Nick’s Epiphany in The Great Gatsby
A soft breeze lifts off the Sound and brushes Nick Carraway’s face as he emerges from the shadows into the moonlight. His eyes first gaze across the bay to the house of Tom and Daisy where Nick sees past the walls to people who “...smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back to their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together...” (Fitzgerald: 187- 188). Nick’s head then turns to his side where he views Gatsby’ s mansion. His heart swells for the man who was unable to let go of the past, and move toward his future. With the two houses juxtaposed in his mind’s eye, Nick ponders his experiences in the East, and enters the car to take him home with a new perspective on life. Nick’s maturity becomes evident as his perspective of society becomes more realistic as a result of his observing the consequences which occur in unhealthy relationships.
Nick observes many relationships during his stay in New York, and looks upon these relationships with a perceptive eye. He sees that relationships which lack mutual feelings are destined for failure. Nick watches as Tom Buchanan meets with his mistress, Myrtle, and Nick notices the disparity in the respect that Tom and Myrtle have for each other. Myrtle appears to follow Tom’ s each and every demand, as if she were at the end of a tightly held rope, which Nick compares to the “...small expensive dog leash made of leather and braided silver” (166) which was found in Myrtle’ s drawer at her house. Myrtle’ s leash, one that could be used to control and manipulate every action of a person’s pet, is representative of Myrtle’ s willingness to subordinate her will to accommodate Tom’s demands. Myrtle’ s absolute devotion to Tom is in direct contrast to the indifferent affection which Tom displays towards Myrtle. Tom finds dishonest excuses to avoid making a commitment to Myrtle, as when he is asked why he is not going to many her, he replies by telling Catherine, Myrtle’s sister, that, “She’s [Daisy] a Catholic and they don’t believe in divorce” (38). Nick is aware that Daisy is not Catholic and that Tom’s response shows his duplicitous nature. Once Myrtle’s husband finds out that she has been unfaithful to him, he decides that he and Myrtle are leaving town, which marks the end of the relationship between Tom and Myrtle. If Tom had possessed the same feelings toward Myrtle as she did for him and had cared about their future together, he would have married her and avoided Myrtle’s husband taking her away and her no longer being part of his life. Nick, as an outside observer of Tom and Myrtle’s relationship, realizes that the lack of mutual feelings and willingness to make a commitment result in the dissolution of the relationship. By understanding the reasons behind the failure of their relationship, Nick arrives at an understanding that, for a relationship to be successful, there must be mutual commitment between the parties.