Character Analysis: Nick Carraway in the Great Gatsby
Nick Carraway as a narrator in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald contradicts himself by falsely portraying certain aspects of the novel which might distract from the real truth, by only having one perspective throughout the whole novel. Nick only portrays certain characters by his likeness. Nick is biased to selective characters in the novel, as he favors some characters more than others. He was drunk to an extent, which guarantees it might be a false representation of the story. Additionally, when Gatsby dies, it is only understood through Nick’s perspective.
Nick includes descriptions of characters which exemplify his bias towards them. Nick tries to express people’s personalities and their traits in a description, so that people perceive the characters the same way Nick does. This is talking specifically about Tom and his characteristics. Now he was a sturdy straw-haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner (Fitzgerald 7). Nick perceives Tom as a very aggressive man having a very arrogant manner. Nick’s perspective of him is a very mean man, in which Nick does not care for. On the other hand, Nick favors Gatsby over Tom. 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 favour (48). Nick spends a long time talking about Gatsby and his beautiful smile, and how pleasant of a man he is. Nick sums up Tom is just a couple of sentences. Nick wants people to like Gatsby and not Tom. Nick’s perceptions of people show how much of an unreliable narrator he is by not viewing everyone in the same matter as he should being a narrator.
At just the beginning of the novel, Nick gets drunk in Myrtle’s apartment before a party even starts. Since Nick is drunk, his perception of the night could be false. 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 suns (29). Nick is truly ashamed of what he has done which makes this so intriguing. Nick gave the impression that it was a hazy night but everyone was having a good time. 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 (47). Nick says that the atmosphere had changed around him, after he had gotten drunk. He feels that he is in a new place after he is drunk. He gave off the feeling that he only drank just to tolerate everyone at the party. Nick easily getting drunk is an aspect of the character that makes him such an unreliable narrator. At another party he meets Gatsby for the first time. Nick’s first impression of Gatsby is untold, as Nick does not give us a reliable reason on what happened at the party. A reliable person consistently performs well, not someone who gets drunk. Nick getting drunk shows how untrustworthy he is as a narrator, and how irresponsible he is not having a good manner at parties that are important.
After Gatsby’s death at the end of the novel, it is only understood through Nick’s perspective. Only one perspective of his death is told. Nick feels that everyone was approaching him, but as readers others could have been approached. 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 every one has some vague right at the end (164). Nick feels that everyone is coming to him to ask questions about Gatsby’s death. With only having one perspective throughout the whole entire novel, others could have been approached with questions regarding Gatsby. This was Nick’s final shot to show how loyal of a friend he was to Gatsby, but instead he ruins it and made it all about himself. Nick was trying to get people to come to his funeral so that he would not feel embarrassed about himself, because no one was friends with Gatsby. I began to have a feeling of defiance, of scornful solidarity between Gatsby and me against them all (165). Nick is trying to isolate himself from everyone else and act like the better friend. Gatsby’s father, servants, the mailman, and Henry all showed up at the funeral of Gatsby. Even though it was not many people, the people that made an appearance still cared for the life of Gatsby. If the story would have been told by someone else, a different perspective would be told and the feelings of other characters about Gatsby.
Nick shows how unreliable he is in many ways throughout the whole novel. Nick says I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known. (59) Nick can not be honest if he never truly fit in with everyone, and sets himself aside from everything and everyone. Nick felt that he had only been honest because the people he surrounded himself were so morally incorrect that it made him feel more honest about himself. Nick was prejudice to many characters throughout the novel. He got drunk at Myrtle’s apartment just to tolerate everyone at the party. Nick never truly fit in with the poor or wealthy, so he never knew anyone else’s perspective on Gatsby. Nick thought that he was the only one who knew Gatsby and his feelings, but he did not as he set himself aside from everyone and only had one perspective throughout the whole entire novel.