Let’s embark on a literary odyssey delving into The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s greatest novel of all time, through the lens of Nick Carraway’s poignant words.
This article will uncover in every chapter Nick’s introspections, observations, and unique vantage point into the enigmatic world of Jay Gatsby.
From the glittering parties to the underlying societal critiques, Nick’s quotes encapsulate the essence of the Jazz Age, showing the reader both the allure and the disillusionment of the American Dream.
As the novel’s narrator, Nick Carraway provides us with a nuanced perspective on the characters and events, allowing readers to grasp the intricacies of their motivations and desires.
Discovering the Real Nick Carraway – The Narrator in the Great Gatsby Novel
Join me in unraveling these 24 carefully chosen quotes that paint a vivid portrait of an era and its inhabitants, showcasing Nick Carraway’s role as a literary linchpin and his contribution to the novel’s enduring allure.
What Does Nick Carraway Say About Himself in Chapter 1?
In Chapter 1 of “The Great Gatsby,” Nick Carraway starts off the novel by revealing a bit about his background and approach to life.
He mentions that he comes from a prominent, well-off family in the Midwest but doesn’t go into detail, presenting himself to the reader as a modest man.
He describes himself as both tolerant and nonjudgmental. He says that he’s been inclined to reserve judgments about people, a lesson he attributes to his father who taught him the importance of not being too quick to judge others.
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’
He considers himself a good listener and a person others often confide in. Nick also mentions his inclination to seek something new and different, which is one of the reasons he moves to New York to experience life in a different way.
Overall, Nick’s self-description in this chapter sets the tone for his role as a perceptive and open-minded observer throughout the novel.
Nick also tells us that he was privy to some ugly truths that he didn’t really want to know, setting up the reader to be aware that they were about to read some ugly facts.
I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsought—frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon.
Nick is referring to the antagonism between his friend and former classmate Tom Buchanan and his friend and neighbor Jay Gatsby.
Nick Carraway Quotes about Himself in Chapter 2 of The Great Gatsby
In this chapter, Tom is supposedly going to take Nick to lunch in New York, but instead they stop and pick up Tom’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson.
Tom and Myrtle, along with Myrtle’s sister Catherine and other friends, have a party in the apartment that Tom keeps for his trysts with Myrtle.
Nick is repelled by the activities of the wealthy but at the same time also fascinated by it:
I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight, but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild, strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair. Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.
After Tom breaks Myrtle’s nose over her comments about Daisy, Nick decides it’s time to leave-
Taking my hat from the chandelier, I followed (Mr. McKee). ‘Come to lunch someday’, he (Mr. McKee) suggested. ‘Where?’ ‘Anywhere!’
It seems as though Mr. McKee became fond of Nick rather quickly, with some suggesting that the two had a brief tryst. You can read more about that here.
What Quotes Show that Nick Can Be an Unreliable Narrator?
Nick’s portrayal of Tom exemplifies his unreliability as a narrator, evident when he promptly labels Tom’s eyes as “arrogant.” His inability to conceal his judgmental nature and readiness to criticize others solely based on initial encounters are apparent here. This instance underscores Nick’s status as an unreliable storyteller, casting doubt on the accuracy of his perceptions.
While Nick claims that he reserves judgment, the fact is that he tends to judge almost everyone he talks about.
Note his “judgment” about Myrtle’s large hips and Gatsby’s unbelievable stories about his past.
Still, it would be difficult for anyone to narrate a story and not pass judgment, especially when the story is being told in the past tense.
All of the events have already happened, which offers Nick time to become judgmental.
Nick Carraway Quotes about Himself in Chapter 3
Nick is finally going to meet his neighbor and the host of the extravagant parties, Jay Gatsby. He is invited to one of Gatsby’s parties, and he decides to attend.
I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby’s house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited – they went there.
After searching with Jordan Baker for their host, Nick finally meets the mysterious Jay Gatsby and is pleasantly surprised.
He smiled understandingly – much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced – or seemed to face – the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.
Nick tells us one more detail about himself that he probably believes is true but isn’t entirely.
Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.
Nick does try his best to be honest, but most of the time, he sees fit to simply omit the truth.
Nick Carraway Quotes about Himself in Chapter 4
Nick is again invited to lunch in New York but this time by his friend and neighbor Jay Gatsby.
Gatsby seems concerned that Nick doesn’t have a clear impression of who he is and/or about his past, so he offers him some half-truths that actually confuse Nick all the more.
As they cross the bridge into the city, Nick thinks:
‘Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge,’ I thought; ‘anything at all…’
Even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder.
After lunch, Nick meets Jordan Baker, who tells him the entire story that Gatsby had told her the night before. Nick learns about how Daisy and Jay fell in love and how Jay hoped to reunite with Daisy.
Nick has a phrase that he can’t get out of his head:
A phrase began to beat in my ears with a sort of heady excitement: ‘There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired.’
Nick was a bit concerned that he would be setting up his married cousin to meet a single man, but it wasn’t long before he no longer had thoughts of Daisy in his head:
Suddenly I wasn’t thinking of Daisy and Gatsby any more but of this clean, hard, limited person who dealt in universal skepticism and who leaned back jauntily just within the circle of my arm.
Nick is obviously attracted to Jordan, but it’s difficult to say if the reverse is true.
Nick Carraway Quotes about Himself in Chapter 5
Nick agrees to invite Daisy to tea at his house so that Gatsby can “accidentally” drop by and be properly introduced.
The tension before Daisy arrives and just after Gatsby and Daisy are introduced is unbearable! Nick doesn’t really understand why, but he notes:
With his hands still in his coat pockets he stalked by me into the hall, turned sharply as if he was on a wire, and disappeared into the living room. It wasn’t a bit funny. Aware of the loud beating of my own heart, I pulled the door against the increasing rain.
Bringing Daisy over to his house, Gatsby insists that Klipspringer play the piano. Nick and Daisy are having a fine time singing songs and dancing the Charleston:
One thing’s sure and nothing’s surer
The rich get richer and the poor get – children.
Daisy and Nick change the words to this song, like children themselves playing hookey from school.
Nick Carraway Quotes about Himself in Chapter 6
Daisy and Gatsby begin having an affair, and Gatsby gets the great idea to invite Daisy and Tom to one of his parties. Gatsby wants Daisy to see all the important people who attend and see how she likes his lifestyle.
Nick is uncomfortable about the entire thing, saying:
It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment.
Neither Tom nor Daisy have fun at Gatsby’s party, finding it vulgar and low-class. This will be the last party Gatsby throws since it displeases Daisy.
Afterward, Nick tries to give Gatsby some good advice, which he quickly dismisses.
‘I wouldn’t ask too much of her,’ I ventured. ‘You can’t repeat the past.’
‘Can’t repeat the past?’ he cried incredulously. ‘Why of course you can!’
He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.
Nick notes that when it came to Daisy, Gatsby talked a lot about the past.
He talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself, perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy.
Nick’s observation about his friend was spot on. Gatsby was stuck in the past and didn’t seem to realize that Daisy had moved on without him.
What Is Nick’s Most Famous Quote in The Great Gatsby?
Nick has lots of outstanding quotes, but perhaps his most famous comes from Chapter 8.
Nick Carraway’s pivotal quote in The Great Gatsby emerges as he reflects,
They’re a rotten crowd… You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.
This quote encapsulates his disillusionment with the superficiality of the elite society and his recognition of Gatsby’s exceptional, albeit flawed, integrity.
It embodies the novel’s themes of moral decay and the elusive American dream, showcasing Nick’s unique ability to discern beneath the surface.
This quote resonates as a poignant critique of the era, highlighting Nick’s pivotal role as a perceptive narrator and the complexities of human nature he uncovers.
Nick Carraway Quotes about Himself in Chapter 7
Things are about to get really dicey in Chapter 7. Daisy decides to invite Gatsby, Nick, and Jordan to the Buchanan house for dinner and conversation.
You can tell this was a bad idea from the start, but especially in a time when there was no air conditioning yet. Dinner takes place on the hottest day of the year, and heat tends to make everyone crabby.
Nick feels uncomfortable being in the same room as Tom and Gatsby, who are exchanging barbs about each other when Nick notes;
I stared at him (Gatsby) and then at Tom, who had made a parallel discovery less than an hour before – and it occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well.
Nick can’t help but notice that Tom blames Gatsby for his wife’s cheating, while George blames himself for Myrtle cheating on him.
After Gatsby and Tom have it out at the hotel in New York, Nick suddenly remembers that it’s his birthday.
Thirty – the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning briefcase of enthusiasm, thinning hair. But there was Jordan beside me, who, unlike Daisy, was too wise ever to carry well-forgotten dreams from age to age… So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.
After Nick discovers that Myrtle has been killed by Daisy, not Gatsby, Nick is taken aback. He’s not sure what to think, but he still tries to be a good friend to both Daisy and Gatsby.
Nick checks on Daisy to be sure that Tom isn’t beating her and that Daisy isn’t looking as if she might take her own life:
Daisy and Tom were sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table with a plate of cold friend chicken between them and two bottles of ale. Tom was talking intently across the table at her, and in his earnestness, his hand had fallen upon and covered her own. Once in a while, she looked up and nodded in agreement.
This does not look like a woman who is ready to leave her husband but rather one who is making a pact with him.
Nick doesn’t tell Gatsby this, of course, only that Daisy is OK.
Nick Carraway Quotes about Himself in Chapter 8
Myrtle is dead, and Gatsby is waiting for Daisy to call.
Nick tries to convince Gatsby to leave town for a while, but Gatsby wants to leave with Daisy. Nick is fairly certain that this won’t happen, but he promises to check in later and he goes to work.
Nick can’t get Myrtle’s dead and mutilated body out of his mind.
When I passed the ashheaps on the train that morning I had crossed deliberately to the other side of the car.
Jordan calls Nick at work, and both are upset. Jordan is upset that Nick wasn’t “nice” to her the night before, and Nick can’t understand how that could be Jordan’s big concern.
‘I’ve left Daisy’s house,’ she said. ‘I’m at Hempstead, and I’m going down to Southampton this afternoon.’
Probably it had been tactful to leave Daisy’s house, but the act annoyed me, and her next remark made me rigid.
‘You weren’t so nice to me last night.’
‘How could it have mattered then?’
Nick, unable to concentrate at work, decides to take an early train back home, but he’s too late. When he arrives, Nick and the servants hear a shot, and they discover Gatsby’s body first, then George Wilson’s.
Nick doesn’t necessarily say what he feels, but he does note:
It was after we started with Gatsby toward the house that the gardener saw Wilson’s body a little way off in the grass, and the holocaust was complete.
Holocaust is a pretty strong word, and it aptly describes how Nick must have felt.
Nick Carraway Quotes about Himself in Chapter 9
The final chapter and it’s a doozy.
Nick tries to find people to attend Gatsby’s funeral, but he never really finds anyone, not even Daisy.
The only people who show up are Gatsby’s father, Owl Eyes, the servants and the postman, and Nick, of course.
He does go to see Jordan, who makes it clear that she is no longer interested in Nick, and Nick seems to feel the same way.
‘Nevertheless you did throw me over,’ said Jordan suddenly. ‘You threw me over on the telephone. I don’t give a damn about you now, but it was a new experience for me, and I felt a little dizzy for a while.’ Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away.
Nick can’t bear to be in New York any longer, nor his house. He does see Tom in New York City, who tells Nick that Gatsby got what he deserved.
Nick can’t forgive Tom as he describes how careless and irresponsible Tom and Daisy were:
They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.
After a few months, Nick decides to pack it in and return home. He describes his last night in West Egg:
On the last night, with my trunk packed and my car sold to the grocer, I went over and looked at that huge incoherent failure of a house once more. On the white steps an obscene word, scrawled by some boy with a piece of brick, stood out clearly in the moonlight, and I erased it, drawing my shoe raspingly along the stone. Then I wandered down to the beach and sprawled out on the sand.
It’s a melancholy and depressing ending to what should have been a love story, but Fitzgerald wanted to drive home the fact that the American dream is a sham that leaves people broken in the end.
Things to Consider
We have looked into the essence of Nick Carraway’s character through an array of insightful quotes drawn from each chapter of The Great Gatsby.
From his initial portrayal as an open-minded and tolerant observer to his eventual disillusionment with the opulence and shallowness of the Jazz Age, Nick’s self-reflective statements guide readers through his transformative narrative lens.
These may be quotes from Nick Carraway about how he sees his place in the Jazz Age, but more than anything else, these quotes show how author F. Scott Fitzgerald saw his life during this unforgettable era.
Written by Kerry Wisby – GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Owner & Founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Kerry Wisby, a former teacher with a BA in English, is the founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com. With a passion for all things 1920s, including The Great Gatsby novel, her website is the ultimate source for Roaring Twenties fashion, history, and party ideas. Read more about Kerry here.