a little complacent from growing up in the Carraway house

< Previous | Next >

Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I would like to know what "a little complacent from growing up in the Carraway house" means in the following sentences:

That’s my Middle West — not the wheat or the prairies or the lost Swede towns, but the thrilling returning trains of my youth, and the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark and the shadows of holly wreaths thrown by lighted windows on the snow. I am part of that, a little solemn with the feel of those long winters, a little complacent from growing up in the Carraway house in a city where dwellings are still called through decades by a family’s name. I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all — Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.

- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Chapter 9

The narrator Nick recalled what his Middle West felt like--the place, for him, was filled with Christmas festivities and thrills.

In this context, I could not understand what "complacent" meant in particular. I guess its meaning is contrary to "solemn" that appeared previously, but I could not grasp how one could become "complacent" growing up in a family with a traditional name.

I would very much appreciate your help. :)
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Perhaps he felt complacent (smug) because of the privileged status he had enjoyed all his life, as a member of the Carraway family.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear lingobingo,

    Thank you very much for the explanation.
    So he felt a little arrogant and flattered from his privileged status.
    I really appreciate your help. :)
     

    Minnesota Guy

    Senior Member
    American English - USA
    He grew up in an environment where very little changed. This is symbolized by the unchanging names of the houses -- the Carraway house, in his case. This made him satisfied with conditions as they are, but that turned out to be a deficiency when he moved to the East Coast.

    It's not contrary to "solemn" -- the qualities of being solemn and being complacent go together.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    the qualities of being solemn and being complacent go together.
    Dear Minnesota Guy,

    Thank you very much for the explanation.
    So because Nick has grown up in a region where anything scarcely changed, he somehow found it difficult to fit into a region where everything was fast-changing.

    I am surprised to know that the two concepts went together! I thought "solemn" roughly meant serious and "complacent" snobbish.
    Then, does that mean that Nick was serious as well as snobbish?
     

    Minnesota Guy

    Senior Member
    American English - USA
    Sorry if I was unclear before!

    I don't think "complacent" is necessarily the same as snobbish. There are several threads on this, this one, for example: Complacent: disapproving : satisfied with how things are and not wanting to change them

    Nick sees that he has both qualities, being solemn and being complacent--but one does not contradict the other. (You can still argue that Nick is in fact snobbish--see, for example, the opening of the novel. . . . )
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    The important thing is that he has some self-awareness. He sees that he was "a little complacent". I think that is about being self-satisfied. Happy with his lot in life and his long family traditions. Maybe "smug" is a useful alternative here.

    Being complacent is generally seen as a negative thing, maybe because complacent people do not sense risks or the need to change, but that doesn't really show in the defintions of complacent that I found in the OED - it is more obvious in the thesaurus where most of the synonyms offered sound more negative!
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear Minnesota Guy and suzi br,

    Thank you very much for the additional explanations!
    So complacent here is self-satisfied and smug, and it often has negative connotations.
    Yes, indeed at the beginning of the novel Nick seems to be rather snobbish... :)
    Thank you again for letting me know.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top