Written in in 1925 by F. Scott Fitzgeald, ‘the Great Gatsby’ is a novel that is set in the fictional town of West Egg on Long Island in the summer of 1922. The novel’s plotline primarily follows the life of the mysterious and young millionaire Jay Gatsby’s obsession and unrealistic passion for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan. The novel reveals themes of idealism, social upheaval, decadence, and resistance to change as it paints a picture of the Roaring Twenties and the Jazz age in America (Bloom 23). Fitzgerald employs Nick Carraway, as the first-person narrator of the story even though the novel focuses on revealing Jay Gatsby’s mysterious life. Without taking a deeper look at Nick’s role, an overview of the novel ‘Great Gatsby’ is imperative, since it is through him that the reader gets to encounter and recognise the other protagonists as well as appreciate Jay Gatsby’s enigmatic existence. This paper analyses whether Nick is an objective narrator who offers the reader an unflinching glimpse at the effects of decadence or whether he is untrustworthy and distracted by his love for luxury and glamour.
In the novel and its setting, Fitzgerald utilises Nick as a source of reference to all the other characters. The book kicks off as Nick travels to New York in the summer of 1922. He is originally from Minnesota and is moving to learn about the bond industry in the area. In the fictitious West Egg district of Long Island, he rents a house that is seen as unfashionable in the book (Fitzgerald 2). A newly wealthy community of people who have made their riches only recently have inhabited the city (Fitzgerald 18). This community of newly affluent citizens are not ashamed to show off their money. Jay Gatsby, who is enigmatic and hosts extravagant parties every Saturday night, stays next door to Nick in a huge Gothic house. Unlike the other West Egg community, Nick is socially linked to Long Island and home to the developed upper class in East Egg, a more trendy one. Daisy Buchanan, who is married to Tom, Nick’s classmate at Yale, is his cousin. Nick is introduced by Daisy and Tom to Jordan Baker, with whom he begins a romantic relationship. Via Jordan, Nick gets to hear about Tom’s love, Myrtle Wilson. Over the course of the summer, Nick is welcomed to one of the famous parties of Gatsby, where he actually gets to know him.
As a cousin to Daisy Buchanan and next door neighbor to Gatsby, Nick proves the perfect choice of narrator for the novel. He is at a position where he is able to observe and help in the reigniting the love affair between Gatsby and Daisy (Bloom 83). Nick’s experiences with Gatsby serve as his personal memoir. Nick is physically well located between the two as his house on West Egg is next door to Gatsby’s (Fitzgerald 3). His house provides for the first meeting point between the former lovers. Through his relation with Daisy, Gatsby is also able to enlist for Nick’s help in his bid to woo Daisy back into his life. Gatsby is able to reveal to Nick through Jordan of his love past with Daisy before his foray into the war. Gatsby asks Nick to stage an accidental reunion with Daisy to which Nick executes the plan and Daisy and Gatsby are reunited, immediately starting an affair.
Nick’s temperament also makes him suitable to provide narration for the novel. In chapter 1 of the novel, he introduces himself to the reader as open-minded, tolerant, a good listener, and quiet which makes the other characters tend to talk to him and tell them their secrets (Bloomfield 32). This is evident through Nick’s romantic relation with the cynical Jordan Baker. Nick’s tolerance and open-mindedness makes him to spend time with Jordan who turns out to be loveable in all her cynicism. It is through his relationship with Jordan that Nick and the reader learn about Gatsby and Daisy’s past while also getting to know more about Tom’s mistress. Nick’s traits also make Gatsby to trust him and treat him as his confidant. They get to plot and share experiences together. The reader gets to learn a lot about Gatsby as Nick carefully offers him a listening ear as Gatsby tells him about his life.
Nick’s character showcases a mixed reaction to the high social life witnessed in Long Island. As a character, he has internal conflict that he fails to resolve until the closure of the novel. On one hand, he appears to be attracted to the fast-paced and fun-driven life of the city while on the other hand he seems to rebuke it as a grotesque and damaging lifestyle. His romantic relationship with Jordan symbolizes his internal conflict (Henriques 16). Nick is attracted to her sophistication and vivacity while at the same time disengaged by her dishonesty and cynicism.in chapter 2 of the novel, when he is drunk at a Gatsby’s party he notes that there is a distortion of quality of life in the City and the lifestyle makes him to lose his balance. When he unravels Gatsby’s dream and oversees over his appalling funeral, he realizes that the first life experienced on the East coast covers up for the moral emptiness symbolize by the Valley of Ashes. Even though Nick presents himself as an honest person and of high moral standards who reserves judgment at the novel’s start, he does not appear so as the novel progresses. The entire novel appears filled with his judgment of others. He sees Gatsby as everything that makes him feel “unaffected Scorn” (Fitzgerald 4). He sees Tom and Daisy as Careless people while Jordan is incurably dishonest (Churchwell 62). As the novel progresses, he gets pulled into the world he is observing through his relationships with Jordan, Gatsby, Tom, and Daisy. He becomes less honest as the novel progresses.
At the end of the novel and after presiding over the appalling funeral of Gatsby, Nick decides to return to Minnesota in search of a quieter life that is structured by moral and traditional values. His reflection that the American dream of happiness and individualism has been clouded by a mere pursuit of wealth shows that he has come to an honest realization. His clamor to go back west to a more reserved lifestyle shows that he has learned from his experience in the East. The novel’s ending reveals that Nick may have been sacked into the fast-paced and fun-filled life, but he regained his moral consciousness to provide the reader with a true conclusion of what life was like in the East.
- Bloom, Harold. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s the Great Gatsby. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2010.
- Bloomfield, Jill. The Great Gatsby: Study Guide and Student Workbook (Enhanced Ebook). New York: BMI Educational Services, 2011.
- Churchwell, Sarah. Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby. New York: Penguin Group US, 2014.
- Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Atlântico Press, 2013.
- Henriques, Piers. A Contextualised Analysis of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘The Beautiful and Damned’ and ‘This Side of Paradise’. New York: GRIN Verlag, 2013.