How does the paragraph in Chapter 8 starting, "I’ve always been glad I said that" extend the paradox of Nick's feelings on Gatsby, The Great Gatsby?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The central paradox in Nick's feelings about Gatsby centers around Nick's values and how Gatsby's life violates those values. A paradox is a thing that seemingly contradicts reality while upholding it after all. Nick says that Gatsby “represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn.” This is because Gatsby's life is the opposite of everything Nick professes to value and build his life upon. Yet, when Gatsby asks Nick to do him a favor and host a tea party for Daisy, he paradoxically does. When Gatsby needs a friend and confident, Nick paradoxically allows Gatsby to turn to him. When violence and a crime are committed, Nick paradoxically takes no steps to sort it out for the police. The reader is forced to ask how Nick can behave in this paradoxical manner, how can he stand by watching--even participating--while Gatsby and the others including Myrtle, violate the moral values that make Nick scorn them? One conclusion is that perhaps Nick's values aren't what he believes them to be.

The paragraph in Chapter 8 that begins with, "I’ve always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end" extends the paradox of Nick's feelings about Gatsby following Daisy's murder of Myrtle. Gatsby confesses to Nick that Daisy was driving and that he, himself, will take the blame for being at the wheel when the police trace his rather unmistakable car. Nick sees the nobility of the decision and the finality of Nick's dream following the hit-and-run and an afternoon during which, in front of his mistress, Tom gets Daisy to renounce Gatsby and cling to him. While the paragraph begins with Nick's denunciation of Gatsby, it ends with a sympathetic picture of him as Gatsby stands on "those steps, concealing his incorruptible dream," while all those who accept his hospitality are waved goodbye.

Once again, Nick has revealed his paradoxical feelings, based as they are on his values, and extends the paradox: he denounces Gatsby and is paradoxically sympathetic toward him and his failed life at the same time. The question thence arises as to the reality of Nick's professed values. Does Nick have another set of unrecognized values that puts humanity ahead of acts of corruption and therefore explains the paradox, since a paradox seemingly contradicts reality while upholding it after all. This is yet another way the paragraph extends the paradox of Nick's feelings about Gatsby: it extends to paradoxically include Nick’s values that the paradox is bred from and based upon.

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