Respect, observant, self-deprecating, judgments and honesty. These are the words that come to mind when reflecting back on the novel The Great Gatsby. The narrator, Nick, is a quiet, reflective 30 year old man who moves to New York to learn about the bonding business. Now, it is probably easy to think of many differences between myself, a 17 year old girl living in the 21st century, and Nick a 30 year old man alive during the 1920’s but perhaps the similarities aren’t quite as clear.
Well if you look below the surface it is found that there are many traits that Nick and I share. The American Dream is defined as how a person would achieve the perfect life. I believe that Nick and I share the same ideas of attaining this “perfect life”. By becoming successful, focusing on individualism, and holding genuine happiness. Although Nick and I may have the same interpretation of what the American Dream is, by analyzing our relationships with ourselves, money, and other people I believe that the way in which we plan on achieving this dream is quite opposite.
I feel that when showing how Nick and I compare to each other, an important factor should be discussing our identities; including the relationships we have with ourselves. Nick thinks of himself as a very truthful and loyal friend. He shows this by saying “I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known”(Fitzgerald 65). Cleary, Nick has high thoughts of himself. After reading the book I found it very ironic that he says this because although Nick states multiple times that he is honest and not judgmental the whole entire book involves him judging people.
Nick repeatedly tells himself that he is a good, honest man, but in reality that was not the case. Nick and I are different in this way. I am very hard on myself, always wanting to achieve perfection, and because of this I am always bringing myself back to reality. I face my faults and Nick doesn’t. Nick and I have different ideas of who we truly are, in turn causing us to have contrasting views on how to achieve individualism which is an important part of obtaining the American Dream. Although the relationships we have with ourselves contrast, there are similarities as well.
For example I do not know who I truly am, just like Nick doesn’t. I say this about myself because I am constantly changing my views and outlook on life. Knowing what and who to value is a difficult task to accomplish and I honestly struggle with it everyday. I believe Nick also struggles with his identity. For instance, the way in which he handles dishonesty in the book. There is dishonesty between marriages, businesses and deaths. Nick knows everyone’s secrets and I believe is indecisive on how to deal with them.
Nick illustrates this struggle with the words of the book, one example being “He was clutching at some last hope and I couldn’t bear to shake him free”(158). Nick is struggling what to do about the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy. He has to make the decision of whether he is going to play the part of crushing their dreams or supporting their relationship. I believe these similarities and differences prove that although many years have passed our relationships with our identity have not shifted but instead stayed the same.
To further evaluate the relationships that Nick and I posses, the meaning of money must be examined. During the 1920’s being successful for many people –including Nick– meant having money. Nick felt a sense of purpose and excitement when he was around money and the feeling of success was almost contagious. His first experience at one of Gatsby’s parties captured this feeling, Nick thought “Laughter is easier, minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful world”(44). To say he was dazzled by wealth would be an understatement.
As for me, almost a century later, I have discovered that the idea of success has shifted. Although money is a very important factor, I would not define it as success. Success for me is being genuinely happy. If the amount of money you make is what defines your success than I beleive you are not living the right way. I want to live the life I truly want and deserve, not just the life I settle for. This is where Nick and I differ. Not only did Nick himself settle but also the people he surrounded himself with. I don’t mean with money, but with the relationships they held.
Living in the 21st century, in America, I am surrounded by opportunities and my way of achieving success would be defined as: not settling. Here it is shown that there has been a shifting in what success means since the 1920’s. Previously having high paying jobs was America’s number one goal but now seeing that money does not necessarily mean success people’s priorities are changing. To further analyze mine and Nick’s similarities and differences I feel it is vital that the relationships we have with other people is discussed.
Having high standards when it comes to friendships is a trait that I believe both Nick and I share. Decency in human behavior is something that should be truly valued when it comes to who you spend your time with. Nick did not choose to spend his time with anyone else but high class, proof of this is in where he decided to live; “My own house was an eyesore, but it was a small eyesore, and it had been overlooked, so I had a view of the water, a partial view of my neighbor’s lawn, and the consoling proximity of millionaires… (7). Nick believed that if a person had wealth he must be a decent human, but I think that throughout the book he finds that this may not be true. As seen throughout the book, Nick sees his friends commit infidelity and murder. Through these events I think that Nick realizes that his standards might not be what he originally expected. I also believe that having high standards is critical for good and healthy relationships. I choose not to spend time with people who don’t have the same values as me.
If people chose to gossip, party, and live in disrespectful ways then I surely would not want to hold a relationship with them. Nick does not realize that he is conforming to The American Dream of the 1920’s which was all about having money and associating yourself with the upper class. If he lived in today’s world I believe this realization would have shifted –as mine has– due to the social media and tabloids that follow celebrities showing that having money does not mean you live in a utopia.
Now although Nick and I may share the trait of having high standards I conclude that the true meaning of our relationships with other people are very different. When I am in friendships, I am in it for the compassion, trust and loyalty. I have been lucky enough to have my family as my best friends; I know that I can count on them for anything. For example, I was going through a significant transition in 9th grade, my friends started partying and getting involved in drama. I saw this and decided it was time that I made a change in my choice of friends.
During this transition had my cousins and my sister right by my side assuring me that everything would be okay. When I analyze Nick’s relationships find that he creates friendships for other reasons. He states that Tom and Daisy are “careless people”(191), and says that Jordan is “incurably dishonest”(64). Nick recognizes that the people he is friends with are not necessarily good, genuine people, infact he discloses that they are the opposite. Although Nick realizes this he still chooses to carry out the relationships because they benefit him; they all have the capability to help him climb up the social ladder.
This is where Nick and I are different. I create relationships for love and support opposed to developing friendships for personal benefits. This distinction shows how the idea of achieving the American Dream has shifted since the 1920’s. To conclude, I believe that after looking “below the surface” of mine and Nick’s true character it can be said that there has been shifting in the ideas of how to accomplish The American Dream but also some ideas that have remained the same.
Considering that around 90 years have passed and the fact that I am not a 30 year old man but still am able to realistically compare myself to Nick is incredible. Ideas that have shifted include: what success means, wealthy individuals and the illusion that they live in a utopia, and how to deal with dishonesty. Although, when it comes to identity and having high standards for the people you want to spend time with, even a century later, these values still occur.