Seminar Instructor Simionescu Angela Mona, 3A Mihaela Precup English-Russian, group 2 Seminar of American Literature
Nick Carraway’s Narrative Voice
The narrator’s influence plays a fundamental role in a novel that every reader takes into
account when getting involved in the story .
In Francis S. Fitzgerald’s literary work ‘’The Great Gasby ‘’ the function of Carraway’s
narrative voice brought up several controversies among readers and critics for it deals with 3
different attitudes from the part of the narrator through whom ‘’Fitzgerald is able to achieve
the aesthetic distance ‘’.(76 Donaldson)
The purpose of the essay is to try to pin down those attitudes in view of Carraway’s
reliability , awareness and detachment in the novel.
In ‘’The Great Gatsby ‘’ Carraway presents the main character as an unique individual who
has an ‘’extraordinary gift for hope , a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any
other person and which is not likely i shall ever find again ‘’(2).His fascination and
aknowledgement of Gatsby’s idealism promps the reader to reflect on the promise and the
hope the future holds for such an individual and for the tragism of his existence.
Carraway becomes reliable as a visionary for he is able to rise above the particular events
depicted in the story , revealing a universal and tragic meaning in Gastby’s fate ; that of
America itself for the hero personifies th seeker of ‘’ his personal Grail ‘’ in the same way
Americans pursue their ideals in their quest for national identity.
But as the story unfolds the attitude of the narrator becomes more and more ambivalent ‘’ I
was within and without simultaneausly enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of
life’’ . Carraway sees both the sordidness and superficiality of the New York rich class and its
thrill and excitement. In this respect he becomes a mediator between the wealthy , rootless
society within which the Buchanans assert themselves and the world of Gastby’s romantic
imagination and illusion that transcends the novel .
Fitzgerald manages to create 2 essential polarities that go to make up the human mind (103 ,
From an allegorical point of view Nick symbolizes ‘’reason , experience , waking, reality and
history while Gastby is imagination , innocence, sleeping , dream and eternity.’’ (103)
The former’s consciousness includes the latter’s developpment in the novel for ‘’not only
does he mediate between the world of Gastby and the Buchanans but also between the text
and Fitzgerald’s use of him as a narrator. ‘’(98, Mizener)
Altough Nick Carraway seems to understand the hero’s fate because he was taught by his
father not to judge the people around him as not all of them partook of ‘’the advantages he
had’’ the reader perceives a sense of unrealibility and detachment from his part. Nick’s
perspective on Gatsby changes all along while he gets more involved in his life and that of the
other characters . Nick listens to confessions since’’ he is a little afraid of missing something
‘’(1) but ‘’he judges and condemns practically everything and everyone he meets in the
course of the novel.’’(132,Donaldson) such as Tom Buchanan’s looks and behaviour ,
Jordan’s shallowness , Daisy and Gastby’s inconsistencies of character , adding an ironic tone
to his observations .
Another situation relevant to Nick being unreliable is given by the fact that he doesn’t try to
pay justice to Gatsby , telling Tom the truth about Myrtle’s accident . He keeps himself at a
certain distance creating the impression that sometimes he knows more than what is really
happening and other times exhibiting less than what...