How does Nick change throughout the novel The Great Gatsby?

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raskew eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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At the beginning of Nick's reminiscence of the summer he met Gastby, he has "small-town syndrome."   He had just returned to Middle America (America's heartland and the center of conservative living) from WWI, where he had glimpsed everything from freedom to death.  His horizons had been broadened significantly, so when he returned after the war, he felt stifled in the Midwest; thus his longing for the decadent and fantastic lifestyle of New York, but the problem with the fantastic is that it rarely has anything to offer beneath the surface. 

When he first arrives in New York, Nick is...

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careyc065 | Student

Nick's perspective is important to understanding how he changes throughout the novel. We get Nick in a flashback at the beginning, he looks back on all he learned in the summer he spent in New York with Gatsby, Daisy, etc. This is a somewhat mature version of Nick that we see, he recognizes his own growth, his own morals, and how the people he spent the summer with fit into his view of the world.

We see Nick start as an outsider to the New York way of life. He doesn't know who Gatsby is, and in New York then everyone knew Gatsby, or at least knew of his parties. He brings the reader into his perspective with this outsider view, and through the changes he goes through, the reader also starts to understand the world of Jay Gatsby, and the intricacies behind the man.

What changes in Nick? By the end of the novel, he is tired, worn out, seen too much of life for one summer and cannot stay in New York any longer, he has seen too much and wants "the world to stand at a sort of moral attention forever."

It is Nick's underlying tiredness that changes and comes out throughout the course of the novel.

monique199016 | Student

Nick is the only character in 'The Great Gatsby' who can change. Daisy and Tom are too superficial and absorbed in living in wealth and Gatsby set himself a dream as a young child and has stuck to that throughout his life. Therefore, the other main character cannot change. However, Nick's changes begin during his participation in World War One, although this is not mentioned, it is obvious that his perception of people and the world in general has changed.  Nick sees so many corrupt acts around him (adultery, lying, hyporiticism, dirty business deals etc.) that he first tries to block them out, by acting artifical to fit in with his new 'friends'. However, once he realises that the people he is surrounding himselves with are liers and frauds, he begins to distance himself from them. The first obvious instance of this is when Gatsby is 'watching over' Daisy and Nick narrates that "He [Gatsby] was clutching at some last hope and I couldn't bare to shake him free." This quote displays how Nick has given up on Gatsby and society's superficiality and corrupt doings. This is one of the major instances of change in Nick's life. 

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