What is the effect of Gatsby on Nick in The Great Gatsby?

What is Nick's attitude towards Gatsby before and after meeting him?

Quick answer:

Nick's attitude towards Gatsby is one at first of admiration and then later of respect. At first, Nick admires Gatsby because he sees in him all the things that Nick would like to be: wealthy, powerful, and a leader among men. But as the story progresses, Nick learns more and more about Gatsby, and he begins to see that there is much more to Gatsby than mere money and that his wealth has not made him happy. The fact that Gatsby throws extravagant parties for no reason at all (he does this simply to show off) makes Nick realize that if money can't buy happiness, it certainly can't do so when spent in such a frivolous manner.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

During the course of the narrative of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway comes to New York and reconnects with his cousin Daisy, meeting Jordan Baker there. With her Nick becomes "a bad driver" who sees himself driving on a road “toward death through the cooling twilight" until he recognizes the idealism and ingenuousness of Gatsby that truly makes him "great." At the end, Nick has grown to respect Gatsby and is endeared to him, telling him he is better than the "whole rotten bunch put together." 

Thus, by his association with Jay Gatsby, Nick returns to the solid Midwestern ethics taught him by his father, ethics that the dissipated and amoral wealthy of East Egg ignore. For, even though Gatsby has an affair with Daisy as a married woman, he has so idealized his love and his perception of her that he remains untarnished. It is this idealism of Gatsby, the Trimalchio of myth whose car is golden with wing-like fender and windshields that "mirrored a dozen suns," that enchants Nick and elevates him from the sordid behavior of the Buchanans, Jordan Baker, and other "bad drivers" whose love of gold has caused them to sell out their idealism.

The last paragraph of Chapter Six is what many critics feel is the "narrative center" of Nick's memoir. Of Gatsby, he narrates,

Through all he said, even through his appalling sentimentality, I was reminded of something--an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that I had heard somewhere a long time ago.

Gatsby returns Nick to his youthful morality and belief in ethical values.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial