Discussion Topic

Differences between Nick and Gatsby in The Great Gatsby

Summary:

Nick and Gatsby differ significantly in their backgrounds and personalities. Nick is a Yale graduate from a well-off Midwestern family, valuing honesty and integrity. Gatsby, on the other hand, comes from a poor background and amasses wealth through dubious means, driven by his idealistic dreams and love for Daisy. While Nick is grounded and reflective, Gatsby is ambitious and often delusional.

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How are Nick and Gatsby different in The Great Gatsby?

For one thing, Nick comes from a relatively affluent family and received a college education from an ivy league school; Gatsby, on the other hand, comes from poorer folk and only went to Oxford for a semester after the war as part of a program for soldiers. In the first chapter, Nick tells us that he "graduated from New Haven in 1915"; he went to Yale University, as did Tom. He also says that his "family have been prominent, well-to-do people" in the Midwest for several generations. Nick hasn't had to work and scramble the way Gatsby has. Gatsby also seems to possess a drive that Nick does not necessarily have. It's not that Nick is lazy, but he isn't driven and restless the way Gatsby is. Although he says that he came back "restless" from the war, he only needed to move to New York to "learn the bond business" in order to satisfy himself. Gatsby, on the other hand, had much grander dreams: he wanted to amass a fortune, turn back the clock, and recapture lost love with his former lover, Daisy. He had, as Nick says, "an extraordinary gift for hope" that seemed to separate Gatsby from just about everyone else.

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How are Nick and Gatsby different in The Great Gatsby?

I think when Nick says this in the introduction it explains their differences, and the way that Nick sees Gatsby.

“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life,…[Gatsby had] …an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.”

THere is also this exchange which highlights their differences:
“You can’t repeat the past.”

“Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”

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What differences exist between Fitzgerald's and Nick's observations in The Great Gatsby?

Although the novel is written in first person narrative, with Nick as the main voice, it is possible for a first person novel to also reveal information not known to the narrator. There is an overarching voice to this novel, and in most of Fitzgerald's fiction, that portrays the author's own persona as a romantic, idealistic but also often cynical man. The "voice behind the voice," that is, the perspective of Fitzgerald that overshadows Nick's observations, allows us to understand that Nick's willingness to trust Gatsby and to romanticize his actions, are a result of his own character flaws: his innocence, his lack of assertiveness, his gullibility. This theme flows throughout Fitzgerald's fiction: young men who slowly lose their idealism because they are treated poorly (used, betrayed, manipulated, seduced) by others. The way Nick tells this story suggests he has learned a great deal about himself as well as Gatsby; and despite his disillusionment he still has deep love for his friend.

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