Narrator's Role in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Kerouac's On The Road

Narrator's Role in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Kerouac's On The Road

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Narrator's Role in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Kerouac's On The Road


Over the last fifty years, since the release of On The Road in 1957,
it has not been uncommon for critics to draw parallels between
Kerouac’s semi-autobiographical novel and Fitzgerald’s The Great
Gatsby, released thirty-two years previously. It is for certain that
both the novels share many similar traits, both examine concepts of
American ideals and The American Dream, both are heavily influenced by
the jazz age of the time, but nothing binds the novels closer to one
another than the authors’ use of the first person narrative and that
narrators relationship with their leading character.

It is perhaps the most common reading to see both Jay Gatsby and Dean
Moriarty awarded iconic status by their corresponding narrators. The
connotations concerning the epithet found in the very centre of
Fitzgerald’s title alone can bring an image to the reader’s mind of
one of history’s great leaders, putting Gatsby in league with
characters such as Alexander the Great, Catherine the Great, Peter the
Great and Frederick the Great. It would seem obvious from the title
that Gatsby is one beheld with admiration and respect by the narrator.

The relationship between Kerouac’s Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty is
often viewed in much the same light. The importance of Dean to Sal is
visible from his very first paragraph, where he states that, “the
coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my
life on the road”. Within a short time period, Sal allows his life to
be turned in a completely different direction by someone who is
basically a stranger. This willingness to uproot and follow somebody
else’s lifestyle pays a great complim...


... middle of paper ...


... with the door flapping, and roar off to the next available
spot, arc, pop in, brake, out, run.

It would be easy to substitute the car in this instance with a woman
to come up with a justifiable description of Dean’s attitude towards
women. Just in the way Sal admires and enthuses about his car-parking
abilities, describing him as, “…the most fantastic parking-lot
attendant in the world…” Sal admirers and enthuses about his sex life.

In 1991, Eagleton published an essay with a Marxist sentiment
declaring that, much like Nick, “Sal is suffering from ideology – a
false consciousness that is imposed on them by the hegemonic social
order”. This adds to the link between the two narrators concerning
their feelings towards their leading characters; in particular the
manner in which they both admire the achievements made by Gatsby or
Dean in their love lives.

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