The narrative technique employed by Fitzgerald is believed to have been derived from Joseph Conrad, a writer Fitzgerald admired, who used a similar technique in Heart of Darkness (1902).
Type of narrator
First person narrator (Nick Carraway)
Everything narrated by Nick is coloured by his character. His narration is not a neutral affair.
The narrator is a participant in the story who is, however, more of a spectator than a protagonist.
This creates a complex viewpoint:
‘The success of the novel depends heavily upon F. Scott Fitzgerald’s control of how the figure of Jay Gatsby is presented to us. He has to be filtered through Nick Carraway’s narration at a suitable pace and with appropriate emphasis to sustain our interest without dispelling the necessary element of mystery. Expressing his reservations as well as his admiration at the outset, Nick himself becomes a figure whom we must interpret. So as we are piecing together the puzzle of Gatsby, we are inevitably adjusting our sense of the man who is telling Gatsby’s story.’ (York Notes: 2004, p.86)
How much does the narrator know?
The viewpoint Nick presents is restricted because it is subjective, and also, as a result of his subjectivity, he could be deemed to be an unreliable narrator. His viewpoints will be biased in some way.
Avoiding the dangers of monotony
The narration might have become monotonous if Fitzgerald had had Nick relate the story in his own voice throughout. The author has managed to avoid this pitfall, however, by having Nick recreate dramatic exchanges in dialogue; as he writes his account, he mimics the idiosyncrasies of a range of voices (e.g. Wolfsheim & Gatsby himself).
‘Nick’s recollection combines commentary, and analysis of the overall situation (his own musings and opinions), with lively and varied dramatic scenes that feature carefully crafted dialogue. The dialogue assists the unfolding of the...