By Felicity Keyzer-Pollard and Lina Zhang, V Form
Gender Inequality and Unreliable Narration: Two Paragraphs on The Great Gatsby
The Inherent Unreliability of Nick Carraway
By Felicity Keyzer-Pollard
Whether intentional or not, Nick Carraway’s first-person narration of The Great Gatsby dictates every aspect of the novel leading to an innate unreliability. Initially, Fitzgerald attempts to present Nick to the reader as a reliable narrator by highlighting his belief in “reserving judgments,” and letting the reader feel as if Nick is a voice of reason in a convoluted society (2). Nevertheless, it is vital to recognize that even reliable narrators can distort the very core of a novel. This distortion becomes apparent as Nick presents Jay Gatsby, the novel’s eponymous character. Initially, he describes Gatsby as nearly god-like by chronicling his persona by the “whispers about him from those who had found little that it was necessary to whisper about in this world” (Fitzgerald 44). This verbiage around Gatsby sets up the larger-than-life persona of him that the majority of characters believe to be true. However, this narration is not entirely authentic. Nick narrates The Great Gatsby from a future perspective, meaning he already knew the truth about Gatsby. While Nick attempts to remain impartial when explaining how James Gatz became the infamous Jay Gatsby, he already acknowledges that “Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself” (Fitzgerald 98). His decision to withhold this information, whether intentional or not, misleads the reader. This choice means that when Nick tells Gatsby he “can’t repeat the past,” he is highlighting one of the critical flaws in his own narration (Fitzgerald 110). Nick is telling this story in an attempt to recount the past. However, in Nick’s own words, he is unable to accomplish this. The narration style that Fitzgerald chodse cast Nick into the role of an unreliable narrator regardless of intention. Consequently, the inherent unreliability of Nick Carraway’s narration fundamentally shapes the reader’s understanding of The Great Gatsby.
“Men and Girls”: Gender Inequality in The Great Gatsby
By Lina Zhang
F. Scott Fitzgerald reinforces the motif of gender roles and patriarchy in the novel The Great Gatsby by illustrating intentional power imbalances in conversations involving period-typical masculine and feminine characters. While the novel avoids explicit statements on gender, the content and reception of the characters’ conversations indirectly demonstrate the expectations and limitations of gender-dependent speech in the 1920s. When Nick visits Daisy and her husband Tom Buchanan’s home at the beginning of the book, he describes Daisy and Jordan as speaking “unobtrusively and with a bantering inconsequence” (Fitzgerald 12). Their small talk extends even when Myrtle, Tom’s mistress, is calling Tom, as Daisy adopts a stance of passive compliance and chooses to talk about the butler’s nose instead of confronting the issue. In contrast, Fitzgerald ascribes active phrases such as “broke out” (Fitzgerald 12), “interrupted” (Fitzgerald 13) and “demanded” (Fitzgerald 19) to Tom’s contribution to the conversation, reinforcing the connection between masculinity and dominance. While Daisy’s main obligation is to be a charming hostess, Tom feels entitled to express his skepticism and ideologies freely. His interactions with Myrtle, less restrained by the formality of East Egg, further strengthens the idea of dominant masculinity and passive femininity. When Tom heads to the Valley of Ashes to see Myrtle, instead of asking about Myrtle’s schedule, he orders her by saying: “I want to see you…Get on the next train” (Fitzgerald 26). His single-sided conversation and assumption of acquiescence implicate his belief that Myrtle’s independence is less important than his need for her. Consequently, when Myrtle tries to dominate the conversation by shouting “Daisy! Daisy! Daisy!…I’ll say it whenever I want to!” (Fitzgerald 37), Tom uses brute force to break her nose and maintain his position of dominance. The simple dismissal of her statement illustrates the powerlessness of women even when they choose to speak up about their thoughts. By cataloging overwhelmingly male-dominated conversations between masculine and feminine characters, Fitzgerald reinforces the idea of gender roles and patriarchy within the novel as inescapable, omnipresent, and intrinsic to the way characters communicate.
Felicity Keyzer-Pollard is a V form boarding student from Wellesley, Massachusetts. She is a member of the St. Mark’s Robotics Team, the Stage Manager for the Fall Play, and a member of Varsity B Softball.
Lina Zhang is a V form boarding student from Beijing, China, who now lives in Southborough. In her free time, she enjoys baking, writing, and walking two hours for Starbucks.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York, Schribner, 1925.