Show the evolution of Nick Carraway within The Great Gatsby.

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nick rides the road of confusion to clarity in The Great Gatsby, rooting the reader in reality and morality.  Quite simply, Nick is a realistic man from the Midwest  transplanted into the world of the shallow rich of New England.  Nick’s relationship with Jordan is a microcosm that parallels his journey within the novel itself. 

Nick’s relationship with Jordan Baker is a great example of his journey from confusion to clarity.  When Nick meets Jordan, one of his first observations is a question, “I looked at Miss Baker, wondering what it was she ‘got done’” (11).  This confusion seems to spark his infatuation with her, and they begin a relationship.  Through a number of small experiences proving Jordan’s dishonesty and shallowness, Nick learns that he wants nothing to do with her.  One of their first drives together is a good example.  “She was incurably dishonest” (59) Nick notes as he observes Jordan’s reckless driving.  “’They’ll keep out of my way,’ she insisted.  ‘It takes two to make an accident’” (59).  An honest person and a dishonest person just don’t make a good match, . . . so “angry, and half in love with her, . . . I turned away” (179).  Therefore, finally understanding Jordan’s wretched existence, Nick ends the relationship.

This journey from confusion to clarity is paralleled exactly in regards to the novel itself.  Nick begins his New England journey in confusion about the people around him.  In reference to Tom and Daisy, Nick says, “Why they came East I don’t know” (5).  This statement alone shows that Nick doesn’t understand even his own relations here, and further can be taken as not understanding that East Egg was full of “old” money while West Egg was full of “new” money.  We journey through the world of shallow wealth with Nick as he learns about Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy, about the people in West Egg, about the people in East Egg, and about the people from “The Valley of the Ashes.”  Just like with Jordan, a number of experiences prove people’s dishonesty and shallowness; therefore, he learns he wants nothing to do with them.  Gatsby wants to couple with Daisy, but continually uses Nick to do so. Tom tells Wilson who owned the yellow car, hoping to implicate Gatsby.  Daisy falls in love with Gatsby, but doesn’t even attend his funeral.  The one person Nick feels any camaraderie with at all is Gatsby who Nick says is “worth the whole damn bunch put together” (154).  Gatsby, of course, dies near the end of the book.  An honest person in a dishonest society doesn’t make a good match.  Therefore, finally understanding the wretched existence of the people both in East Egg and West Egg, Nick moves back to the Midwest. 

The comparison between Nick’s journey with Jordan and Nick’s journey with the novel as a whole is incredibly interesting.  There is no doubt that Nick learned a lot from his experiences in New England, certainly enough to realize that he didn’t want to spend his life there.