The Great Gatsby: Extra Credit
Nick Carraway: Reluctant Confidant
Nick Carraway, a reticent narrator for most of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, says in a rare moment of self-reflection that his becoming “privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men” (Fitzgerald 1), stems from his inherent lack of judgment. Carraway tries his best to avoid these inevitable confidences, and when forced to listen to others confide in him, he engages as little as possible. This tendency reinforces Carraway’s continually detached, Frederick Winterbourne-esque narration style. Carraway seems perpetually on the outside of life, looking in: he observes people in a singularly detached way more than he actually communicates with them. He uses such strange descriptions as “a wan, charming, discontented face,” “shrill, languid, handsome, and horrible,” and “impersonal eyes.” It’s hard to overlook the somewhat macabre undertones in nearly all of Carraway’s odd descriptions of people. As of yet, it is not clear if Carraway is deeply suspicious of everybody’s motives, or if he simply states his frank perception of the actions and words of all those around him. In any case, there seems to be a dissonance between Carraway’s mental studies and verbal interactions with people.
As Nick suggested, his counterparts immediately begin to confide in him, beginning with Daisy Buchanan. When she swiftly switches from conversation to revealing “I’ve had a very hard time, Nick, and I’m pretty cynical” (16), Nick’s discomfort is obvious as he tries weakly to switch the conversation topic. Curiously, his problem isn’t that he simply doesn’t want to respond, it is that her words to him have a “basic insincerity… as though the entire evening had been a trick” (17). This is similar to Carraway’s opening statements about the “intimate revelations of young men” being “boring” and “usually plagiaristic” (2). Carraway seems to fundamentally doubt that any of his...
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