How would you describe the narrator of The Great Gatsby? What was his family background? Why did he come to the East?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Chapter I establishes the basics of Nick Carraway's character and gives us an understanding of his background. Nick tells us that he was born of an old, well established Midwestern family, dating back to the Civil War. His family was financially well off, but Nick did not grow up with the kind of financial excess he later observed in the East. Nick grew up, however, with many advantages, including an education at Yale University. After returning from World War I, where he served in Europe, Nick was restless and no longer content to stay in the Midwest. He decided to go to New York to learn the bond business and establish a career. His family, after discussing Nick's options, agreed to support him financially for one year so that he could proceed with his plan. After one year, however, it was expected that Nick would assume responsibility and support himself. Nick's family had taught him the American work ethic, which he embraced. He expected to work.

Nick had grown up as a person who did not judge others. He was open-minded. As a result, especially in college, others often confided in him, including him in their personal lives. This becomes an important part of Nick's character when he goes East and becomes Gatsby's friend. As Nick looks back on his time in the East, it becomes clear that he admired Gatsby's romanticism and deplored the amorality that "floated in the wake of his dreams."