Question to anybody who has read The Great Gatsby (also spoilers ahead): Who is the main character supposed to be? I mean, we got Nick over here who is so unhealthily preoccupied in everyone’s lives that he can’t even remember his own birthday, and then we have Gatsby whose only concern is to have Daisy love him again. In a way, I think Nick and Gatsby are rather similar. Throughout the course of the novel, they both seem to nurse a singular obsession, Nick with Gatsby and his present story, and Gatsby with Daisy and the way things used to be. On the other hand, there are traits that make Nick and Gatsby fundamentally different. Nick is a person who is always moving forward in life, while Gatsby clings strongly to the past.
“I wouldn’t ask too much of her,” I ventured. “You can’t repeat the past.”
“Cant repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”
Ironically, the thing that makes Gatsby great is also what makes him pitiable. Gatsby is so attached to an idea of Daisy, an image that he has created of her that she could not possibly fulfill, that he is willing to do anything for her. Yet this also makes Gatsby unrealistic, unable to comprehend that Daisy has a life of her own, that she was not able to stay frozen in time based on the mere hope that one day Gatsby would come back to her. Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy made it very difficult for him to form a purpose separate from her, like he did in his younger years, before he had met Daisy.
What makes Nick great was also derived from his own obsession with Gatsby. Nick took on the role of a (mostly) impartial storyteller, divulging to the audience the life of the great and tragic Gatsby. And in putting himself into this story, Nick became a true friend to Gatsby. Nick was unlike Gatsby in that he could see things clearly, without bouts of passion and emotion clouding his vision. Nick was highly sentient and nearly omniscient, he was blessed with foresight and reason while Gatsby insisted on acting on his emotions. But despite their differences, the two found each other to be in ecstatic cahoots, and by the end of it all, developed a level of mutual understanding and respect.
And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder…