“Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known” (Fitzgerald Gatsby 64). So writes Nick Carraway in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, characterizing himself in opposition to the great masses of humanity as a perfectly honest man. The honesty that Nick attributes to himself must be a nearly perfect one, by dint of both its rarity and its “cardinal” nature; Nick asserts for himself that he is among the most honest people he has ever encountered. Events in the book, however, do not bear this self-characterization out; far from being among the most honest people in world, Nick Carraway is in fact a proficient liar, though he never loses his blind faith in his own pure honesty.
First, Fitzgerald’s choice of the word “suspects” indicates, and almost guarantees, a certain uncertainty about that suspicion; the fact that these are fallible (and often self-deceiving) human beings making observations about themselves make that uncertainty even greater. The fact that “everyone” believes to be one of the “few” holders of a cardinal virtue solidifies the matter; simply put, excepting either an unrealistically optimistic view of human nature or an extremely broad definition of “the cardinal virtues”, it is simply impossible to accept that all human beings everywhere exemplify one of the cardinal virtues of humanity. Some people must not have the cardinal virtue they suspect of themselves. Nick, however, seems to forget this fact at the colon and starkly asserts, “I am one of the few honest people I have ever known” (64). The choice of “am” is very important here;…
… middle of paper …
…themselves. Even when confronted with a disproof of his perfectly honest nature, as Jordan does late in the novel, Nick responds with an appeal to his belief in his own honesty-his myth about himself is that sacred. Much like Gatsby’s self-image, Nick’s belief in his own honesty seems to spring from the Platonic conception of honesty, and, much like Gatsby, he simply ignores or rationalizes away anything that comes into conflict with his belief. Nick Carraway is far from one of the few honest narrators I have ever read, but he is a testament to the powers of self-deception that exist in both fictional and non-fictional human beings. “Everyone suspects himself of one of the cardinal virtues,” Nick says, and as Nick himself demonstrates, nearly everyone is wrong.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Scribner Paperback Fiction: New York, 1991.
Terry McMillan’s Women
Terry McMillan’s Women
Terry McMillan grabs her audience’s attention by filling her books with romance, tension, and sex: “…it’s the roiling currents among family, friends and lovers that McMillan is most comfortable writing about” (Skow 77). Her customary characters are strong African-American women who are well off; many have jobs, families, and security. Although these women seemingly have all these necessities, they long for more. As they experience life, they embark on an “eternal search for connection” (Donahue n. pag.). They create bonds with friends, siblings and children, but, above all, McMillan stresses their relationships with men. McMillan’s maincharacters need these close ties to other people to survive and be happy.
Women depend on other women in each book. Friends and sisters help fill a void by giving and needing support, but these relationships fulfill only part of the connection they long for. In Waiting to Exhale the bonds between four women are solid. They support one another during rough times with men, husbands, jobs and all the obstacles life has to offer. In Disappearing Acts Zora can always get advice and support from her three friends with dilemmas such as pregnancy, epilepsy, and obsesity. Stella receives coaching and reassurance from her sisters in How Stella Got her Groove Back.
Although close friends strengthen one against the troublesome events in life and provide a release for the protagonists’ thoughts, they have their drawbacks. Friends need attention and support of their own. In many instances all that they can offer is their judgment and criticism. Portia, one of Zora’s close friends in Disappearing Acts, explains the need for independence from advice by sa…
… middle of paper …
…e between reliance on others to make one happy and one’s own efforts for self-fulfillment.
Donahue, Deirdre. “McMillan Slips into a Vivid, One-Note ‘Groove’.” USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/life /enter/books/leb353.htm (28 April 1999).
McMillan, Terry. Disappearing Acts. New York: Pocket Books, 1989.
_____. How Stella Got Her Groove Back. New York: Signet, 1996.
_____. “Ma’Dear.” National Endowment for the Arts. http://arts.endow.gov/explore.Writers/Terry.html (22 May 1999).
_____. Waiting to Exhale. New York: Viking, 1992.
Porter, Evette. “My Novel, My Self.” Village Voice. May 21, 1996
Randolph, Laura B. “Me As I Wanna Be (Or How To Get Your Groove Back).” Ebony. May 1993, 20.
Skow, John. “Some Groove.” Time. May 6, 1996, 77.
Wilkerson, Isabel. “On Top of the World.” Essence. June 1996, 50.