Nick Caraway Paper

Published: 2021-09-10 13:55:10
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Category: The Great Gatsby

Type of paper: Essay

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The sample essay on Nick Caraway deals with a framework of research-based facts, approaches and arguments concerning this theme. To see the essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, read on.
In the light of these quotations, explore the uses Fitzgerald makes of his narrator, Nick Carraway, in the novel.
Nick Carraway, the narrator of the novel, introduces himself to the reader as a person to trust and he aims to assure the reader of his decent character. Talking of his father and his own personal issues from the very beginning, allows the reader to feel at ease with his comments and that they are what Nick feels to be the truth. Tony Tanner discusses Nick’s introduction,
‘When Nick is introducing himself to us, he speaks about his family with such casual, disarming honesty that it is easy to overlook the implications of what he reveals’.
It is true that it is easy to concentrate on what Nick tells us about other characters, however this novel is more about Nick and it is important not to overlook Nick’s character whilst reading about the other characters.
With Fenders Spread Like Wings
Nick sees himself as ‘a guide’, as narrated in the opening chapter when he directs somebody to the West Egg village. Fitzgerald labelling Nick with this description at an early point in the novel, prepares the reader for Nick’s role:
‘I was a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler. He had casually conferred on me the freedom of the neighbourhood’.
In the first few chapters of the novel, Nick remains a spectator on the other characters’ lives, as he is a newcomer to this vast world of wealth. He detaches himself from their wealth and situation and tries to keep his involvement with them to a minimum. He observes in the nature of this ‘pathfinder’, watching every movement and examining it. In the very first few lines of the novel Nick quotes from his father:
‘Whenever you feel like criticising anyone……just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had’.
Nick uses this in the introduction, which suggests it is something he thinks about daily and follows consistently. However, he doesn’t. He criticises many of the characters throughout the novel and picks up on their faults and downfalls. This lack of tolerance is surprising considering his own father’s advice, and as he points out just a few paragraphs on, ‘it has a limit’.
Nick describes the East and West Egg villages with graphic images and details to emphasise the wonder of his surroundings. He also uses a lot of reference to light, linking with the ‘green light’, which Gatsby sets his life around:
‘With fenders spread like wings we scattered light through half Astoria…..’
‘Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water.’
The use of this language shows Nick’s feelings about the landscape. He is biased in the way he narrates throughout the novel, which reminds the reader that it is being narrated from one man’s point of view. Once Nick has introduced himself to the reader, he moves on to talk about significant events in his life.
Tom and Daisy Buchanan are old acquaintances of Nick’s. Daisy is his second cousin once removed and he knew Tom from college, and so when they invite him over for dinner he feels obliged to accept the invitation. The reader is immediately made aware of the importance of the Buchanans’ role and the change that they make on Nick’s life,
‘…the history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanans.’
At first Nick finds it hard to understand Tom and Daisy. Daisy has a ‘singing compulsion in her voice’, which is used to compel Nick’s attention. Tom physically takes control of Nick swinging him ‘around by one arm’. At this point Nick is passive and malleable. However, as the novel moves on, we see changes occurring in Nick’s relationships with the other characters. In Chapter IV Gatsby calls on him:
‘Good morning, old sport. You’re having lunch with me today and I thought we’d ride together’.
Here Nick is being moved to the edge of other people’s lives at their command. This allows excellent narration from him. If their lives had no relevance with his own morals and experiences, there would be no significance of these events.
Wealth and money are issues introduced early in the novel. They play an important role in most of the characters’ lives (fantasies). It is what brought them to where they are now, drawn by the style, ‘beauty and glamour’. After the war Gatsby goes to New York, the centre of wealth.
‘It was hard to realize that a man in my own generation was wealthy enough to do that’.
Wealth is something that Fitzgerald, through Nick, often revisits throughout the novel. Tom, Daisy, Jordan and Gatsby are all very wealthy and Myrtle craves this lifestyle.
The characters are morally blind. They fabricate reality, they fantasise, gossip, misread themselves and others, they lie and they betray. Nick implies this to the reader when talking about Doctor T. J. Eckleburg’s eyes. Those ‘blue and gigantic……their retinas are one yard high….brood on over the solemn dumping ground’ of the valley of ashes, but they see nothing. The characters see what they want to see, living their own fantasies the way they want.
Gatsby becomes a strong interest of Nick’s before they even meet. The gossip and rumours that Nick hears increase the intrigue of the character. At the party Nick’s companion whispers to him:
‘Somebody told me they thought he killed a man once’.
These small details stimulate Nick’s curiosity. When he finally meets Gatsby, he picks up on Gatsby’s use of terrible clich�s and that listening to him was like ‘skimming through a dozen magazines’. This suggests that Gatsby has fabricated his past in order to make it seem full of wonder, beauty and glamour. He relives the past and lives the dream. However, Nick also comments on how Gatsby does appear to be telling the truth when talking about the war, with his distinguished and heroic war record. Gatsby continues to talk about his childhood, and Nick knows it is an unoriginal fantasy, but he does want to believe him.
Throughout the novel Nick is morally critical of Gatsby and his comment, ‘I disapproved of him from beginning to end’ supports this. However, despite this, Nick continues to be drawn to Gatsby. Nick perceives two sides to Gatsby. One side is a romantic person with a rare charm, and the other is an uncultured man who adopts a stiffly formal manner to conceal his social faults. He struggles to criticise Gatsby, when through his own morals he knows he should feeling a certain ‘shame for Gatsby’.
Throughout the novel Nick provides some powerful visual impressions of Gatsby. Nick talks again and again about Gatsby standing in a formal pose with an arm raised against a background of light and shade. These gestures show Gatsby’s romantic cravings and are strongly characteristic. Nick is drawn in by this mysterious figure, which seems almost without substance. He is unable to understand Gatsby and his gazes, which frustrates Nick:
‘Involuntary I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of the dock.’
Nick also has difficulty grasping Gatsby’s parties:
‘Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby at all, came for the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission’
When Nick himself receives an invitation to Gatsby’s ‘little party’, his intrigue for the man increases. He finds it difficult, at first, to understand why a man would put so much effort and money into producing such a marvellous event so frequently, and yet not attend himself. Being a neighbour of these events, Nick is able to witness the amount of input, and yet he seems blind to all the servants and caterers who make it the event it is. To Nick, Gatsby is almost like a magician who creates these parties by himself. We understand towards the end of Nick and Gatsby’s relationship that it was all done for Daisy. His love for Daisy stimulated his want for wealth and success. However, when the dream of Daisy materialises into the shape of a real woman, the world of Jay Gatsby vanishes, as the reality of his wealth is revealed.
‘You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of the dock’
‘Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever’.
Gatsby’s passion for Daisy takes over his entire life and self-image. It is the depth of that feeling which holds Nick’s fascination.
Nick’s feelings towards Gatsby change constantly though the novel as a result of such different perspectives.
When Tom takes Nick to see his ‘girl’, he comments that Tom’s ‘determination to have my company bordered on violence’. Tom is described to have talked to Mr Wilson ‘coldly’, showing his wealth and power. The images are deeply unpleasant. Nick doesn’t seem to think very highly of Myrtle:
‘She smiled slowly and, walking through her husband as if he were a ghost, shook hands with Tom, looking him flush in the eye’.
Nick is also aware of Myrtle’s falseness and her longing for the dream. She likes to feel she is of higher class and wants the chance to be someone else. Myrtle lacks the character and intelligence of a woman of higher class. She thinks herself above her husband, Wilson, which both Nick and Tom know isn’t true. Her attempts to be a real lady fail:
‘At the news-stand she bought a copy of Town Tattle and a moving picture magazine’.
‘I want to get one of those dogs’.
Gatsby’s death is an important part of this novel. Until this point Nick has been living his life through the eyes of the other characters, but keeping a certain amount of detachment to enable him to judge them critically. Gatsby’s life intrigued Nick the most, and once Gatsby’s dream world is smashed, Nick is able to sympathise with Gatsby, rather than admire. From the very first word Nick hears of Gatsby, he starts piecing together information to develop an understanding. After Gatsby’s death Nick is in full command of the outline of his life. It is also at this point where we see Nick moving to the centre of the narrative:
‘….it grew upon me that I was responsible, because no one else was interested – interested, I mean, with that intense personal interest to which everyone has some vague right at the end’.
Morals seem to be an important issue throughout the novel. Through his own morals, Nick rejects Gatsby’s offer to, ‘pick up a nice bit of money’. The novel challenges his morals by the use of the diverse characters. Nick picks up on the moral failures of the Buchanans’, beneath their wealth and power:
‘Tom and Daisy – they smash up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess that had made….’
Kathleen Parkinson states that:
‘Fitzgerald allows Nick to claim authorship of the book’.
I agree with this comment, and even at one point Nick is said to be, ‘Reading over what I have written so far’. Many of the events written about in the novel are not what Nick has experienced, but what others’ have recounted and what he has retold.
It seems at the start that Nick has been untouched throughout his life. The war hasn’t left any marks on him as he enjoyed it so much:
‘I enjoyed the counter-raid so thoroughly that came back restless’.
It isn’t until Nick meets Gatsby that he makes an emotional commitment. He commits himself to a belief in Gatsby even though he is aware of the ugly factors of the man’s life.
Nick’s intuition provides a valuable insight into Gatsby’s identity and his vulnerability.
It is easy to underestimate the importance of Nick’s role in the novel. The title automatically turns our attention to Jay Gatsby, the handsome, wealthy, dreamer who conducts other peoples’ lives in order to bypass his own. However, it is Nick’s narration and interests that direct the novel in the direction it takes. Tony Tanner’s comment about the writer of the book, clearly evaluates the entire novel:
‘Fitzgerald’s book is Nick’s book, but Nick is not Fitzgerald’.

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