I'm Inclined To Reserve All Judgements

In The Great Gatsby why does F. Scott Fitzgerald present Nick to us as someone who reserves his judgement? 

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fitzgerald chose to tell his story through the point of view of a narrator who is one of the characters. Since Nick personally observes many different kinds of indelicate behavior and is privy to the secret affairs of many different characters, it was necessary for his creator to fashion him in such a way that his involvement in all these activities would be feasible and credible. Nick had to be intelligent, sensitive, observant, discreet, and a person who "reserves judgment." If he made judgments too quickly he might have opted out of some of the situations he became involved in; but he is broad-minded about a lot of things, including Tom's affair with Myrtle and Daisy's affair with Gatsby. He is present in Tom's love nest with Myrtle and her friends and present in the hotel room where Gatsby and Tom have their big confrontation. He knows about Gatsby's strictly criminal bootlegging and gets to know the underworld character Meyer Wolfsheim. He has to be broad-minded and recognized as such by the other characters in order to get so heavily involved in their lives. He calls it "reserving judgment." It could also be called "open-minded" or "tolerant." He has this quality simply because Fitzgerald decided to give him this quality. Somehow he manages to remain untainted by all his experiences in the novel.

slcollins eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Nick states, “I’m inclined to reserve all judgements…” (1), Fitzgerald is setting Nick up as a reliable narrator for this story. In this one simple statement, we see honesty in Nick. Granted, we haven’t been introduced to the other characters, but the question of ‘do other characters deserve judgment’ might already be drifting about in our minds. Fitzgerald also has another purpose at play here; he uses irony in making this statement because Nick actually does end up judging others. By the end of the novel, he despises everyone but Gatsby. By the time we realize this, though, so do we. We feel that Nick has earned the right to pass judgment on the other inhabitants of East Egg because he has come to know them so well. 

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The Great Gatsby

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