Paper 2: Essay
Question 1. Consider the Narrator’s role in The Great Gatsby.
Norman Ng 5.17 Philippians
Mentor: Mr. Greg Stanta
The Great Gatsby is a novel based on the American Dream set in the 1920s when there was an economic boom and people were at liberty to climb social classes and determine their futures. The influx of money allowed many Americans to get rich quick and live their dreams and craft their own future. Their backgrounds hardly mattered as long as they worked hard and were clear on what they wanted. This age was termed by F. Scott Fitzgerald as the Jazz Age where parties and social events were the norm. The pursuit of happiness left many disillusioned about reality and what others perceived of them. Fitzgerald capitalized on this and exposed it in his novel when he portrayed various characters and their ideas.
The novel is seen as a recount by a character Nick Carraway and is more of a reflection of past events by him with occasional afterthoughts and background information filled in by Nick himself explaining the events and the possible thought processes of the characters themselves. This gives the reader a semi-omniscient perspective because they are able to read Nick’s thoughts whilst seeing the events unfold as the story progresses. The character himself hardly voices his opinion to the others and remains mostly neutral with his interaction with the others. However, his thoughts are reflected at times and the reader is able to get a stance, which Nick takes in pertinence to an issue in the novel.
There are times, however when the reliability of the recount is at question because Nick after all, plays a part in the novel itself. Perhaps he has an objective to glorify certain people and their actions or maybe he has omitted certain events from the reader. Because he does not directly take part in pivotal discussions or activities, he is seen as a bystander who does not interfere much with the events unfolding before that do not directly concern him. At times, his reliability comes into question because he is a character in the novel itself and is fallible in his recount because it has a natural bias to what he perceives to be true. However, this is up or debate because through Fitzgerald’s writing, Nick manages to describe various events and their settings with vivid detail, thus he is able to give a proper account of events in that aspect but his omission of certain events is still questionable.
Nick shows his neutrality at most times, however it is more obviously seen when he visits the Wilsons along with Tom Buchanan. “The valley of ashes… that I first met Tom Buchanan’s mistress.” It is shown that he is clearly aware of the relationship between Tom and Myrtle Wilson; however, he does not report it to Daisy Buchanan, Tom’s wife. Through this event, it can be inferred that Nick Carraway has no qualms about external affairs on married couples and tolerates this affair. Perhaps he is a reflection of the moral standing of the people during that time where extra-martial affairs are tolerated. Further evidence of this can be seen when Jordan Baker claims that, she “thought everybody knew,” that “Tom’s got some woman in New York.” This suggests the social standing of the people during that time that marriage, a bond between two lovers could be corrupted and one could cheat on another. Although Nick is cousin to Daisy, he does not see the obligation to report this affair or disapprove of it openly. Nick, although shocked at such news, assimilates society’s stance and remains neutral to the news. Perhaps the distance between Nick and Daisy was too great for Nick to be obligated to shift to side with Daisy. This can be seen when Daisy claims, “We don’t know each other very well, Nick.” Thus, this relationship gap allows Nick to remain neutral when finding out Tom’s extramarital affair.
The next point would be Nick Carraway’s possible omission...
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