Views on the role of Nick as a narrator in the Great Gatsby have
varied greatly. How do the views of Arthur Mizener and Gary J.
Scrimgeour relate to your own view of Nick's function in the novel?
Published in 1925, and written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 'The Great
Gatsby' is a brilliant and scathing illustration of life among the new
rich during the 1920s; people who had recently amassed a great deal of
wealth but had no corresponding social connections, or a sense of
morality. Nick Carraway is the narrator of the novel; he rents a house
on Long Island next door to Jay Gatsby, the title character. Gatsby is
in love with Nick's cousin Daisy, who is married to an obnoxious man
she does not really love, and he has no strong feelings towards her
either. Her and his extramarital affairs are set against the
background of the extravagant parties that Gatsby is famous for
throwing, while Nick struggles to reconcile his attraction to a lavish
lifestyle with his feeling that a moral grounding is missing. The
writing style throughout 'The Great Gatsby' is terse and the book at
times is depressing, with an overall message of hope and the American
The story is told through the eyes of an active, biased, participant.
Nick Carraway has a special place in this novel and has many
functions. He is not just one character among several, it is through
his eyes and ears that we form our opinions of the other characters.
Nick is both within, yet outside the occurrence of events as he is
friends with Gatsby and related to Daisy, but is still not involved
fully in all that occurs, even though somebody else often tells him
about it. Often, readers of this novel confuse Nick's stance towards
those characters and the world he describes with those of F. Scott
Fitzgerald's because the fictional world Fitzgerald has created
closely resembles the world he himself experienced. But not every
narrator is the voice of the author. In order for this story to be
convincing, we must trust the narrator. We take on his perspective, if
not totally, then substantially.
We never get to know all the characters at once. As we get to know
characters described by an omniscient novelist, we learn about them in
bits and pieces over a period of time. Consequently, Fitzgerald
reasoned, someone like Gatsby would be much more understandable and
sympathetic if presented through the eyes of a character the reader
identified with. Rather than imposing himself between the action and
us, Nick brings us closer to the action by forcing us to experience
events as though we were Nick. The 'I' of the novel becomes ourselves,
and we find ourselves, like Nick, wondering who Gatsby is, why he
gives these huge parties, and what his past and background may be. By
writing from Nick's point of view, Fitzgerald is able to make Gatsby
more realistic than he could have by presenting Gatsby through the
eyes of an omniscient narrator. He is also able to...