“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity of the promises of life, as if he were related to one of...
“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity of the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away."
In The Great Gatsby, how is Gatsby more sensitive to life than anyone else in the book, despite being a criminal?
The quote actually says that Gatsby has a sensitivity to the promises of life, though he also, arguably, has a sensitivity to life itself. Gatsby's sensitivity to the promises of life manifest through his belief that he can achieve the dream of regaining Daisy. Nick likens this to the earliest settlers, who thought they could erase the past and start anew in the promised land of America. Although Nick tries to tell him otherwise, Gatsby truly believes he and Daisy can begin again where they left off, as if the five years that have intervened have never happened. Gatsby is acutely sensitive to this possibility, sensitive to the possibility of reconnecting with the green light marking Daisy's house that he sees across the water.
We also can see—though perhaps this is not primarily what Nick had in mind—Gatsby's "gorgeous" gestures in the way he gives his lavish parties, not sparing any expense to ensure his guests have a good time, and in the way he will attend to details, even to replacing a guest's damaged gown at great expense to himself. It is as if he registers needs, like earthquakes, 10,000 miles away. In this way, he couldn't be a more striking contrast to Tom Buchanan, who uses people and throws them way. In other words, Nick understands that not only does Gatsby go after his dream of Daisy, he does it in an extraordinary, outsized way.
Gatsby is more sensitive to life than other people in the novel because he truly believes in love and wants to believe in Daisy, although she is not really worthy of his love. Every action he takes--from having lavish parties to buying a house with a view of the green light at the end of Daisy's dock--is to win her back. Unlike Tom, who treats Daisy with carelessness and cruelty at times, Gatsby loves and treasures Daisy. The other characters don't believe in love to this degree. For example, Tom and Daisy have a marriage that is based on money and on their shared upper-crust status. Nick and Jordan are spending time together, but they do not refer ever to being in love with each other. Gatsby is not only able to love fully, but he also believes that if he impresses Daisy with his wealth, that she will love him back. He has a kind of optimism that none of the other characters share. For this reasons, he has a greater sensitivity to life and its promise than the other characters.