The Importance of Nick Carraway as Narrator of The Great Gatsby
In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald critiques the disillusionment of the American Dream by contrasting the corruption of those who adopt a superficial lifestyle with the honesty of Nick Carraway. As Carraway familiarizes himself with the lives of Tom and Daisy Buchanan, Jordan Baker and Jay Gatsby, he realizes the false seductiveness of the New York lifestyle and regains respect for the Midwest he left behind. “Fitzgerald needs an objective narrator to convey and prove this criticism, and uses Carraway not only as the point of view character, but also as a counter example to the immorality and dishonesty Carraway finds in New York” (Bewley 31). Fitzgerald must construct this narrator as reliable. Due to the nature of the novel, the reader would not believe the story if it were told from the perspective of any other character. Fitzgerald cannot expect the reader to believe what the immoral and careless characters have to say, and he spends so much time establishing them as such. Thus, Carraway is deemed narrator and the reader trusts him.
As the practical character in the novel, Carraway is not rash; he is not swayed by the greed and alcohol as some other members of East and West Egg society are. He proclaims, “I have been drunk just twice in my life” (Fitzgerald 33). Fitzgerald constructs Carraway as a follower, not a man of action. He observes Gatsby’s parties, never fully experiencing them. He observes the moment before the kiss between the starlet and her director, although Fitzgerald never details the physicality of his relationship with Baker. He observes the affair between Tom Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson, but he never confronts Tom Buchanan, nor does he e…
…y to tell the story, but also to critique the mass disillusionment with the American Dream. Carraway’s honesty makes him ideal to represent all that the Buchanans lack and legitimizes his admiration of Gatsby. No reader would consider the full impact of Fitzgerald’s themes had less attention been given to the creation and execution of the character of Carraway.
Works Cited and Consulted:
Bewley, Marius. “Scott Fizgerald’s Criticism of America.” Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1983.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992.
Hobsbawm, Eric. The Age of Extremes. New York: Pantheon, 1994.
Raleigh, John Henry. “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.” Trilling 99-103.
Trilling, Lionel. “F. Scott Fitzgerald.” Critical Essays on Scott Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby.” Ed. Scott Donaldson. Boston: Hall, 1984. 13-20.