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Why Does Fitzgerald Give Us Nick Carraway as the Narrator of the Great Gatsby

By chazda1991 Oct 04, 2008 1077 Words
“Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.” – Nick Carraway

Nick Carraway is the narrator for The Great Gatsby for an array of reasons. Nick is the cousin of Daisy and the neighbour of Gatsby and, it could be said that, for these reasons alone, Nick is the perfect choice to narrate the novel due to his relationship with both of these characters. However, Nick also attempts to give the reader an unbiased opinion of the characters and the events as they unfold. Fitzgerald makes Carraway his own person and not just a character speaking the words and feelings of the author, the reader can feel that they are reading Carraway’s views and not Fitzgerald’s. Nick Carraway is the first character we meet, and appropriately his role in The Great Gatsby is crucial; without him the story would lack balance and insight. However, even though Nick tries to be the nonjudgmental, partial observer, he explains to the reader from the onset that ‘as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth.’ Carraway tells the reader that although he is ‘inclined to reserve all judgments’, due to his upbringing he is bound to be prejudiced. By saying ‘fundamental decencies [are] parcelled out unequally at birth’ he implies that those with poorer backgrounds are going to be less decent people than those with money. Furthermore, his use of the word ‘snobbishly’ shows that he knows that he can be partial to snobbery, but blames it on his background and not on his own state of mind. However, despite this, I feel he still strives to be objective and give a balanced overview of the story and although his background could be considered as a hindrance, I feel we need a narrator that has a similar background to the characters that are associated with him.

I believe that to fully understand exactly why Nick Carraway is chosen as the narrator, you must look at the other characters that could have been chosen. Jay Gatsby would, before reading the book, seem as the most likely character to narrate the novel as the title of the book implies it will revolve around him. Moreover, Gatsby has come from a far poorer background than Nick and therefore it could be argued that he is a better contender for the role of narrator as he isn’t born with automatic prejudices that Carraway explains in the first chapter of The Great Gatsby. However, Gatsby is too much of a dreamer to narrate the story, “The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself… He invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.” Gatsby had changed his identity from the James Gatz he once was to the Jay Gatsby we see in the story. Gatsby isn’t comfortable enough with himself, most of the words he speaks are false or over exaggerated and therefore he isn’t a great contender for narrator. The Buchanans are probably the next obvious choice. Tom and Daisy both could have been chosen as the narrator of the novel, however, both of these characters are too prejudiced and class orientated, both are highly driven by money, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” Carraway shows to the reader that there relationship is held together by their love for money. Both of the characters are shown as being ‘careless’, which automatically rules them out of being the narrator of The Great Gatsby as neither could give an insightful view into the lives of others as they didn’t care about anyone else apart from themselves. This point is further proved by the way they ‘let other people clean up the mess they had made.’ Carraway emphasises how the Buchanans feel they are higher than others; they can sit back while others pick up the pieces. Additionally, neither character could be the narrator merely for the reason that they are too emotionally involved in the events of the novel; neither character could give an impartial observation of the proceedings of the book, “What if I did tell him? That fellow had it coming to him.” Tom speaks of Gatsby and shows how he believes that Gatsby deserved to die. The only other nominee for narrator would be Jordan Baker. It could be debated that she is just as good a contender for the role as Carraway is. Both characters are similar to one another and are impartial observers, I feel this is proved by the fact they begin a relationship. It could even be argued that Jordan is a better choice of narrator due to fact she is blunt and avoids rumour. However, she is arrogant, dishonest, careless and incredibly snobbish. In Jordan’s first conversation with Nick we see her snobbery, “‘You live in the West Egg,’ she remarked contemptuously”, Jordan is quite clearly looking down on Nick due to his choice to live in the ‘new money’ area of West Egg. Her dishonesty is also a factor in the choice of narrator; Nick, who was very fond of Jordan, said that, "She was incurably dishonest", it would be hard to have a narrator that was a compulsive liar and quite clearly prejudice. I feel that upon looking at the other characters in The Great Gatsby it is easy to see that Nick is a good choice of narrator.

To conclude, I believe that Nick Carraway is given to us as the narrator of The Great Gatsby as he provides the reader with a clear insight into the lives of those that revolve around him. Nick attempts to take his father’s advice on board, “‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, ‘Just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had’” in an attempt to give the reader an unbiased view of the events that occur and I feel he is able to do this better than any of the other characters would if they had had his role.

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