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Gender Inequality and Unreliable Narration: Two Paragraphs on The Great Gatsby

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.

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