In The Great Gatsby, how does Nick's character come of age?

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Nick Carraway's experience of coming-of-age in The Great Gatsby is similar to what Holden Caulfield experiences in The Catcher in the Rye. Both Nick and Holden are cynical about the adult world and make judgments based on their own perceptions, rather than understanding how they may be wrong. For example, both Nick and Holden have poor relationships with their fathers, who have failed them as role models. They both also have a romanticized view of life, which gets shattered when they are exposed to reality--a reflection of their immaturity.

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One major indication that Nick has grown during the novel is to compare his views on his age: when the novel starts, he is almost thirty years old, and view the upcoming decade with fear and disgust. Later, he takes refuge in his growing love for Jordan Baker:


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-- the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair. But there was Jordan beside me, who, unlikeDaisy, was too wise ever to carry well-forgotten dreams from age to age.

Nick tries to think of himself as completed by Jordan, who is in some ways more mature than he is. However, as the climactic events of the novel prove to him, she is less mature in the ways that matter to him:

"I'm thirty," I said. "I'm five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor."

She didn’t answer. Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away.
(Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby,

Nicks realization is that he can't live the sort of life that the East Egg residents live, coasting on their inherited money and finding shallow diversions to keep them occupied. His exposure to Gatsby's great passions has changed him in ways that the superficial Jordan cannot understand; she believes that the events were just another scandal to be shared as gossip, but Nick can't get past what he experienced, and that critical divide shows how he has matured. Nick knows that Jordan will lie to herself and pretend that people and important events don't matter; Nick also knows that lying to one's self is far worse than lying to others, because the self always knows that the lie exists.

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How does Nick in The Great Gatbsy experience a coming of age?

There are certainly many different aspects you could point to. However, one of my favourites is seeing how Nick is different when he sees Tom Buchanan for the last time at the end of the novel. Although initially he is very cold with him, he suddenly has almost an epiphany concerning them and their natural propensity to destroy things. He says, famously:

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back itno their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made...

Nick, after this realisation, decides to shake hands with Tom, because he felt as though he were "talking to a child." Thus part of Nick's coming of age is an accurate understanding of upper-class characters like Tom and Nick, and how they operate and the chaos they leave in their wake. Instead of being enchanted by such riches and glamour, Nick now has a very accurate idea of what their characters really consist of, and is no longer dazzled by them.

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