Why Does Nick Move To New York: The Allure Of The Big Apple

Last Updated: October 25th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s timeless classic, The Great Gatsby, the story’s narrator, Nick Carraway, embarks on a journey that takes him from the familiar Midwestern terrain to the glittering streets of New York City.

Nick Carraway in New York City - date 1920s

Nick’s move serves as a pivotal moment in the novel, setting the stage for the characters he will meet and the tragic events that unfold.

The question today is what compels this young, aspiring bond salesman to uproot his life and venture into the bustling heart of the East Coast in the Roaring Twenties?

In this article, I will try to discover what Nick’s motivations might be exploring the allure of the city, his pursuit of the American Dream, and the intricate web of relationships propelling this iconic tale.

Why Did Nick Carraway Move to New York City?

Nick Carraway with New York as backdrop where he moved for his job

Nick Carraway’s move to New York City is driven by a complex interplay of personal and societal factors.

On a personal level, Nick seeks new opportunities and experiences. He comes from the Midwest, and the bustling, glamorous lifestyle of New York City holds a magnetic allure, as most big cities do for young people.

As a young and ambitious bond salesman, he views the city as a place where he can carve out his own success and fortune, chasing the American dream as he learns the bond business.

However, Nick’s move is also influenced by familial ties. His cousin Daisy Buchanan and her husband, Tom, reside in the affluent East Egg of Long Island, a short commute from the city. Nick’s proximity to them allows him to reconnect with family and become a part of their lives, ultimately serving as the novel’s narrator and eyewitness to their tumultuous affairs.

nick carraway, tom buchanan and daisy buchanan

Beyond personal motivations, Nick’s relocation is a symbol of the broader societal shifts during the Jazz Age. The 1920s marked an era of cultural and social upheaval, characterized by extravagance and excess.

Nick’s move to the epicenter of this era represents his curiosity about this cultural transformation, making him an astute observer of the decadence and moral decay that define the novel’s narrative.

Nick’s move to the Big Apple reflects his pursuit of personal ambition, familial connections, and a desire to immerse himself in the whirlwind of the Jazz Age.

How Does Nick Describe His Rented House in West Egg?

Nick Carraway's rented house in West Egg - correctly located with arrows

Nick Carraway describes the rented house he moves to in West Egg as a modest, small, and charming cottage.

He mentions its proximity to Gatsby’s lavish mansion, highlighting the stark contrast between their lifestyles.

Nick appreciates the coziness and simplicity of his residence, mentioning the “cardboard” feeling of the house, which signifies its impermanence and temporary nature, reflecting his own transitory presence in the East.

Note that as simply and cozy as Nick finds his abode, he never invites Jordan Baker or Tom to see it. He only invites Daisy as a means to meet Gatsby. Whether Nick is ashamed of his modest home is not clear.

This description underscores Nick’s role as an outsider in the world of excess and serves as a physical representation of his more grounded Midwestern sensibilities.

Where Did Nick Come From?

nick carraway

While Nick never names a city, he does claim to be from a small town in the Midwest.

Specifically, he comes from a place he calls “towns beyond Ohio”, which is often interpreted as the region of Minnesota.

Nick describes himself as being from a well-off family and owner of a family-owned hardware business.

Who Is Nick Carraway? Discovering The Great Gatsby’s Narrator

He emphasizes his Midwestern values, including his sense of morality and integrity, which contrast with the extravagance and decadence of the East Coast, where he temporarily relocates.

Nick’s Midwestern origins play a significant role in shaping his character and perspective throughout the novel, as he serves as a bridge between the world of Jay Gatsby’s opulence and the more grounded values of the Midwest.

Nick’s background adds depth to his role as both an observer and a participant in the unfolding drama of the Roaring Twenties.

What Does Nick Say about New York City in the Beginning of the Novel?

In the beginning of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby,” Nick Carraway offers a mixed portrayal of New York City.

On one hand, he describes it as a city that both fascinates and overwhelms him.

Nick expresses his admiration for the city’s grandeur, referring to it as “the city that never sleeps.” He acknowledges the bustling energy and limitless possibilities that seem to pervade every corner.

However, he also admits to feeling somewhat disoriented by the frenetic pace and the constant sensory assault of the city. He mentions how he’s been both enchanted and repelled by New York, highlighting the dichotomy of his emotions.

Meyer Wolfsheim, Tom And Nick

When Nick meets Meyer Wolfsheim, he gets a first-hand look into the seedy underworld that the city holds.

This ambivalence sets the stage for Nick’s complex relationship with the city throughout the novel, where he is drawn to its allure and endless possibilities but also disillusioned by its decadence.

As the story unfolds, Nick’s evolving perceptions of New York City mirror the larger themes of illusion and disillusionment permeating the narrative. This ultimately offers a nuanced perspective on the city’s allure and darker underbelly via the characters that Nick meets.

Why Does Nick Leave New York at the End of the Novel?

Nick Carraway leaves New York at the end of The Great Gatsby primarily because he has grown disillusioned with the excesses and moral decay he witnesses in the city.

Nick Carraway Leaves New York

After the tragic events surrounding the deaths of Myrtle Wilson, Jay Gatsby, and George Wilson and the unraveling of the illusions of the Jazz Age, Nick becomes disenchanted ( learn more about Nick’s character traits ) with the superficiality and materialism of New York’s high society.

Nick also comes to be haunted by the memories of his summer spent there. He vividly remembers dinners with Jordan Baker, who broke up with him, lunches with Gatsby, and the party at Tom and Myrtle’s apartment.

Between the bittersweet memories and the moral decay of the characters who live there, Nick decides to return to a simpler life back in the Midwest.

Facts You Should Consider

Nick Carraway’s move to New York City in The Great Gatsby is emblematic of his pursuit of the American Dream, a desire for new experiences, and his familial connections with the enigmatic Buchanans.

It also symbolizes his immersion in the dazzling but morally ambiguous world of the Jazz Age.

As the story unfolds, Nick’s journey into the heart of the city exposes him to both the allure and the disillusionment of this era. All these events ultimately shape his role as the novel’s narrator and offer profound insights into the complex characters and themes defining this literary masterpiece.

Why Does Nick Move To New York: The Allure Of The Big Apple
Why Does Nick Move To New York: The Allure Of The Big Apple
Explore Nick's motivations for moving to New York City in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, and uncover the allure of the Jazz Age and New York City.
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