Moralism In The Great Gatsby

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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby begins with a piece of advice from the narrator, Nick’s father. He says, “’Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,… just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages you’ve had” (1). Nick takes this to heart, claiming he never judges anyone, but in the glamorous world of 1920s Long Island, this could be harder than Nick ever anticipated. Surrounded by all sorts of moral disregard, Nick finds himself disgusted with every aspect of the luxurious Long Island lifestyle. Only Jay Gatsby, from whom the book gets its name, finds himself exempt from Nick’s judgment, despite representing everything Nick scorns. Gatsby is exempt from Nick’s judgment because Nick doesn’t see Gatsby as…show more content…
He sits there, taking in all the enchanting luxury happening around him, caught in the moment, and is hooked. Like with the Long Island lifestyle, Nick finds himself intrigued by Gatsby’s mystique. After detailing the pure extravagance of Gatsby’s party, Nick describes its patrons, noting that, “Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby at all” (41). This small passage adds to an idea presented earlier in the book by Jordan that everyone has heard of Gatsby but no one has truly met him, that his reputation so supersedes him that he draws people into his circle that he never has and never will meet, further painting him as a mysterious figure. With this, Nick takes a certain pride in actually receiving an invitation to the party. Once inside the party, Nick sets about looking for the host. However, the more people he asks the more rumors about Gatsby he hears. He hears that Gatsby was a German spy, is related to Kaiser Wilhelm, has killed a man, and other, “romantic speculation(s) he inspired” (44). The fact that Nick regards such rumors as “romantic” rather than preposterous or ridiculous reveals that parts of Gatsby’s…show more content…
After Jordan tells Nick that Gatsby is hopelessly in love with Daisy to the point that he bought his house specifically because of its proximity to Daisy’s, Nick says, “He came alive to me, delivered suddenly from the womb of his purposeless splendor” (78). Nick no longer views Gatsby as just a pawn in the game that is the upper-class lifestyle. Instead, he is “alive,” he has depth. Nick realizes Gatsby’s motivation, and thus Gatsby is no longer confined in Nick’s mind by his “purposeless splendor” because it has a purpose now. This implies that everyone but Gatsby is purposeless, aimlessly traipsing through the grandeur just because they can. Nick then says that Gatsby, “dispensed starlight to casual moths” (78). The image of “dispensing” or giving imparts a generosity on Gatsby, while the juxtaposition of “starlight” to “casual moths” implies that the people surrounding Gatsby, the moths, are undeserving of something so great and beautiful, the starlight. At one of Gatsby’s parties in the middle of the novel, Nick is clearly disillusioned with the grandeur, noting its “quality of oppressiveness,” “unpleasantness in the air,” and “pervading harshness.” By this point, Nick is deeply entrenched in the affairs of Gatsby, Daisy, and Tom, and it seems like parties have become a

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