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Every character in F. Scott Fitzgeralds novel, The Great Gatsby, holds significant symbolic meaning, but none support the theme of Easterners compared to Westerners as wholly as Nick Carraway. In an impartial manner, Nick narrates and states his opinion on the events in the novel. Nicks upbringing and simplistic way of thinking juxtapose with the debauchery of the East.
Fitzgerald uses the opinions and actions of Nick to present the belief that people from the Western part of the United States live with simple, moral virtues while those from the East operate with corruption and shallowness. Nicks first important remarks come from his introduction to the novel and his background information. Nicks father always told him as a child to reserve all judgments (Fitzgerald 5). Nick also describes his family as prominent, well-to-do people (7) from the Middle-West. Right from the beginning, Fitzgerald uses Nick to instill in the reader a positive perception of people from the West by associating Nick with family-orientated morals. Nick also states in his opening remarks that, while in the East, he experiences many riotous excursions (6) and wishes the world exist in a moral attention (6).
Nick desires to return to the West after spending only a summer in the East because he cannot conform to the lack of a moral center he adapted to in the West. Fitzgerald intentionally conveys to the reader this perception of the West compared to the East in the beginning of the novel in order for the reader to immediately recognize Fitzgeralds theme and how he will utilize Nick as a medium for this view. Through the words of Nick's narration, the reader comes to realize the perfunctory, self-absorbed, often callous nature of the Easterners. The reader's empathy for Nick reinforces the believability of Fitzgerald's view.
Fitzgerald also uses Nicks impartial narrations to heighten the readers awareness of the shallowness and immorality of the Easterners. Fitzgerald allows the reader to judge the characters solely based on their actions and not the opinion of the author or Nick. For example, in chapter five of The Great Gatsby, Nick lists many of the people who attended Gatsby's parties during the summer. Although Nick never states his opinion on the native Easterners, he only asserts facts that present the party-goers in a negative light. Nick describes three different families of people as conceited: [They] flipped their noses up like goats at whoever came near (66). Nick mentions a man who fights with a bum, someone who gets drunk and goes to jail, a man who strangles his wife, and, finally, a person who commits suicide by jumping in front a subway train.
Readers can only conclude that the East possesses a significant amount of shallowness and corruption because Nick recounts only dark incidents. Fitzgerald obviously wants the reader to recognize that even though Nick reserves all judgment, he cannot help but formulate an opinion on the lifestyle of the Easterners at Gatsby's parties because they exhibit a substantial lack of morality. Fitzgerald writes of another prominent instance in which Nick cannot help but pass judgment on an Easterner for their shallowness. Klipspringer, a freeloader who lives off of Gatsby's money for many weeks, calls Gatsby's home before the funeral. Nick asks Klipspringer if he will attend the funeral and Klipspringer replies he only called to retrieve the tennis shoes he left in Gatsby's mansion. At this point Nick, ejaculate[s] an unrestrained Huh! (177).
Even Nick, the man who reserves all judgment on people, is disgusted by Klipspringer's lack of ethics. Nick responds to Klipspringer's request to deliver the shoes by hanging up the phone. The words, ejaculate, and, unrestrained, indicate Nicks natural reactions and inability to hold back his judgment on Klipspringer's conduct. Fitzgerald wants the reader to realize that if Nick cannot help but detest the actions of Easterners then they must exist in a sizable state of corruption. Near the end of the novel, Nick reflects on what he learns about the East and how it compares to his Western homeland. He describes two different situations: the first scene follows Nicks memory of returning home from college for Christmas.
His friends follow him to the train station just to bid him an affectionate farewell. The cars of the railroad are described as murky yellow, but still as cheerful as Christmas (184). Nick believes that the Westerners do not possess a face of decadent and that the people in the West genuinely care for one another. Although the cars display a visually unappealing color, their appearance cannot conceal the authentic cheery atmosphere. The second scene depicts an eerie situation in which four men walk a woman on a stretcher into a house: The wrong house. But no one knows the womans name, and no one cares (185).
Nick also states that the womans hand sparkles cold with jewels (185). Nick associates this fictional event with the East because it represents his perception of the moral standards of the Eastern people, which highly contrasts with his views of the West. Nick believes that the people of the East lack genuine concern for each others well-being. The four men carrying the stretcher wish to dispose of the body simply because of its unsightliness and not because they care for the woman. Nick also believes that the Easterners cover up their inner-turmoil with gaudy jewelry and clothing in order to hide their corruption and appear lavish and happy. Nick states that even though the woman wears sparkling jewelry, it sparkles, cold[ly].
The jewelry simply covers her unhappiness and lack of purpose. Fitzgerald juxtaposes these two scenes, in order to show the significant difference in shallowness that the East possesses over the West. Fitzgerald clearly believes that the East lacks a certain moral center which the West possesses. Fitzgerald conveys this belief to the readers of The Great Gatsby through the narrations and actions of Nick Carraway. Nick summarizes this point of view in a statement near the end of the novel: [Tom, Daisy, Gatsby, Jordan, and I] were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life (184). The title character, Jay Gatsby, embodies Nicks sentiments.
In the East, Gatsby tries to create a powerful, yet corrupt new life to impress Daisy. According to Nick, though, Gatsby possesses an inability to adapt to the Eastern way of living because of his North Dakotan roots. The East, represented by Mr. Wilson, eventually guns down the native Westerner. At the novels conclusion, Nick moves back West where people still behave with a sense of morality before the East destroys him too. The Great Gatsby documents an important era in history during which the inhabitants of the Eastern part of the United States gave up their rectitude for perfunctory enjoyments and partying.
Work Cited Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2003.
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