This study will compare and contrast the characters of Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway from F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby. The thrust of the paper will be that despite the superficial differences between the two, there are many more similarities than differences. The two characters come from the same essential mold. Both are self-deluded romantics who have bought the American Dream lock, stock, and barrel, see themselves as superior to all around them, have at their core a self-loathing and profound insecurity, and in the end pursue illusion over the truth at all costs.
The great difference between the two characters is that Gatsby lives his life with not a drop of denial or hypocrisy about his belief in the American Dream and his willingness to do whatever is necessary to make that dream his own, while Nick is a thoroughgoing hypocrite in denial about the nature of his own beliefs.
It is important here to keep in mind the attitude of the author toward his creations Gatsby and Carraway. Fitzgerald is ostensibly giving the reader the message that this group of people are generally self-deluded folks who are pursuing superficial goals. They are for the most part doomed to misery because even if they were to achieve those goals (such as the acquisition of Daisy by Gatsby), they would find that the having is not the cure-all that the pursuing makes them believe it will be.
However, this attitude presupposes a certain distance between the observer (be it reader or author, or Nick himself) and the observed (most obviously poor Gatsby). The question, then, is how much distance actually exists between the observer and the observed? That is, does Fitzgerald truly believe that these people are pursuing empty dreams? Does Nick, as Fitzgerald's narrator, truly believe that he is better than the Buchanans and Gatsby and, especially, Jordan? And if a reader believes that he or she is superior to the whole lot of them---from...