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The Great Gatsby Narrator's Role In Establishing Theme

1713 words - 7 pages

The evolving character of an interactive narrator can help discern key themes in a novel. F. Scott Fitzgerald's social examination of life in America's Jazz Age relies heavily on Nick Carraway, the narrator, acting as a 'Trojan horse' for Fitzgerald to smuggle his own ideologies into The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald endorses realist class relations as power relations over the romantic and archaic 'Jeffersonian dream of simple agrarian value'. He also favours the view that the American upper class's 'carpe diem' approach to life placed capitalist society in a moral downwards spiral, instead of conforming to mainstream ideas of the Age such as 'money can buy happiness'.

Nick?s statement that people are only ?pursued? (generally the upper classes, being chased due to their lifestyle) or ?pursuing? (chasing the lifestyle of the pursued). These mutually exclusive states mean that Nick believes all the characters with which he interacts can be stratified into one of these two groups, seemingly based on class. The narrator also claims that people can also be ?busy and?tired?. Again, these two vaguer classes cannot exist together. At first examination it may seem that this ?black and white? observation of the members of Gatsby?s America is shortsighted. However at that stage on the novel Nick is entitled to make such a judgement.

Immediately after Nick?s thought entered his ?heady? mind, he had just learnt the purpose of ?purposeless splendour? from Jordan: that Gatsby had moved to West Egg to be close to Daisy. This ?pursuing? of Daisy, the ?five years? of busy waiting, is certainly a revelation to the reader, and to Nick. Nick also says that he had forgotten about ?Daisy and Gatsby?, though it still must have played on his subconsciousness, and that he began thinking about Jordan, a ?clean, hard, limited person?, a universal sceptic. It was the influence of Jordan on the character of Nick that allowed this ?realist? quote, that stripped people down to bare objectives, to be presented to the reader.
Jordan?s character itself is an example of how the upper class can be tired. Although she attends Gatsby?s parties, she is not busy, beside her tennis, doing anything constructive. The same is true for Daisy. While she is a mother, she is a poor one, and is quoted to say in the first chapter, ?what shall we do with ourselves this afternoon?and tomorrow and for the next thirty years?? This tiredness displayed by the rich is evident from the first time Nick meets the pair, languidly reclining on sofas. Here again is demonstrated that money cannot buy true happiness, because for the rich (who have the power to do anything), anything they do is meaningless and accomplishes nothing in their eyes.

On the other hand, Tom Buchanaan presents Nick with an upper-class man who is both pursued and is pursuing. This is best-exemplified in the experience of the ?Valley of Ashes?, where a stark contrast is presented through the filter of Nick?s eyes. We see the...

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