Narrator’s Role in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Kerouac’s On The RoadOver the last fifty years, since the release of On The Road in 1957,it has not been uncommon for critics to draw parallels betweenKerouac’s semi-autobiographical novel and Fitzgerald’s The GreatGatsby, released thirty-two years previously. It is for certain thatboth the novels share many similar traits, both examine concepts ofAmerican ideals and The American Dream, both are heavily influenced bythe jazz age of the time, but nothing binds the novels closer to oneanother than the authors’ use of the first person narrative and thatnarrators relationship with their leading character.
It is perhaps the most common reading to see both Jay Gatsby and DeanMoriarty awarded iconic status by their corresponding narrators. Theconnotations concerning the epithet found in the very centre ofFitzgerald’s title alone can bring an image to the reader’s mind ofone of history’s great leaders, putting Gatsby in league withcharacters such as Alexander the Great, Catherine the Great, Peter theGreat and Frederick the Great. It would seem obvious from the titlethat Gatsby is one beheld with admiration and respect by the narrator.
The relationship between Kerouac’s Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty isoften viewed in much the same light. The importance of Dean to Sal isvisible from his very first paragraph, where he states that, “thecoming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call mylife on the road”. Within a short time period, Sal allows his life tobe turned in a completely different direction by someone who isbasically a stranger. This willingness to uproot and follow somebodyelse’s lifestyle pays a great complim…
… with the door flapping, and roar off to the next availablespot, arc, pop in, brake, out, run.
It would be easy to substitute the car in this instance with a womanto come up with a justifiable description of Dean’s attitude towardswomen. Just in the way Sal admires and enthuses about his car-parkingabilities, describing him as, “…the most fantastic parking-lotattendant in the world…” Sal admirers and enthuses about his sex life.
In 1991, Eagleton published an essay with a Marxist sentimentdeclaring that, much like Nick, “Sal is suffering from ideology – afalse consciousness that is imposed on them by the hegemonic socialorder”. This adds to the link between the two narrators concerningtheir feelings towards their leading characters; in particular themanner in which they both admire the achievements made by Gatsby orDean in their love lives.