A short introductory note on Nick I wrote ages ago. It was my first glance on him and the novel.
Fitzgerald presents Nick as recluse and introverted which gives reason to his perceptive and skeptical nature towards people at first glance. He begins the narrative by commenting on himself and how he was taught by his father to “reserve all judgements” as people did not have the same upbringing and advantages that he had. Though he may try to speak to people without prejudice, he admits that is has caused him to be the “victim to not a few veteran bores” and frequently “feigned sleep, preoccupation or a hostile levity” in order to spare himself from the tedious conversations he may have and evidently show that he was not interested in companionship. Towards the end of the first page, Carraway also alludes how he wanted “no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart” due to the corruption of his previous expectations of humanity and morality when he came back from the East. From those quotes, we can already tell that his relationships with people in the first place was fabricated to fit the ethics he had been taught by his father and that he characterises himself as both highly righteous and tolerant of others, albeit he has the tendency to judge quickly during a conversation. The last quote also shows that he wants to be free of the caution he takes with other people and wants to live freely without knowing the secrets of man, which is proven when he says that he “doesn’t care” where conduct is found.
Nick (briefly) mentions Gatsby as a contradiction to his beliefs on how a man should live and his usual judgements, but his persona was something “gorgeous” and unique that it’s “not likely” he’ll find someone similar to Gatsby ever again, whether it borders on admiration or hatred.
In terms of ancestry and scholarly capabilities, we learn that the Carraway’s have been “prominent, well-to-do people” in the Middle Western city for over three generations and have descended from nobility (Dukes of Buccleuch). Nick regards this with cool air of pretentiousness, though at one point his family were fresh migrants and their fellow Americans were misled to respect them due to the aristocracy, old wealth and clan image they supported.
One of the final things we learn about Nick is that he went to war – where his Aunts and Uncles weren’t too fond of him joining – and eventually learned about the bond business in the East in order to achieve his American Dream as the West “now seemed like a ragged edge to the universe.” He is also highly intelligent having gone to Yale, like his father, though he regards it as “New Haven” as he tries to stray from the mainstream name.