Is Nick Carraway a reliable narrator?
Is Nick Carraway a reliable narrator for the story of Jay Gatsby? I don’t believe he is. First of all, he has a common tendency of contradicting himself, an everyday thing for most people, however when telling a story, the mere fact that he contradicts himself suggests that he is not always telling the whole truth, just the version in his mind that can easily be distorted by his thoughts and feelings towards other characters. The first crucial statement he makes is when he says that he was “inclined to reserve all judgements”.
This statement is contradicted an extraordinary amount as according Nick later on in the novel, Tom is crude, Daisy is shallow, Myrtle is sensual, Wilson is spiritless and Jordan is dishonest, now these opinions, to me, sound like judgements of people. As for his comments on Gatsby, he refers to him in a whole manner of different ways, one moment making a statement like “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together” and the next saying something like “I disapproved of him from beginning to end”, and these statements alone were on the same page. Despite the book being an account about events that have already occurred, Nick’s opinion of Gatsby changes throughout.
It begins as a mere interest of his new neighbour; this develops into disapproval and a fascination that could easily be interpreted as being love for Jay. These fluctuations in opinions can alter the reader’s view and mean that as an account, there is reason to not trust Nick’s portrayal of events. Throughout the story, Nick Carraway is involved in a personal matter of his own, his potential relationship with Jordan Baker that is suggested throughout the novel would have a bearing on how he is feeling as the events unfold. He has personal connections with the other main characters meaning that any account he writes will naturally be biased, we know he disapproves of Tom Buchanan, and that he is supportive of Gatsby, so to write a correct, unbiased account of the events that took place, as well as his descriptions of the characters, would be simply impossible for him. We know for a fact that for a good proportion of chapter three Nick is drunk, meaning the events that took place are likely to be distorted and untrustworthy.
One redeeming factor would be the fact that Nick did have an insight into the lives of all the characters involved in the plot, however I do not see how he could have told the story without a biased slant.