The Great Gatsby: readers are influenced by the narrator, Nick Carraway for Leaving Cert English #625Lab

“Readers of The Great Gatsby are greatly influenced by the narrator, Nick Carraway.” 

Discuss this statement, supporting your answer with suitable reference to the text. (2013)

The Great Gatsby written by F. Scott Fitzgerald is set in the early 1920’s in Long Island, New York. The text is narrated by Nick Carraway, who is the main observer of the world in which this novel is set, yet he is also a participant. I believe that we are all greatly influenced by Nick throughout the novel. (The intro is a little meh. Why? It doesn't say anything meaningful. It feels like the author of the essay put it in to tick a box. It would be better if she had expressed an opinion: is it good that we are influenced by Nick? Is it obvious? Is it fair? What would be different if Nick wasn't there? In what three main ways does Nick influence us?...)

Readers of The Great Gatsby are greatly influenced by the narrator, Nick Carraway.

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Nick is our source of information, he tells us the story and we have no choice but to believe what he tells us as the truth. From the beginning he craves our trust ‘I am one of the few honest people I know,’ (that I have ever known - don't misquote - it will cost you. This is a handy place to check - just ctrl+F or cmd+F on mac) allowing us to have faith in what he says to be accurate and true. (Excellent choice of quotation and comment about him craving our approval (and Gatsby's). Not so sure about the faith bit.) He gives us insight into the characters; their personalities, actions, speech and his feelings toward them. He shapes our view, causes us to feel a certain way, to detest certain characters and to love others. We never seem to question his motives, we trust Nick and in doing so we find ourselves rooting for Gatsby, showing no sympathy towards Daisy or Tom. (This answers some of my questions above. I would just throw out the first paragraph and use this as the intro. This would be a very strong intro!)

Yet, Nick cannot influence our feelings, but it is how he describes the people and the world that makes us feel a certain way. It is Nick, who can manipulate a situation ‘drunk, for the second time in my life,’ (pretty sure that's a crude misquote. Avoid these at all costs. Paraphrase if you have to, but don't misquote.) leave out information and divulge in his opinion of others, ‘she was incurably dishonest.’ This is seen during the party in the apartment where there are gaps left in the narrative letting us know that Nick is not letting us know all the information, only what he sees as fit. This shows that throughout the novel Nick is trying and successfully influences us to see characters in a certain light, ‘two shining arrogant eyes.’

This in turn makes us question his influence because of this subjectivity. He is seen to be protecting other characters due to his relationship with them. This is seen when Daisy and Gatsby’s affair is only revealed to us through a phone call between Gatsby and Nick, 'Daisy comes over quite often – in the afternoons.' We are not given any more details unlike the amount of information divulged on Tom and Myrtle’s affair. Is this because he is Daisy’s cousin or because he is Gatsby’s friend? Either way Nick decides to protect some characters, including himself. This is prominent (obvious would sound better, wouldn't it?) when Jordan asserts on a telephone conversation with Nick, ‘I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person. I thought it was your secret pride.’ If Nick was as honest as he says he is why would Jordan say this and why would his father tell him not to criticise others? Yet Nick manipulates us into believing he is honest in order to gain our trust and in doing so, he successively influences us. (The author sells this paragraph as being about subjectivity. It's really more about how his honesty is selective and doesn't hold water. The paragraph before this was actually on subjectivity.)

Throughout the novel Nick tells us about the world in which this novel is set. He talks about the ‘Great War,’ money, and immoral actions which seem to result from greed and the pursuit of wealth. Money is seen to be perceived (this is the kind of wordiness you want to avoid) as a source of happiness and hope; something which everyone is fighting for due to the “American Dream.” We soon begin to question the values of American people of that time and by informing us about the world he strikes sympathy in us for Gatsby. Even though Gatsby is seen to lie and is ‘some big bootlegger,’ we feel pity because he is doing it for love. Nick evokes more pity in us when Mrs Sloane invites Gatsby over for supper, only to leave without him when he is gone fetching his car. ‘Doesn’t he know she doesn’t want him?’ People use Gatsby for his parties; they do not really care about him or his welfare. Nick does not fail to mention people’s lack of respect for Gatsby a myriad of times ‘Nobody came,’ ‘Daisy hadn’t sent a message or a flower.’ This all impacts our opinion of the people in the novel and the injustices they commit.

Gatsby is a deeply mysterious character from the beginning of the novel. Nick employs (employs or creates?) this by drip feeding us information about Gatsby. In the beginning of the novel, he asserts that ‘there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life.’ (Excellent). After this statement we begin to wonder who Gatsby is. Especially when so many people have such interest in him. ‘Gatsby?’… ‘What Gatsby?’... ‘you must know Gatsby.’ It is only in chapter three that we actually are introduced to Gatsby. Yet I cannot help but question why is there such a build-up and mystery around Gatsby? Why does Nick employ this drama? It is almost as if right from the beginning he wanted Gatsby to be the centre stage, the character everyone rooted for and most importantly remembered. (The less than subtle title would suggest that too - I would mention it here. At this point you should also bring in the idea that what Nick thinks isn't entirely separable from what Fitzgerald thinks.) The image of Gatsby is affected by Nick’s hypothesising, speculating, imagining. He makes us intrigued by Gatsby, his wealth, power and allure. Gatsby was meant to be the portrayed as ‘worth the whole damn bunch put together.’ I believe Nick Carraway was successful in portraying this to the reader. (I would also talk about the contrast between Gatsby and Nick that brings out Gatsby as an invincible go-getter, only to show us that he is at least as needy as Nick later in the novel.)

To be able to influence individuals you have to be able to manipulate your readers into feeling a certain way, glorify the people you love or want to protect and hold nothing back for the people you detest. In order to greatly influence anyone you have to tell a story which seems honest, but may have more holes in it than what you would first assume. Nick Carraway does this with ease and because of this I know he greatly influences the readers of ‘The Great Gatsby.’ 

All in all, it's a nice essay, but it could really be fleshed out with many more examples of Nick's subjectivity, his own flaws, and the Fitzgerald/Nick conundrum. What about Nick's language? The author only gave us one or two examples, but you could be much more systematic in showing Nick's biases. 

To the author: don't worry, you have months to flesh this out - great work.

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