gatsby has,  he is quite interested in making money, deciding to go into the bond business because that was a particularly promising career at the time.

In terms of integrity, Nick seems to enjoy the drunken parties as much as the rest, and he does not seem to judge Tom's affair with Mrytle, nor Gatsby's affair with Daisy.  And, although he calls himself "honest," he does not come clean with the girl he is somewhat engaged to back home when he  indulges in a semi-romance with Jordan in New York.  In other words, Nick seems no better than the shallow Buchanans or the naive Gatsby.

What does distinguish Nick, however, is the fact that Nick does change throughout the novel.  At the Plaza Hotel, he realizes that he has just turned thirty years old.  He becomes increasingly disenchanted with Buchanans' "careless" ways, and he grows to appreciate the passion that Gatsby shows for Daisy.  Throughout the course of the novel, Nick begins to side more and more with Gatsby, and at the end of the novel, Nick is the one who "cleans up" the broken pieces that Daisy and Tom leave behind.  It is Nick who arranges Gatsby's funeral and notifies Gatsby's father and others of Gatsby's death.  Nick becomes more moral throughout the story, less interested in money, and more interested in integrity.  He wants the world to stand at "moral attention."  And, it seems that in abandoning Jordan and returning home, Nick will attempt to become more morally grounded.

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