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Nicki as an unreliable narrator; The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald
Nick proves to be an unreliable narrator in the book “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald due to his behavior especially that he is too biased in his description over the other characters who include Gatsby for favoring him over everyone else and Tom for viewing him negatively. He is intoxicated during some parts of his narration. This does not at any point guarantee the reader accurate descriptions of events in the story. By solely focusing on his own feelings, he makes Gatsby’s death to look all about himself. “Now he was a straw sturdy-haired man of thirty, with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shinning arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward” (Fitzgerald 7). Nick as well tries to reflect the characters personalities and traits in their physical description. He as well tries to make the reader believe that Tom is arrogant and aggressive which is not the case so that it would be the way the reader perceives him throughout the entire story. “It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it that you may come across four or five times in your life. It faced or seemed to face the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor” (Fitzgerald 51).
The fact that he favors clearly Gatsby over Tom shows that he is very biased as reasonable time is spend talking about Gatsby’s smile, as compared to a couple minutes that are spent to discuss few sentences on Toms personality and appearance. It is evident therefore if this distance exists, we undoubtifully have to some extent an unreliable narrator. This in turn calls for a stronger demand on the readers’ power of inference (Unreliable narration in the Great Gatsby). His own bias is exemplified by the fact that he carefully choses the description of characters, and thus according to the character, he is biased. It is shown by the fact that he says, “I have been drunk just twice in my life, and the second time was that afternoon; so everything that happened has a dim, hazy cast over it, although until after eight o’clock the apartment was full of cheerful sun” (Fitzgerald 31). He also accepts the fact that his recollection of events would be hazy that night and gave off the impression that he drank just to tolerate everyone at the party. He says that ‘I was enjoying myself now. I had taken two finger-bowls of champagne, and the scene had changed before my eyes into something significant, elemental, and profound’ (Fitzgerald 49). Once again, he is quick to admit that indeed the atmosphere around him really changed after he drank. He states that before he drank, he felt awkward and out of place, but afterward, he described the party with more life; almost felt as if he were in a new environment. It is true that when an element of distortion is added, the challenge of perception to him becomes prodigious. Carraway is particularly susceptible to alcohol in The Great Gatsby’ (Nick Carraway as Narrator in The Great Gatsby).
O’Rourke also agrees that the aspect of Nick easily getting drunk is obviously an aspect of his character that makes him a bad narrator. Carraway is drunk during a specifically important chapter: this is where he first attends one of Gatsby’s parties and meets him for the first time. Thus, the reader doesn’t truly know what Nicks real first impression of Gatsby is and we also not aware of how the party went as he is very silent about it and doesn’t provide a reliable recount of events. ‘From the moment I telephoned news of the catastrophe to West Egg Village, every surmise about him and every practical question, was referred to me. At first I was surprised and confused; then, as he lay in his house and didn’t move or breathe or speak, hour upon hour, it grew upon me that I was responsible because no one else was interested-interested, I mean, with that intense personal interest to which everyone has some vague right at the end’ (Fitzgerald 174).We can also observe that Nick was feeling like everyone was approaching him to ask questions about Gatsby, but this is not necessarily true, as other characters may have been approached with the same questions about the death of Gatsby. Kent Cartwright, an English professor at the University of Maryland, maintains that; ‘But the story of Gatsby’s burial, ironically, turns out to be not so much about Gatsby as it is about Nick’ (Nick Carraway as an Unreliable Narrator). We all remember Nick’s final shot at proving how loyal a friend he was to Gatsby and instead of doing so, he carelessly makes the whole time about himself using the time to try inviting people out to his funeral so that he wouldn’t feel embarrassed. He revealed, ‘I began to have a feeling of defiance, of scornful solidarity between Gatsby and me against them all’ (Fitzgerald 176). He also tries to isolate himself from everyone else in order to try to appear as if he is the better friend; he’s trying to make it to the crowd look like he was the only one who cared so much, even though his father, Henry, and his servants and mailmen attended the funeral. If the story was retold by someone else other than Nick then we would have gotten a different perspective on the other characters’ feelings towards Gatsby and inclusive of a proof that Nick wasn’t his only friend as he tries to convince people.
The final aspect of Nick’s character that makes him a poor narrator is that he sets himself apart from everyone else. He does not fit in with the wealthy or the party goers either, so he does not truly understand anyone else’s perspective on Gatsby and this is why he believes he is the only one who truly understood Gatsby. Once again, Kent Cartwright said, ‘On Gatsby’s behalf, Nick grows in angry disillusionment at the breaches of faith by those like Daisy and Wolfsheim who should care most for Gatsby at the final hour (Nick Carraway as an Unreliable Narrator). Cartwright is demonstrates that Nick is essentially a narcissistic hypocrite through his awkward behavior of focusing on those who didn’t attend Gatsby’s funeral. He too speaks about being the only one who cared, and in return, made Gatsby’s death all about himself. As an audience too he does not find out if anyone else is upset over Gatsby’s death. This is because he turns on the other characters who, through his perspective, cared about Gatsby, letting his personal emotions to cloud his judgments; which in turn distorts the retelling of events. He is self-centered at a time of grief and does not understand if really someone could not make it out to attend Gatsby’s funeral.
It is true that Nick does not grow and change in character with the novel; as it is quite evident that his growth had already occurred before he sat down to narrate the tale. This is because he is telling the tale as someone who has already his duty and reactions in the story and derived some forgone conclusions. Other conclusions that Nick outlines borne on his telling of the story are that “Gatsby turned out all right at the end”