Nat’s name suggests the word natty, a term for impressively up-to-date and sharp dress, but it is also a term applicable to a slick personality, and the name of Pearl suggests smoothness and financial ambition. Nat is a brilliant law student, but he seems to regard education only as the foundation for material success, a success which would be encumbered by marriage to a poor girl. Nat is quick to recognize that Helen is reading a classic novel on the subway, and he has a veneer of culture, but his intelligence does not include humanistic values, as does Helen’s.
Nat is a manipulator and he is preparing for a profession well suited to such a role; He is a cool exploiter and has the lack of candor necessary for such operations. He has told his father that Helen expects too much from him, but in talking to Helen he persists in claiming ignorance about her reasons for denying attentions to him. Nat’s struggles to leave the neighborhood and to enjoy a better life are based on his father’s successful betting, his own cool intelligence, and his sharp eye for opportunities. If Ward Minogue represents the immoral elements in Frank and the Bobers’ world, Nat may be said to represent the amoral elements.