In The Great Gatsby, why does Nick call Gatsby "great" and "honest" when Gatsby is a bootlegger with criminal ties?I've been lost on this subject for a while, and I'm just hoping someone can answer...
In The Great Gatsby, why does Nick call Gatsby "great" and "honest" when Gatsby is a bootlegger with criminal ties?
I've been lost on this subject for a while, and I'm just hoping someone can answer this, because, in my opinion, if i had a friend who was a criminal and had ties to other criminals, that I wouldn't refer to him/her as "great".
The answer to this contradiction can be found in Nick's opening remarks in the novel as he remembers Gatsby and the events of that summer in 1922. Nick does not excuse Gatsby for his illegal activities. Nick says that Gatsby "represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn." Nick's scorn, his condemnation, of Gatsby's criminal ties is "unaffected," meaning sincere or deeply felt.
In spite of his scorn, however, Nick explains what there was about Gatsby that earned his respect. It was Gatsby's romanticism, his idealism in how he approached his life. Gatsby was honest in that he identified his life's dreams and never abandoned them. When Daisy became his dream, he never betrayed Daisy or waivered in his love for her. He was faithful to the end. Nick says in the novel's coda that at the end of Gatsby's life, "his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him . . . ."
Gatsby was "great," Nick believed, because his dreams were so huge. In reference to Daisy, Gatsby's dream was to wipe out the reality of time--five years--so that he and Daisy could go back to the beginning of their romance and start over, to repeat the past. Nick was awed by the complete romanticism of this idea, what he called Gatsby's "colossal" dream. According to Nick, Gatsby's methods of making money were corrupt, but his romantic heart was pure.
Nick thinks of Gatsby as "great" because, in a strange way, he remained an innocent, despite his illegal activities. He possessed, according to Nick, "an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as [Nick had] never found in any other person and which it is not likely [he] shall ever find again." Contrasted with Tom and Daisy, for example, who are, frankly, awful people that never think of anyone besides themselves, Gatsby does. He cares genuinely for Nick and for Daisy, and it is his overwhelming love for her, a torch he carries for years, that drives his actions. The fact that he could continue to believe in the strength of his love is remarkable in the society portrayed by this novel, a society where most people seem totally disinterested in real, human interaction. Gatsby maintains his humanity when so many others around him lose theirs, and this is one reason Nick describes him as "great."