The Great Gatsby is a story of Nick Carraway’s growing up and development of moral responsibility. Unlike Nick, Gatsby does not mature. F. Scott Fitzgerald illuminates these two characters and their changes throughout the course of the novel.
Nick Carraway is a character that develops a sense of moral responsibility throughout the novel. He is a tolerant, understanding, and sympathetic man with high moral values, such as being honest and reserving all judgment: “I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known” (64). In the novel, Nick undergoes a change during his time in the East. He brings his simple values from the Midwest, loses them, and then regains them in a learning experience that shapes his perception of the world. He moves to the East enchanted by the glamorous life of Gatsby, Jordan, Daisy and Tom. He becomes easily wrapped up in the whirlwind of love affairs and corruption. By the end of the novel he grows disgusted with them all, except Gatsby. He comes to the conclusion that Daisy is just as shallow as Tom. When she is finished toying with Gatsby’s life, she leaves her affair with Gatsby and just forgets about him. Tom is one of the few that understands Gatsby and becomes united with him. Nick judges him as great: “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together” (162). After breaking up with the selfish Jordan Baker, he decides to leave what he considers to be the shallow and materialistic East and move back to the more honest Midwest. Nick’s decision to move back home signifies that he learned his “moral lesson.”
Gatsby does not develop in the course of the novel because his whole life has been devoted to the fulfillment of a romantic dream that he created at an early age. Jay Gatsby chases his dreams and will stop at nothing until the goal is reached. He is a forceful figure that will charge though any obstacle to reach the summit of his mountain. He takes it upon himself to tell Tom that Daisy does not love him anymore. He does not develop in this novel because his personal vision is based on the mistaken belief that time can be fixed: “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!” (116). In order to get Daisy, Gatsby thinks he must impress her; he amasses a fortune, earned from bootlegging and other illegal means. Up until the moment of his death, Gatsby is still waiting for a phone call from Daisy. He fails to see that his dream is unattainable because of the surprising quickness of his death. Gatsby’s attempt to recreate the past to fulfill his dreams winds up killing him.
As we can see by juxtaposing Nick and Gatsby, Nick is a dynamic character while Gatsby is a static character. In his novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald elucidates this through their character traits and actions. Not only does Gatsby fail to change for the better but this lack of change also causes the death of him.
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