In The Great Gatsby, what does Nick mean in this passage? "I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life."
This quote comes from Chapter Two, when Nick is at a party in New York with Tom and his mistress, Myrtle. Through this quote, Nick makes an important statement about his role and position, not just at this party but in the wealthy and fashionable world of both New York and the Eggs.
It is important to remember that Nick is not an inherent part of this world. He comes from the Midwest. He does not come from old money, like Tom and Daisy, and he shares different values to them. It is not surprising, then, that he feels both "within" and "without" these worlds. While he is friends with the likes of Daisy, Tom, and Myrtle, he is not of their world. The difference in their backgrounds is very apparent.
Similarly, the fact that he is "enchanted" by their worlds suggests that there is a part of him that wants to belong to this New York set. Clearly, though, Nick feels conflicted. The use of the word "repelled," for example, implies that he also strongly disapproves of their materialistic and hedonistic lifestyles.
This conflict, therefore, makes him feel both detached and involved, not just from the party that he is attending in Chapter Two but from their world, more generally.
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