Great Gatsby: Analysis of the Narrator Nick Carraway

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In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the narrator, Nick Carraway, plays a crucial role in delivering the story. We learn about the other characters through Nick’s perspective, keeping us unaware of any potential bias or discrimination he may have. Fitzgerald deliberately establishes Nick as a trustworthy source, as he serves as our sole provider of descriptions about Gatsby’s character. Nick goes to great lengths to establish his credibility and moral integrity while recounting the tale of this supposedly extraordinary man named Gatsby. He starts by reflecting on his own upbringing and quoting his father’s words about the “advantages” he possessed, which were not just material but also moral advantages. By doing so, Nick wants readers to understand that his upbringing provided him with the moral foundation necessary to navigate and judge an immoral world like the one he encountered during his time in New York. Initially, Nick asserts that he is inclined to withhold judgment on others, but he also acknowledges that there is a limit to his tolerance. This initial indication gives us confidence in Nick’s ability to provide an impartial insight into the unfolding story. However, we eventually discover that Nick does not actually reserve all judgments nor does his tolerance have a definite threshold.

Within the story, Nick reveals that he makes an exception when it comes to judging Gatsby. Despite being raised with a strong moral code and limited tolerance, Nick is willing to set these aside because he sees Gatsby as someone with an exceptional ability for hope and romance. This inspires a deep friendship and loyalty in Nick, which is not extended to others in the novel. While Nick overlooks Gatsby’s bootlegging, association with speakeasies, and connection to Meyer Wolfsheim, he holds contempt for Jordan Baker due to her cheating in a golf game. Although Nick claims to forgive such behavior in women, stating that he casually feels sorry and forgets it, he seems unable to accept Jordan’s incurable dishonesty. He even asserts that his cardinal virtue is being one of the few honest people he has encountered. Not only are women judged by Nick, but they are also evaluated against his own virtues. To fully comprehend Nick’s values, it is necessary to consider his background.

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After returning home from World War I, Nick’s restlessness and disagreement with unchanged traditional values prompt him to leave the Mid-West. He is determined to learn about bonds in New York because he perceives the East as an insular world disconnected from the reality shaped by the war. However, after spending a summer there, he decides to return home and seek comfort in the familiarity and traditions of his community. He yearns for the security of a place where houses bear names that have been passed down through generations. At this point, the East has become a source of horrifying nightmares for him, appearing grotesque.

Isn’t it possible that we are slightly disappointed that Nick flees from his time in the East just as he has escaped from the complexities of his past, to whom he writes affectionate letters but doesn’t truly feel it? This act by Nick is truly ironic, as he continues to strive for honesty. Is it unreasonable to desire more from this narrator, to witness some growth in his emotional state? His return home implies a withdrawal from life and a regression in his emotions.

In The Great Gatsby, there are not many emotions depicted. The only true affection is displayed by Nick towards Gatsby. Nick admires Gatsby’s optimism, which clashes with the bleakness of the era. Fitzgerald portrays this despair not only in the Valley of Ashes but also beneath the superficial luxury represented by Daisy and Tom. Nick is infatuated with Gatsby’s ability to dream and live as if his dreams will come true. This infatuation clouds Nick’s judgment of Gatsby and makes it difficult for us to fully understand Gatsby. When Gatsby reveals his background to Nick and mentions that he was “the son of some wealthy people in the Midwest- all dead now,” the truth of his origins becomes insignificant to Gatsby. What matters to him is being part of Daisy’s world or having Daisy be a part of his world. Gatsby’s perception of truth and reality starkly contrasts with Nick’s. If Nick were driven by truth, then Gatsby would still be the impoverished Jay Gatz pursuing an ultimately futile dream.

In Gatsby’s dream, time has come to a halt, which is symbolized by his action of catching the mantle clock when he reunites with Daisy. He believes that he and Daisy can go back to who they were before the war, but this conviction becomes his tragic mistake and causes his downfall. Gatsby aspires to reach the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock, but he fails to realize that this aspiration is no longer achievable once he reconnects with her. His inability to let go of this dream ultimately leads to his demise, even after it has been shattered.

The death of Gatsby signifies the end of the American dream, a realization that only impacts an emotionally insecure young bond broker from the Midwest. This bond broker, named Nick, will now retreat back to his home in order to conceal himself. Despite Gatsby’s downfall, Nick still holds him in high regard as he accomplished what Nick had always aspired for. However, this admiration distorts Nick’s perception of Gatsby’s true character. Ultimately, Gatsby becomes another innocent casualty of the merciless nature prevalent in the East. Ironically, it is Gatsby’s blinded judgment induced by love that leads him into trouble and even legal complications, evident through the phone calls received by Nick after Gatsby’s demise. Fitzgerald effectively conveys these revelations’ significance through his novel.

When an author introduces an unconventional narrator such as Nick, it brings attention to the fact that the story is a work of fiction. Surprisingly, by doing this, the author has actually crafted a character in Nick who is more relatable and realistic, representing the flaws and biases that are common in most human beings, including Nick himself. This adds to the overall realism of the novel. Bibliography:

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Great Gatsby: Analysis of the Narrator Nick Carraway. (2019, May 03). Retrieved from

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