In part one we looked at the fact that Nick is seemingly attracted to the strong masculine form of Tom, that the female Jordan is more interesting to him because of her masculine qualities and that he ended up beside an almost naked man in bed. Now we move on to the really interesting stuff, which is the way in which Nick looks at Jay Gatsby.
When first meeting Jay, and knowing who he is, Nick focuses solely on the perfect smile. In a paragraph that is brimming with romantic connotations.
He smiled understandingly–much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced–or seemed to face–the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor.
I find it almost impossible to read this as a platonic feeling towards a man he has just met. Nick is looking at Gatsby and basically swooning because ‘Oh my god he smiled at me.’ The way Nick continues this paragraph would only need a couple of words changed to become something from vows or a wedding speech
It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.
Instantly, Nick is attracted to the physical presence of Gatsby, and curious to know more about the character he has heard so many mixed reports about. I will forever be grateful to Baz Luhrmann for giving us this image when showing that scene in the 2013 movie.
When Jay takes Nick out for lunch, Nick is well aware that Jay is lying to him about all the things he has seen and done. However, Nick isn’t particularly angry with it, he is interested, literally saying “My incredulity was submerged in fascination now”. This continues as they cross the bridge into New York City. We know from a previous description that Nick loves the city, and then he tells us his thought process as they cross the bridge.
“Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge,” I thought; “anything at all. . . .”
Even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder.
Nick feels the same openness of possibility that he felts with New York when he thinks of Jay Gatsby.
When the shit hits the fan – and Tom, Daisy, Nick, Jay and Jordan are in the city – we see that Nick is disgusted by everyone in the room. Everyone except one. (bolding mine)
Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction–Gatsby who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away
Ah yes, just a straight man referring to his friend as gorgeous.
If we skip now to nearing the end of the novel: Myrtle has been killed and Jay is hoping Daisy will call. We see Nick feeling the need to compliment Jay.
We shook hands and I started away. Just before I reached the hedge I remembered something and turned around.
“They’re a rotten crowd,” I shouted across the lawn. “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”
I’ve always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end. First he nodded politely, and then his face broke into that radiant and understanding smile, as if we’d been in ecstatic cahoots on that fact all the time.
Once again we are shown Nick’s attraction to Jay’s smile and also to the vibrant personality that is Jay Gatsby. He claims that he disapproved of Jay, but he still stuck beside him, was the only one from the parties to attend his funeral, and could not distance himself because he was so attracted to him.
Once again I want to thank Baz Luhrmann for a movie scene. After Gatsby’s death, Luhrmann shows us Nick sleeping on the stairs, watching over Jay’s casket, clearly not wanting to leave him even in death. Although not directly from the book, it definitely captures the essence of Nick’s character.
Tom isn’t exactly a character you want to listen to in the novel, but even he notices Nick’s feelings towards Jay’s, going as far as to compare them with Daisy’s. “He threw dust into your eyes just like he did in Daisy’s”. There’s no denying the attraction Daisy felt towards Gatsby and here Fitzgerald outrightly admits it as the same thing Nick feels towards Gatsby.
One final note, I was watching the 2013 movie on the coach on the way to my graduation in December, and my Mum looks over at the ‘you’re worth the whole lot of them’ scene and just went “So are they gay?”