Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby - Nick Carraway, Detached or Dishonest?

Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby - Nick Carraway, Detached or Dishonest?

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The Great Gatsby  Nick - Detached or Dishonest?


The Great Gatsby is a difficult book to interpret, particularly because of the style in which it is written. Not only must the reader differentiate between the separate views of Nick as the narrator and Nick as the character, but he or she must also take into consideration at what time period, relative to this story, are these views being expressed. After all, Nick the narrator is presently evaluating the manner in which his character behaved the year before, as well as allowing his character to voice his opinion, as his opinion had been during that time frame. We learn to trust Nick as a narrator, because all the pieces of information he gives to us, received through symbolism, imagery, or personal reflection, lead us to make significant decisions regarding the other characters of the novel. His character, on the other hand, cannot be looked upon in the same manner; it can be seen as dishonest and hypocritical, yet it is these negative characteristics that humanize him, allowing readers to relate to him as a person.


What Nick thinks as the narrator is not always the same as what his character portrays. In just the third paragraph of this book, we learn that Nick is "inclined to reserve all judgments (Page 5)," but that his tolerance, "has a limit (Page 6)." True, his opinions might not be expressed in words, but it is important to realize that those opinions still exist. The narrator's role is to make us aware of Nick's "judgments," for his character neglects to respond to such feelings. Various techniques allow us to draw our own conclusions, the most interesting one being symbolism. The "foul dust" mentioned throughout the novel serves to corrupt everything it encounters. It is this foul dust that represents the lives of Daisy, Tom, and Jordan. After all, they are all immoral characters. A word such as dust successfully gives off a negative ambiance, but for Nick to go the step further and declare such dust to be "foul" truly represents his disapproval of their actions. Thus, without proclaiming his opinion in the form of words, Nick presents it openly through symbolism for us to see. However, even though we know that Nick as the narrator, reflecting back on that summer, did not see the three to be honorable people, he still spent a great deal of time with them.

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Like most people, Nick the character chose to neglect the faults of his good-old friend Tom, his cousin Daisy, and his lover Jordan. To him, it was more important to fit in with these rich, sophisticated people than to risk his friendship with them by pointing out their imperfections. It is this reservation of the truth which leads us to question Nick's honesty.


Nick cannot truthfully be classified as an honest person, for his mind is filled with criticisms towards people he spends time with daily. We know his thoughts through the narration of the story, but his actions are rarely reflections of these thoughts. He obviously does not respect the criminal activity of Gatsby, as well as his affairs with Meyer Wolfsheim, the man rumored to have fixed the World Series in 1919. When offered a job by Gatsby, Nick quickly declines: "I've got my hands full. I'm much obliged but I couldn't take on any more work (Page 88)." However, he remains Gatsby's ally and defends him to the end, just because he admires Gatsby's "extraordinary gift for hope (Page 6)" and "romantic readiness (Page 6)." He was drawn to Gatsby, the only one who "represented everything for which [he] has unaffected scorn (Page 6)." He revered Gatsby's optimism and perseverance. However, Gatsby did not live up to Nick's moral values and so Nick did not accept the job. Although this is an indirect of way of displaying his disapproval for Gatsby, Nick never confronts his friend about his ethical values. Nick's passiveness in dealing with a situation he obviously disapproves of makes him dishonest. Had he been honest, he would have been upfront about the matter and voiced his opinion. This reservation of the truth which Nick posesses makes him conform with the majority of society. Most people are dishonest. They sacrifice their honesty to fit in with the rest. This is not always a bad thing, for there would be many people with hurt feelings if everyone in this world went around pointing out the minor faults of others.


Nick's relationship with Jordan offers an interesting twist to this story, as well. It mirrors the minds of many lovers, torn between self-involvement and love. What makes this example so unique is that the narrator and character, both played by Nick, are united. This is the one time when both are in accordance. By analyzing the narrator's description of his emotions, we can conclude that Nick did indeed love Jordan. After their little quarrel at the end of the novel, Nick walks off "angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry." These are all characteristics off love! After making the mistake of walking away instead of winning her back, Nick is angry and frustrated with himself. He would have liked to get Jordan back, but was too stubborn to do so. Naturally, he felt sorry that he was unable to compel himself to win back Jordan's affection, because he did, indeed, love her. However, Nick cannot admit to his genuine love for Jordan in his reflections as a narrator, either. He is acting like a tough guy, pretending he is not soft enough to be weakened by emotions. A "man" doesn't fall in love. Therefore, we can recognize Nick's ridiculous admission to love as a valid one, for it would be difficult for most men to agree to love: "I wasn't actually in love, but I felt a sort of tender curiosity." We can see through these words into the true meaning, thanks to the narration of Nick, but his character offers no help. His character conceals his emotions very well, so we depend on the narrator in order to figure out the true nature of situations.


Once a reader understands the difference between the narration and character of Nick, it is quite interesting to see who the two compliment each other. The narration brings new meaning to the actions in which the character performs. We realize how essential it is to have a narrator as honest as he is, since the character of Nick is often hypocritical and "reserved in judgment." However, this trait of Nick's is what attracts so many readers to him. With the help of the narrator to know his thoughts, readers can now relate to Nick's actions, for they have seen similarities occurring in every day life. They begin to feel the words describing Nick's emotions, not just read them. For these reasons, F. Scott Fitzgerald's style of writing enabled his character to jump out of the book and into real life. Readers can relate to the "dishonest" character of Nick.
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