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Nick Carraway and the Depiction of a Heroic Gatsby

Nick Carraway and the Depiction of a Heroic Gatsby

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Published by Martin Pea Meany
I contend Nick problematises Gatsby as a hero...
I contend Nick problematises Gatsby as a hero...

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Published by: Martin Pea Meany on Apr 25, 2011
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03/01/2013

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Name: Martin MeanyNumber: 0885223Module: EH4016 State of the Union: American Literature since 1890Lecturer: Dr David CoughlanDate: 14 March 20112. Tony Tanner argues, with respect to F. Scott Fitzgerald¶s
The Great Gatsby,
that ³we areaware of a strong tendency on Nick¶s part to identify with Gatsby as well as to make him ahero.´ Discuss the ways in which the character of Nick, as a narrator, problematises therepresentation of Gatsby as a hero.Throughout Fitzgerald¶s
The Great Gatsby 
we are reading the story through aninterpretation of a character, Nick Carraway. The objective of this essay is to prove Nick as anarrator cannot be trusted completely. His unreliability leads to ramifications for events in thestory and the depiction of Jay Gatsby. The essay will conclude by summarising pointsdisplaying Nick to be an unreliable narrator and bias towards a positive view of Gatsby,hence proving the problematic nature of Gatsby¶s heroic representation.On the surface, Nick appears to be an honest mangiving an account to the best of hisability. And until µmodern¶ times, many critics refused to suggest Nick as anything other thanreliable, with Milton R. Stern going so far as to say ³the book makes no sense ± if Carrawayis repudiated´ (193). However, as with many things time brought a change in opinion, and awillingness to review the novel. Upon revision of the novel with the understanding of Nick¶sunreliability, the high degree to which he is unreliable becomes apparent. At certain points through the novel, Nick draws unnecessary attention to himself,inviting the audience to think, and question his integrity. This is blatantly obvious when Nick
 
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claims he is ³one of the few honest people that [he has] ever known´ (65). It is generalhuman nature to assume he would be giving an honest account, however by highlightinghimself to be an honest man; he opens the floor for the audience to re-evaluate his writing,including his depiction of Gatsby.While many argue that Nick¶s position is ideal to narrate, as he is close to manycharacters and they feel him trustworthy enough to confide in. Nick seems to abuse thistrust, not lying directly but lying through omission. He fails to share essential informationthrough the novel which has detrimental effect on the characters, and can in some part beheld indirectly responsible for Gatsby¶s death. Nick knows the truth of Myrtle¶s death, butdoes not inform the police of the truth. This leaves Gatsby a free man, and also allows him tolounge by his pool where an enraged George Wilsonto murder him before committingsuicide.We can now question Nick¶s ethical reasoning as his relationship with Gatsby affectshis judgement. He chooses not to inform the police of Gatsby¶s actions, making him, asBoyle points out, ³an accomplice after the fact´ (22). This is a vast contrast to an earlier situation involvingTom and Myrtle¶s affair where his ³own instinct was to telephoneimmediately for the police´ (19). This demonstrates Nick¶s bias towards portraying Gatsby ina positive light.In chapter four, Nick hears ladies say of Gatsby that ³he¶s a bootlegger´ (66), but hedoes not stop his observations there. They also comically converse about how he once³killed a man who had found out that he was a nephew to von Hindenburg´ (66). Alone, thisseems little more than humour, but when considering Nick¶s admiration of Gatsby, it hints athis want to guide the reader away from Gatsby¶s illegal activity, for fear it could sully hisname. It is also clear that Nick¶s demeanour only changes with regard to Gatsby. When heobservesNick, in the opening paragraph of the novel, takes it upon himself to mention that heis ³inclined to reserve all judgements´ (4), but as I have proved above, this does not apply to
 
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Gatsby. Nick in fact idolises Gatsby, as the life he lives, that of glamour and µwealth¶ isattractive to Nick. Nick chooses to live a life more clean-cut so to speak, wanting ³the worldto be in uniform and a sort of moral attention forever´ (4). Gatsby is a surrogate for Nick,embodying the desires and dreams of Nick. From this it is fair to deduce that Nick would notspeak lowly of his idol.This can be supported through Nick¶s less than convincing language used throughoutthe novel, with a lack of rhetoric stifling the reader¶s ability to truly buy into every facet of histale. His constant uses of unconvincing terms such as ³as if´, which features fifty times in thenovel does little to convince the reader of anything other than Nick¶s dominant opinion in thestory he is telling. We see in another instance this directly affects his portrayal of Gatsby. Inchapter four, Gatsby tells Nick of his past including the death of his family members. Nickinitially ³suspected that he was pulling [his] leg´ (71), but despite Gatsby¶s significantGeographical error in the tale, stating San Francisco was in the middle-west, Nick choosesto believe him. This shows Nick¶s willingness to overlook both his instincts and facts, toinstead buy into Gatsby¶s tales due to his infatuation with him.This infatuation continues to see Nick compromise his own feelings, choosing to livethrough Gatsby instead. Boyle contends that ³Nick too, is in love with Daisy´ (25). He thenreplaces Daisy with Jordan Baker and has a fleeting affair with a girl from New Jersey. To goto the point of quelling ones heartfelt feelings, displays the significance of what, to me,becomes evident to be Nick¶s obsession with Gatsby.It can be argued that at one specificpoint in the novel, Nick cares more about Gatsby than Gatsby himself. Upon finding Gatsbyin the garden following the car accident, he informs Nick that Daisy ³stood it pretty well´(153). At this point Nick is concerned that Gatsby ³spoke as if Daisy¶s reaction was the onlything that mattered´ (153). This is continued evidence that Nick¶s portrayals of Gatsby mustcome under scrutiny as his narrative credibility is low. Although Nick does idolise Gatsby, there is one thing I contend which overpowerseven this infatuation. Nick seems to retain contempt for all mankind. Nick, as many critics

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