The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Pay attention to Nick's judgments in Chapter 3. What do they reveal about his character (especially in relation to his opening comments) in The Great Gatsby?

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In Chapter Three of The Great GatsbyNick Carraway walks over to the estate of Jay Gatsby as he has been invited to attend a party.

As the narrator, Nick Carraway boasts in the first chapter that his inclination is to withhold judgments because doing so allows him to become acquainted with many "curious natures." However, because reserving judgment is "a matter of infinite hope," Nick admits that his tolerance does have limits. And, it would certainly seem that his tolerance reaches its limits as he attends the party of Jay Gatsby in West Egg near his rented cottage.

One of Nick's first observations of those who seem to have somehow wandered into the party is that one of the "gypsies in trembling opal" is an understudy for Gilda Gray, who is part of the Follies. Some people appear and are introduced by someone else who is acquainted with Gatsby while others arrive and depart without even having met Gatsby. Nick comments that these have come to the party "...with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission," while he is one of the few people actually invited.

It is with some cynicism, however, that Nick later notices a number of Englishmen who talk with prosperous Americans. He surmises that these men have come to Gatsby's party convinced that the easy money of the time is available to them "for a few words in the right way."

So appalled is Nick by the conduct of various guests that he considers "get[ting] roaring drunk out of embarrassment."

But later, Nick notices that the "staid nobility of the countryside," those guests from East Egg, are

...condescending to West Egg, and carefully on guard against its spectroscopic gaiety.

Ironically, however, Jordan Baker, who is part of this "nobility," whispers to Nick after a "somehow wasteful and inappropriate half hour" that this group is too polite for her. But they remain, and later the "hilarity increased" and "vacuous bursts of laughter" fill the air.

This party is Nick's introduction to the residents of East Egg and West Egg. His embarrassment and cynicism contradict his statement that he reserves his judgments, but Nick has lived in the Midwest, not the East, so people are different and he is surprised at the behaviors he observes. This difference will affect Nick to the point that he will repudiate the behavior of those who are frivolous and insincere rather than concerned about others. 

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Fitzgerald's Nick Carraway believes he is the only honest person in the text of The Great Gatsby. Nick's father taught him early in life to avoid criticizing others because they may not have had the advantages that Nick did. Nick believes he has taken this advice to heart, but his actions throughout the novel indicate otherwise.

Nick passes judgement on nearly every character except, perhaps Gatsby himself. Tom is arrogant; Daisy, superficial; Jordan, dishonest; and Myrtle, pretentious. During the party of chapter three, Nick criticized party attendees as having the behavior of people at an amusement park. He assumed that the younger men were attempting to sell insurance or bonds to the older men who had "easy money." He was so appalled by the behavior of others that he determined to get drunk, just to avoid the embarassment of it all. Somehow those actions don't correspond to someone who "reserves judgement" as Nick claims to do in the opening paragraphs.

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