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A narrator, by definition, is how an author chooses to portray information to readers in their work. An author’s choice, in how to tell a story is ideal to the effect it has on readers. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s timeless classic The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway tells the entire story as a first-person, peripheral narrator. Fitzgerald purposefully chooses Nick as a partially removed character, with very few emotions and personal opinions.
By doing so, readers experience the same ambiguity of other character’s thoughts, are carried smoothly throughout the plot, and Nick’s nonjudgmental character lets readers form opinions of their own.
To begin with, because Nick is merely another character in the unfolding tragedy readers can never see into other characters’ minds. Other characters’ thoughts and opinions are completely unknown. Readers are forced to use their imaginations to figure out what characters are thinking.
For example, readers are left just as clueless and curious as Nick himself when Gatsby declares: “I’m going to make a big request of you to-day, so I thought you ought to know something about me.
I didn’t want you to think I was just some nobody. You see, I usually find myself among strangers because I drift here and there trying to forget the sad thing that happened to me. You’ll hear about it this afternoon. ” (67) This is an effective example of the narrator giving the story depth and suspense because readers are left intrigued by this statement and no hints, given by thoughts of characters, is revealed.
Carraway being ignorant to other character’s thoughts is effective in the portrayal of Gatsby’s tale; because half of the intrigue of the story of Gatsby’s downfall is his mysterious manner. If readers were able to understand Daisy’s or Gatsby’s personal thoughts, there would be no suspense in the outcome of the novel. Nick happens to be rather clueless about Daisy, Tom, and Gatsby’s true feelings, which is why he makes such an excellent narrator
The fact that Nick is a legitimate character in the story, who is present at all the key events in the novel, helps carry the plot along smoothly and in a timely manner. It also allows readers to better understand how one would feel if placed in these situations. Nick provides an intimate relationship between readers and the setting, because although he rarely provides personal opinions, it is understood that he feels awkward in the majority of the dramatic scenes he is involved in.
To continue, all of the action in the book occurs in a few, key scenes, all of which Nick witnesses, it helps Fitzgerald portray action in a straight-forward way; there is no need to go in-depth about emotions, he simply uses dialogue between characters and details about the setting to help readers understand what’s going on, and let them infer how certain characters are feeling. The best example of Nick’s aloof description of a key even is at the Manhattan apartment, when tom hits myrtle, “Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand.
The there were bloody towels upon the bathroom floor, and women’s voices scolding, and high over the confusion a long broken wail of pain. Mr. McKee awoke from his doze and started in a daze toward the door. When he had gone halfway he turned around and stared at the scene—his wife and Catherine scolding and consoling as they stumbled here and there among the crowded furniture with articles of aid, and the despairing figure on the couch, bleeding fluently, and trying to spread a copy of Town Tattle over the tapestry scenes of Versailles.
Then Mr. McKee turned and continued on out the door. Taking my hat from the chandelier, I followed. ” (37) Clearly, by using Nick as an involved, yet aloof, and purely logical narrator, the author is able to concisely tell the story without confusing or overwhelming readers; and is able to give as much information as necessary while giving readers space for imagination. Besides ignorance to thought, Nick being a practical, peripheral narrator, provides little to no, personal opinion.
Although it could be argued that this is a negative quality for a narrator, Fitzgerald made sure he gives nothing away, nor forces any opinions on the readers. He leaves all final opinions in the hands of readers, which makes the novel such an interesting topic because of the variety of interpretations available. Nick never judges any of the characters for their immoral actions and poses as an innocent, reserved bystander. This leaves final judgment open to opinion, which is why The Great Gatsby can appeal to so many different audiences.
At the end of the novel, Fitzgerald includes the statement “one gentleman to whom I telephoned implied that he had got what he deserved” (169) in reference to Gatsby’s death, which leaves readers to choose a side, whether readers should pity Gatsby, or if one has the right to believe that his unlawfulness lead to his own demise. Overall, Fitzgerald obviously put a great amount of thought in choosing Nick Carraway, and innocent, exclusive, yet completely ever-present character as the narrator of the story.
Because of Nick’s circumstance and character, the novel is most effective in entertaining readers because the readers are left curious about character’s feelings, are shown the plot in a smooth manner, and are capable of forming individual opinions. In the end, point of view is extremely important in the appeal of a novel and F. Scott Fitzgerald shows his talent by choosing Nick Carraway to tell the traumatic tale of The Great Gatsby.
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