The Role of Nick Carraway as Narrator of The Great Gatsby
In The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald presents a specific portrait of American society during the roaring twenties and tells the story of a man who rises from the gutter to great riches. This man, Jay Gatsby, does not realize that his new wealth cannot give him the privileges of class and status. Nick Carraway who is from a prominent mid-western family tells the story. Nick presents himself as a reliable narrator, when actually several events in the novel prove he is an unreliable narrator. Although Nick Carraway may be an unreliable narrator, he is the best narrator for the novel because he creates the correct effect.
Nick Carraway wants the reader to think his upbringing gave him the moral character to observe others and not pass judgment on them. If this were true he would be a reliable narrator. A hint to Nick's true moral character is given on the first page of the novel when he misunderstands his father's advice. His father said, "Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages you've had." Clearly his father was telling him of the importance of not criticizing others, but Nick interprets this as a judgment on others (Donaldson 131). This shows how Nick's upbringing has actually made him a judgmental snob toward others. He is not partial; he judges and condemns nearly every character in the novel. He says Tom Buchanan has "Straw hair, a hard mouth, a supercilious manner, and a cruel body with which he pushes people around." Daisy Buchanan is described as insincere and snobbishly thinks she "has been everywhere, and seen everything and done everything." Myrtle Wilson is said to "carry her excess flesh sensuously. " Meyer Wolfsheim is introduced to the reader as "a small Jew with tiny eyes and a flat nose " (Donaldson 132). These are but a few examples of the judgments Nick passes about the characters in this novel. When Nick judges the characters it shows how he cannot resist the temptation to be critical of every little fault with each character whether it has to do with their appearance, personality, or actions.
Nick is an unreliable narrator because he is partial to certain characters in the novel. This is most evident when he speaks about Jay Gatsby. Although Nick starts the story out very critical of Gatsby because he thinks he is a fraud, eventually as he gets to know Gatsby better and becomes partial to him. He learns to tolerate and maybe even like Gatsby because Gatsby has an "extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness." Nick decides to overlook the moral implications of Gatsby's bootlegging, association with the speakeasies, and with Meyer Wolfsheim, the man rumored to have fixed the World Series in 1919 (Daley). Maybe he does this because he admires Gatsby's passion and commitment to his dreams, something he himself is afraid to do. Gatsby's biggest...