"Views on the role of Nick as narrator in The Great Gatsby have varied greatly. How do these two views relate to your own view of Nick's function in the novel?"
I aim to explain effectively my opinion that Fitzgerald's use of Nick as the narrator of The Great Gatsby is a very successful literary technique. I shall do this by the analysis of the two contrasting pieces of criticism, as well as of the novel itself. I feel that the successful use of this technique can be attributed to three main elements: Nick's geographical placing within the plot, his morality, and two aspects of his character. These are his astute observational skills and outward tolerance to "unsought…confidences" of others.
Nick must be in a position to tell enough of the story to satisfy the reader. To achieve this, Fitzgerald must create relationships between Nick and those characters from whom he is going to get the most interesting or useful information to aid the development of the plot. However, a balance must be struck between two extremes. Firstly, that Nick is so involved in the plot that he becomes noticeably biased. Also that he, and therefore the reader, is provided with too much information too quickly through the relationships that he has with the other characters. Secondly, that Nick's relationships with characters are too distant therefore, preventing him learning anything from them by the end of the novel. If this learning process is absent, leaving Nick without motive to write the novel, one questions ultimately why Fitzgerald would use Nick as narrator. I feel that Fitzgerald has stuck this balance. Mizener commends Fitzgerald's achievement of this when Nick is said by Mizener to be "…sufficiently near the centre of things to know all he needed to know…"
When Fitzgerald's intentional geographical placing of Nick in the novel is considered, Nick's objectivity becomes a factor. For example, if Nick were an Easterner, in the East, subscribing to the "careless" lifestyle, then how could he be expected to observe some of 'his own' while being objective? Nick would not have moved anywhere; a comparison could not be drawn between two places, as does the novel between the East and the West.
The East is seen to be sophisticated and affluent yet corrupt and immoral. The West is considered to be freed of the latter yet rural and less affluent. It is from this comparison that the purity and beauty of the American dream can be drawn and the immoral corruption that must pass before one achieves the now sullied soiled dream is realised. Nick concisely and clearly conveys the comparison between the East and West thus allowing this wider theme of the novel to be realised.
Mizener observes Fitzgerald's effective achievement of this comparison when considered in relation to Nick's morality. "He has come East to be an Easterner…but his moral roots remain in the West." The strength of these Western 'moral roots' are shown by their continuing existence after Nick having experienced/subsumed in/surrounded by the immorality of the East.
In most novels, it is imperative for the reader to feel they can trust the narrator or as Scrimgeour writes, "(Nick's) honesty…provides the basis of the reader's reaction to the novel". Honesty is considered an essential element of a basic moral code ("Honesty (is) based on some kind of powerful drive…") that is generally accepted and subsequently adhered to in civilised society. This drive is an individual's personal moral code. If Nick's honesty is deemed questionable, it follows that his morality is also questionable. I do not doubt Nick's honesty anywhere in the novel and therefore, his morality.
Nick's own moral code is illustrated, when Nick meets Jordan for the final time. Although Nick is aware that this meeting will not be an easy one, he feels he cannot simply "trust that obliging and indifferent sea to sweep my refuse away." There is undoubtedly a motivation behind his action and, in my...
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