Analyses F Scott Federalist’s presentation of his first person narrator, Nick Caraway, in Chapter 1. In writing “The Great Gatsby’, Fitzgerald uses Nick Caraway as both a participator and an observer in the events that transpire in the months the book spans. This allows him to remark on the extravagance of the Jazz Age without removing himself from it, giving a more immersed experience for the reader, whilst altering the perspective in order to fit what Fitzgerald wants us to think.
This unusual way of narrating- both attached and separated from events- is probably a affliction of Federalist’s personal life, one of writing books and attending parties with his wife, both fascinated and repulsed by everything going on around him. This influences the way Nick is presented in the novel, and how the people & places around him are too- as a retrospective writer, Nick is able to screen his words, essentially making the reader biased towards his opinion.
At the beginning of Chapter one, Nick introduces himself by saying that he tries to live by a piece of advice that his father gave to him in his “younger and more vulnerable ears” (implying that he now lives a cynical, wearier life). The advice his father gives him- pathfinder you feel like criticizing anyone,’ he told me, ‘Just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had” – directly informs the reader that whilst the Caraways are privileged, or at least consider themselves to be, they also see themselves as moral people, people that don’t Judge others for things that aren’t their fault.
This almost contradicts the image of the American Dream, in which anyone can do anything as long as they work for it, as this device imposes the belief that in order to succeed, you need good luck as much as anything else. It also shows that Nick had quite a traditional upbringing, with the father imparting advice on to him- Nick knows that his father wants the best for him (“we’ve always been unusually communicative in a reserved way’).
When Nick tells us that he is “inclined to reserve all Judgments”, it shows that he considers himself to be a impartial person, unlike many of his peers who enjoy gossiping. However, once the reader continues to read the novel, we discover this is quite untrue- only a arcograph later, he accuses “veteran bores” of frequently telling him their secrets, showing that he doesn’t care for the people who want to talk to him.
He also blames them for holding things back and lying, saying their stories “usually plagiarist’s and marred by obvious suppressions. ” This, as well as showing that Nick isn’t completely able to not Judge others, implies that his story is truthful and all-inclusive, not distorted in order to fit into a version that’s socially acceptable to tell others. However, by now, the audience can tell that Nick is slightly biased by his reactions to others, so would feel that he might not be the most reliable narrator.
The language of the chapter is quite formal, which is explained when Nick says he graduated from New Haven- one of the most prestigious universities in America- “Just a quarter of a century after [his] father”. This implies that he grew up in a well educated family, so was brought up to be well-spoken and proper. It also shows that he’s either middle- or upper-class, as ten working class wouldn’t De addle to Nora to go to New Haven. This ties in with earlier on in the chapter, when Nicks father tells him to be considerate of people’s background-