Nick Caraway’s Dishonesty and its Role in the Narration of The Great Gatsby
In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby the main character, Nick Carraway, believes that he is an honest person. Though he is very honest compared to the majority of characters in this novel, he fails to reserve all judgement when faced with the unpropitious East coast and finds himself wound up in the mess created by those around him.
“I am one of the few honest people I have ever known” (59) was said by Nick in chapter 3 of the novel after he had witnessed Tom’s affair. This quote has two definitions to it. The self-gratification meaning and the offensive meaning. Although Nick isn’t a compulsive liar, he often composes excuses to justify his behavior. This quote is offensive, like most of his famous quotes, because despite the fact that he is just as involved as other characters in certain circumstances he hypocritically judges the Buchanans and Jordan.
An example of Nick’s obvious dishonesty is when Jordan tells him: “I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person” (p. 120) in the last chapter after Nick lies in the trial after Gatsby’s death and he praises Catherine for lying to the judge. His break up with Jordan starts building moral sense. Because Tom and Daisy are good examples of the East’s affluence, he has never had a hard time seeing through the smoke and mirrors of The East. His tendency to acquire melodramatics is, however, never obtained. The lack of emotion leads to distortion of an important scene.
This description of Gatsby’s feelings assumed by Nick is extremely theatrical. “If that was true he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world,paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about . . . like that ashen, fantastic figure gliding toward him through the amorphous trees.” (p. 108) Nick assumes that Gatsby finds leaves”frightening” and roses “grotesque”, when in fact, Nick’s assumption of what his idol “must have felt” before death does not harmonize with Gatsby’s events of the morning. For a man whose 5 year dream has been dismembered he has had a normal morning that consisted of having breakfast with Nick and swimming in his pool on the last day of summer.
A summer which had been taken away by his infatuation with a woman that is far out of reach. If anything, this represents realization and rebirth.
Nick lies to himself, and therefore the reader as well. It’s easy to say that Nick has a minor problem with honesty. It is simple-minded to expect an occasionally dishonest narrator to be completely reliable, but from Nick’s point of view The Great Gatsby has created a novel filled with arguable paradox that entices readers and tests perception.
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