Nick Carraway: Friend, Critic, and Non-Dreamer

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If the enemy of one’s enemy is a friend, Jay Gatsby must be the reader’s enemy. However, that remains unclear, because Nick Carraway—a friend of Mr. Gatsby—never supplies a clear point on the matter. His position as narrator of The Great Gatsby reveals Fitzgerald’s intention of projecting the mythical and dream-like nature of Mr. Gatsby. Gatsby lives the dream—money, status and the woman of his dreams—while the highly relatable Nick exists in the shadows of this man—without a dream. As told in this first-person narrative, the entire story and its events are filtered through the lens of the fallible Nick, and this gives way into the duality of the story. This duality reflects the dual nature of life and Gatsby. Nick’s opinion of Gatsby fluctuates from distrust to endearment, and throughout the entirety of the novel, Nick has no grasp on this seemingly mythical character. Fitzgerald highlights this contrast and duality to explain the uncontrollability of fate. It guides Gatsby to relive the dearest moment of his life, yet its indifference to his dream—the American dream—causes Gatsby’s life to crumble before his eyes. Watching all of this is Nick Carraway, and his fluctuating narration reflects Fitzgerald’s idea that fulfillment cannot be controlled. Nick embodies friendship, inconsistency, and a lack of drive. His capability of friendship and inconsistency as a narrator represents something inherently human about him. He carries the fascination and wonder of all mankind, yet his failure to pursue a dream is unnerving. Nick never wielded the key to fulfillment.

As a friend to Gatsby and the reader, Nick exists at the center of the novel’s relatability. Kent Cartwright—in his 1984 essay on the unreliability of Nick Carraway—exp...

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...he true beliefs of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Nick’s flawed narration exists to dispose those rumors but expose some harsher truths. Without making an attempt at something, life becomes an imprisoning mess of sorrow and pain. At the conclusion of the story, Nick is left alone in a state of deep pain, because he never even had a chance at achieving a dream. He never had one. While Nick never held this key, Fitzgerald notes with this novel that the world around him did. From Nick’s lens, the world never seems quite right, and he has extreme difficulty in deciphering the world and the great Mr. Gatsby. The world may be flawed, but it still turns—if it is spun.

Works Cited

Cartwright, Kent. “Nick Carraway as an Unreliable Narrator.” Papers on Language and Literature 20.2 (1984): 114-120. Print.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 1925. Print.
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