The Great Gatsby: The Question Of Nick Carraway’s Integrity Essay, Research Paper
The Great Gatsby: The Question of Nick Carraway’s Integrity
In pursuing relationships, we come to know people only step by step.
Unfortunately, as our knowledge of others’ deepens, we often move from
enchantment to disenchantment. Initially we overlook flaws or wish them away;
only later do we realize peril of this course. In the novel “The Great Gatsby”
by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the journey from delight to disappointment may be seen
in the narrator, Nick Carraway. Moving from initial interest to romantic allure
to moral repugnance, Nick’s relationship with Jordan Baker traces a painfully
familiar, all-to-human arc.
Nick’s initial interest in Jordan is mainly for her looks and charm.
Upon first sight of her at the Buchanan’s mansion, he is at once drawn to her
appearance. He Notes her body “extended full length” on the divan, her
fluttering lips, and her quaintly tipped chin. He observes the lamp light that
“glinted along the paper as she turned a page with a flutter of slender muscles
in her arms.” He is willing to overlook her gossipy chatter about Tom’s extra-
marital affair, and is instead beguiled by her dry witticisms and her apparent
simple sunniness: “Time for this good girl to go to bed,” she says. When Daisy
begins her matchmaking of Nick and Jordan, we sense that she is only leading
where Nick’s interest is already taking him.
It is Jordan, then, who makes Nick feel comfortable at Gatsby’s party,
as we sense what Nick senses: they’re becoming a romantic couple. As they drive
home a summer house-party, Nick notes her dishonesty but forgives it,
attributing it to her understandable need to get by in a man’s world. She
praises his lack of carelessness, tells him directly “I like you”–and he is
smitten, After Jordan tells him the tale of Gatsby and Daisy’s past, Nick feels
a “heady excitement” because she has taken him into her confidence. Attracted by
her “universal skepticism” and under the influence of his own loneliness, Nick–
overlooking this time her “wan, scornful mouth”–seals their romance by planted
a kiss on Jordan’s lips.
But the attraction can’t last and is, by summer’s end, replaced by
repugnance. The smallest of details, at first, heralds this falling-apart:
“Jordan’s fingers, powdered with white over their tan, rested for a moment in
mine.” Here Fitzgerald has dropped a subtle hint that their liaison is to be the
matter of only a moment, and that Jordan’s “integrity” may be a matter of mere
cosmetics. But it is Jordan’s failure to feel the gravity of the real falling-
apart–among Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby–that most rankles Nick, and he reacts with
disgust when she invites him in for a nightcap amid all the emotional wreckage,
then complains the next day of his refusal. But Jordan’s worst action, in Nick’s
eyes, is her failure to stay on at Daisy and Tom’s when Daisy needs her. The
betrayal is far worse than moving a golf ball, because it is deeply personal.
In the end, with a rueful acceptance of what seemed “meant to be” but
was not, Nick sees that, while Jordan may excite his interest and passion, the
excitement pales in the light of her lack of “the fundamental decencies.” Though
it has been Nick’s first impulse to reserve judgments about her, in the end he
cannot: the limit of his tolerance defines him. In letting go of Jordan because
of her lack of integrity, Nick has held fast to his.