Nick in the opening chapter of “The Great Gatsby” Essay
Nick in the opening chapter of “The Great Gatsby”
Nick Carraway is the narrator of “The Great Gatsby”. He begins the novel by talking about himself: he says that he is very tolerant, and has a tendency to reserve judgment. The opening paragraphs teach us a lot about Nick and his attitude toward Gatsby and others. Nick introduces himself to us as a young man from the Midwest who has come East to learn. He tells us that he’s tolerant, inclined to reserve judgment about people, and a good listener. People tell him their secrets because they admire and trust him. If you read closely, you’ll see that Nick has an uncertain feeling toward Gatsby, almost as if he himself (who knows the story and its ending) doesnt know what to expect.
From the novel’s opening paragraph onward, this will continue create tension in Nick’s narrative. He both loves Gatsby and is critical of him. He hates Gatsby’s crass and vulgar attitude, but he also admires the man for his aspirations. Specifically, Gatsbys “romantic readiness,” and his “extraordinary gift for hope.”The reader realises that Gatsby presented, and still presents, a challenge or opposition to the way in which Nick is accustomed to thinking about the world. It is clear from the story’s opening moments that Gatsby is not quite how he appears on the outside. Despite being vulgar, Nick describes Gatsby’s personality as “gorgeous.”The novel’s characters are obsessed by class and privilege. Its the high-class lives that intrigue the common man, an idea which continues today with the footballers wives culture.
Our first view of Tom Buchanan shows a powerful man standing in riding clothes with his legs apart on his front porch. The riding clothes are a classic symbol or high-status. Tom exploits his status. He is horrible, completely lacking positive aspects. His wife describes him as a “big, hulking physical specimen,” and he seems to use his size to dominate others. The fact that Daisy chooses to comment on his size rather than personality insinuates that there is nothing good about his personality to comment on. We are ushered into the living room with its “frosted wedding cake” ceiling, its wine coloured rug, and its enormous sofa on which are seated two women in white.
They are Jordan Baker and Tom’s wife, Daisy Buchanan. Fitzgerald controls the whole scene through his use of colours. White and gold suggest a combination of beauty, cleanliness, innocence and wealth. Underneath this picturesque surface there is something wrong. Jordan is bored and unamused. She yawns a few times. There is something slightly unpleasant about the atmosphere. The telephone rings, and Tom is called from the room to answer it. When Daisy follows him out, Jordan Baker confides to Nick that the call is from Tom’s woman in New York.
Daisy Buchanan stands in contrast to her husband. She is frail and shy, and actually doesnt seem completely shallow. She laughs at every opportunity. This makes me wonder if its an awkward laugh, perhaps she doesnt feel she belongs there? Though she remarks that everything is in decline, she does so only in order to seem to agree with her husband. The visual purity of Daisy and Jordan stands in contrast to their actual decadence and corruption.
Nick arrives home, and gets his first glimpse of Gatsby. Gatsby is standing on the lawn, stretching out “his arms toward the dark water in a curious way.” Nick believes that he can see Gatsby trembling. As Nick looks out at the water, he can see “…nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock.”
-F Scott Fitzgerald, ‘The Great Gatsby’ Ch. 1