Fitzgerald opens his novel by introducing Nick Carraway, the story's narrator. Nick has, by his own admission, come "back from the East last autumn," jaded and embittered by his experiences there. The reader knows immediately that the story has already taken place and that Nick is telling it to us through the filter of time. He is distanced from the events at hand and is recounting them by way of memory. It is imperative that readers trust him, then, because time can distort memories, and the reception to the story hinges largely on his impartiality and good judgment.
As a means of establishing faith in the narrator, Fitzgerald carefully develops Nick and positions him both within and without the dramatic situation, creating a dynamic and powerful effect. From the very beginning, even before learning about Gatsby, "the man who gives his name to this book," Fitzgerald gives details about Nick. In his "younger and more vulnerable years" (suggesting he is older and wiser now), his father gave him advice that he has carried with him ever since: "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one . . . just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had." The implications are strong: Nick comes from at least a middle class family that values a sense of moral justice. In this way, the reader is encouraged to trust Nick and to believe in his impartiality and good judgment; a biased narrator will make the narrative reactionary, not honest, so stressing his good judgment is crucial. To ensure that readers don't think Nick is superhuman in his goodness, however, Fitzgerald gives him a mortal side. Nick's reservation of judgment about people is carefully calculated ("snobbish," as he even says) and even Nick, the rational narrator, can be pushed too far. His tolerance has a limit, and it is the challenge to this limit that forms the basis of the book at hand.
As the chapter continues, more of Nick's background is discussed: the way in which he was raised and his moral character. Nick continues to sell himself, informing the reader that he is an educated man, having graduated from New Haven, home of Yale University. He comes from "prominent, well-to-do people in this Middle Western city for three generations." This seemingly simple detail is crucial. It qualifies Nick to be part of the action which he will unfold — a tale of socialites, money, and privilege — while also keeping him carefully apart. He has come from the Midwest, which for Fitzgerald is a land of perceived morality. Nick has moved East, and disgusted, returns to the Midwest. The reader knows that Nick is not only upset over the action that he will unfold, but he is downright offended by the moral rancor of the situation. Readers, wanting to believe in their own moral fortitude, find themselves siding with Nick, trusting him to exercise the same sound judgment they themselves would exercise.
The story begins. It is 1922, and Nick has moved East to seek his fortune as a bond salesman, a booming, thriving business that, he supposes, "could support one more single man." Fitzgerald introduces one of the novel's key themes, wealth, upon Nick's arrival in the East. Nick settles in West Egg, rather than East Egg, living in a small rental house adjacent to Gatsby's mansion, paying $80 per month, rather than the $3000 to $4000 per month for which the houses around him rent. This detail immediately encourages readers to see the difference between the "haves" and the "have nots." Although both Eggs have beautiful mansions, East Egg is home to "old money," people whose families have had great wealth for generations. West Egg, although also home to the rich, was home to "new money," people whose wealth was recently earned, as well as to working class people such as Nick. On another level, the delineation between the Eggs can also be a metaphorical representation of the sensibilities of people from the Eastern and Western parts of the…