In chapter VII of The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nick, the first person narrator in the novel, suddenly remembers that it is his thirtieth birthday. He, like Gatsby, Tom, and Daisy, the other characters of the novel, came East to get away from his past; now that he has turned thirty, his youth is officially over and he realizes that he may have made a mistake in coming East. This is why he begins a period of reevaluation that leads to his eventual decision to return to the Middle West. The Great Gatsby is the story of Nick’s initiation into life. His trip East gives him the education he needs to grow up.
Nick is unlike the other characters of the book; he is not one of the careless people. “[He is] one of the few honest people [he] has ever known. ” (60) He has a conscience, and is not selfish; he has decency, which is well demonstrated in the efforts he makes during Gatsby’s funeral. His character shows how superficial Daisy and Tom are. He is a detached observer while being involved in the action. Because of these characteristics and because he has “left” youth by turning thirty during the course of the novel, it makes him more credible and can be taken more seriously, as he is not some immature, inexperienced man.
Nick’s rite of passage concludes in his decision in turning West. “When [he] came back from the East … [he] felt that [he] wanted the world to be uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; [he] wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. ” (2) Before, instead, he ignored the society around him: this is why he was only an observer of the events happening around him. Also, at first Nick didn’t like Gatsby as a person because of his mysteriousness and way of doing.
After his revelation, Nick says that “Gatsby had turned out all right in the end. ” (2) So, his turning thirty helps the reader to totally believe in his judgments. It is the first reference Nick makes to his own age in the book. As soon as he realizes that he has turned thirty, he has a revelation: Gatsby’s dream has disintegrated and that he can’t continue to live in the East because that is not his place. This revelation is possible for him to have because he refuses the alcohol offered to him by Tom Buchanan. Alcohol represents the shift from reality to illusion.
Since he doesn’t take the whiskey, he is objective and clear and realizes that his youth is officially over. “[He] was thirty. Before [him] stretched the portentous, menacing road of a new decade… Thirty, the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning briefcase of enthusiasm, thinning hair. ” (136) Before this revelation moment, though, he drank whiskey and attended the parties. The main difference in his attitude, however, is that at first he ignores the superficiality; after, he realizes that he can’t live in this society and decides to return to West.
The fact that he doesn’t drink before his revelation makes him a more reliable witness of society’s failure. Nick’s birthday and revelation coincide with Myrtle’s death. She was killed by Daisy who was driving Gatsby’s car. He was so much in love with her that he took all the responsibility of Myrtle’s death and because of this he dies. Nick understands that he is the only one left to tell the story of the dreamer whose dreams were corrupted. When Nick states that “you can’t repeat the past,” (111) and Gatsby is incredulous about this statement, he realizes that Gatsby’s dream is a failure.
Nick realizes after his thirtieth birthday, that all the people at Gatsby’s parties were using him for their own fun. No one really cared, and this is why at his funeral no one was there. He had been forgotten, just as “Myrtle Wilson’s tragic achievement was forgotten. ” (156) While up until chapter VII where Nick turns thirty most of the book is under the form of dialogue, after his revelation, it is mostly narration and reflections on his situation and on that of the other characters. Nick has matured and is now able to analyze the different people surrounding him objectively.
For example, he meets Jordan, a golf player with who he was going out with, and discussed their relationship. Jordan states that she thought that Nick was a “honest, straightforward person. [She] thought it was [his] secret pride. ” (179) To this statement, Nick answers maturely and his response enhances his character and how it has changed: “I’m thirty … I’m five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor. ” (179) Nick also understands Tom’s and Daisy’s way of acting. “They were careless people … hey smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or the vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made. ” (180-181)
This quote is especially referring to Myrtle’s death. At the beginning of the novel, Nick thought that Tom and Daisy were just two superficial people. Instead, in the end, after his rite of passage, when he talks to them “[he] felt as though [he] were talking to a child. ” (181) Nick was finally “rid of [his] provincial squeamishness forever. (181) This is why he decides to return to East. He understands the superiority of the East compared to the “bored, sprawling, swollen towns beyond the Ohio, with their interminable inquisitions which spared only the children. ” (177) Nick understands that he must leave this world made of children because he turned thirty, and at that age youth is left behind.
“After Gatsby’s death … [he] decided to [go] back home. ” (180) But he is not a careless person, and decides that “there was one thing to be done before [he] left … he] wanted to leave things in order and not just trust the obliging and indifferent sea to sweep my refuse away” (180) like Tom and Daisy, instead, did. Whenever a person realizes that he/she is living and is able to reflect on the condition and situation he/she is in, then the person has ended its youth. This is what happens to Nick Carraway in Chapter VII of The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. As soon as he turns thirty, he has a revelation. The reflections he states after allude in general to the American society and to the failed American dream.