F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author of “The Great Gatsby”, develops his characters in such a way that that they seem to contradict each other’s personality traits. Such a set up essentially allows the readers of the novel to notice and understand these characters in an almost equal magnitude. The best depiction in this set up is brought put in the two major characters in the novel, Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway. The two characters’ traits are hugely contradictory of each other. On one hand, Nick Carraway is a character who exhibits great development throughout the story while Jay Gatsby is a man who is stuck and caught up in his own life’s corruptions. Unlike Nick Carraway, Gatsby does not exhibit any form of development as the story proceeds. He is essentially unable to because his entire life is dedicated towards fulfilling a romantic dream that he has held for such a long time. On the other hand, his friend Nick Carraway, who is actually the cousin of his love interest constantly, develops throughout the story. His process of maturation is evident throughout the story as he familiarizes himself with the relatively fast-paced life of New York that he is not accustomed to.
Nick Carraway arrives in New York in the year 1922 after a stint in France fighting in “The Great War”. He comes to New York with hopes of learning the bonds business because as he says, the war has totally changed his worldview or perspective. He does not wish to live in the narrow mindedness world anymore. It is on his arrival that he rents a small house in Long Island and becomes a neighbor of the Great Jay Gatsby. Gatsby is love-struck with Nick’s cousin, Daisy. Because of Nick’s relationship and association with the two characters, he is the one who essentially assists the development of a love affair between them. Nick Carraway is the narrator of the story and although this story mainly revolves around Gatsby, Nick maturation and development is evident throughout the novel.
The Great Gatsby’s story can be considered an initiation story one rather than a classic “coming of age” tale. Nick Carraway is already an adult at the time the story is beginning. He has gone to college, graduated and has even gone to war and come back. The sole reason for going to the east is finding and possibly establishing a career. In spite of the fact that he is already a young adult, his growth and development in terms of insight and maturity is clear throughout the tale as he becomes drawn and entangled in a culture that seems so strange and foreign. In actual sense, Nick can be seen as the only character that is dynamic throughout the novel. All the other characters seemingly stay in the same position without changing much, especially the Great Jay Gatsby.
The Great Gatsby utilizes a point of view that is largely retrospective and consequently, Nick begins the story’s narration in his already mature voice. He has greatly leant form the summer that he spent in the East. He has so much experiences and he learnt from every single one of them. It appears that he was once a very judgmental man but after his stay in the east, Nick claims that he has essentially developed a deeper insight into the behavior of humans.
At the beginning, he may have appeared to be a bit naïve but as the story progressed, his naive personality disappeared as little by little. He slowly learns how to deduce other’s character’s personalities accurately and realizes that what was truthful all along was actually not. For example, at the beginning, he thinks that his cousin Daisy is an extremely beautiful woman who has many desirable traits. Because of this, he develops a liking for her. He regards her as a very cute woman who has only limited imperfections. It is only way much later that he realizes just how superficial and materialistic she is. Nick also made the mistake of enjoying the company of the Buchanan’s before he realized their true nature. To show his realization of their true nature, he states, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy-they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness and let other people clean the mess they had made.” (Fitzgerald, 188).
In the story’s beginning, Nick comes across as an erudite observer of the various characters around him. He is however extremely reserving of personal judgment and in actual sense remains largely uninvolved in that, he shows unwillingness to act on what he perceives or views as other individual’s faults. A perfect exemplification of this is when Nick makes a realization that Jordan Baker was in actual sense a liar but that this was a defect that was imbedded in her overall personality. He states, “She was incurably dishonest” (Fitzgerald, 63). The other instance of Nick’s maturation is brought into light when he discovers Daisy’s and Tom’s irresponsibility. At the particular point that he draws these conclusions some of the characters surrounding him, Nick still has the will to tolerate their “defects”. However, his development reaches a turning point when he sees the Buchanans’ and Jordan’s reaction to the death of Myrtle Wilson. At this instant, Nick finally develops what can be described as a full moral responsibility sense and stands back. He realizes that he cannot tolerate what he sees as a moral vacancy that lies beneath the sophistication and the wealth of the New York. At the end, he resolves to go back to his native west after he has carefully fulfilled his responsibilities. At the end of the book, it becomes clear that Nick has become an even more mature and developed man who has realized that wealth cannot be substituted with moral responsibility and it is the duty of every human being to be morally responsible irrespective of his or her wealth or his or her social status.
Nick’s maturation is also brought to light in his criticism of the Great Gatsby’s life. As mentioned earlier, the Great Gatsby lives in an almost fantasy world where he harbors a dream that he hopes to fulfill. His life generally revolves around that dream. Nick begins starts to become aware and notice that Gatsby’s dream is hugely flawed. By studying the life of Gatsby and the manner in which he runs and conducts his life, he learns that an ideal that is based on materialism sorely is not in real sense fulfillment, but is rather corruption of the mind. Nick develops a lot in his study of Gatsby’s better aspects of life. He makes a discovery that although Gatsby is actual held up in world of fantasy characterized by corrupt dreams, this is essentially better than living a life motivated by absolute greed and complete selfishness that many of the other characters live. Nick at the end of the story realizes that the Jay Gatsby is an individual who is simply trying to fulfill a dream that he has held for long while most of the other characters lives are filled with deception and corruption.
Nick’s absolute maturity is also radiant when it comes to his relationship with Jordan Baker. He could have simply let this relationship take its course, but instead, he insists on ending it although he still harbors feelings for Baker. Nick believes that before he leaves, he has the moral responsibility of “leaving things in order”. This without a doubt takes a lot of responsibility and maturity.
As shown above, Nick goes through a lot of maturation in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”. Although the story is mainly about Jay Gatsby, Nick’s development and maturation shines through the entire tale. He goes through various experiences and interactions with other characters that make him to develop new personal insights and outlooks on life. Unlike many of the other characters in the book who seems stuck and who do not show any signs of growth and development, Nick is different because he does not remain in the same position, but rather grows, develops and matures even more. At the the end, he realizes that he cannot tolerate the kind of life that is led by these people of the east. He realizes that materialism is very wrong and if being successful in the east means giving up his morals, then it not really worth it. He consequently leaves and heads back to his home state of Minnesota.
Fitzgerald, F S, and Matthew J. Bruccoli. The Great Gatsby. New York, NY: Scribner, 1996. Print.