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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Did Nick Carroway like or despise Jay Gatsby?

Book group last night on The Great Gatsby and a particularly lively discussion with the main point of disagreement: Did Nick Carraway like or admire Gatsby? Some said yes, definitely, he idolized Gatsby and particularly admired as a lost romantic, who was willing to devote his life, and later to give up all he had, for his love for Daisy. Others - including me - believe that Nick despised Gatsby, held him in contempt. The most significant passage in resolving this dispute, I believe, was Nick's last words to Gatsby. On the day after the fatal accident, in which Gatsby's car runs down and kills Tom's mistress, Myrtle Wilson - Nick asks G and learns that D was driving, then hears G give his chauffeur orders to leave the car in the garage - strange, because needs to have the busted fender repaired. Nick says good-bye to G and as he's leaving turns back to tell G that he's a better man than all the rest of them. Nick then says he, later, was glad he'd said that - which may make some readers think he actually liked G. But in the rest of the paragraph he goes on to say that he never liked G, from start to finish. Well, despite Nick's claim that he is the most truthful man he knows, I think there's a little dissembling there: Nick may have been taken in by G's allure, at least at first, but the course of this novel involves Nick's moving from innocence to experience. He comes to learn that G and his type and his world - and Daisie's too - is careless, as he puts it, and much worse: criminal, even murderous, and of course entirely selfish and self-centered. Nick, disillusioned, retreats from the East and goes home to the Midwest, a simply place (or so he thinks): the scene of college kids returning home for a Midwest xmas is an incredible contrast with the phony, flashy Gatsby parties. Nick, a good guy, takes care of G's funeral, but that's it. During the process, he gets that call from the guy who begins telling him about a batch of stolen bonds, but hangs up when he realizes he's not talking to G. I'm sure someone's written about this, but I'd guess that G was in part playing up to Nick because he knew Nick was a naif in the bond business and may as eager as the young G to make a quick killing. By today's industry standards - maybe different then? - Nick was in danger of being disqualified as a broker just for hanging around w/ G. Nick retreats home, wiser but wounded; we don't know what becomes of him - except that, like his progenitor, he becomes a writer - I think he even refers to what he's writing as a "novel." The event of the novel took place 2 years, he notes, before he composes TGG; although Nick is in one sense nothing more than a window through which we see the image of Gatsby and his coterie, he's also a far greater man than anyone else in his novel, he's the creator of it all.

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