Character Analysis Of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

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In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald writes from the perspective of Nick Carraway to critique society’s perpetuation of materialistic avarice, which creates socioeconomic division and inequality. Fitzgerald employs negative capability to subtly highlight Nick’s dissatisfaction with his own livelihood and identity; Nick often refuses to divulge the complete depth of his thoughts, relying instead on ambiguous language. Most notably, Nick writes, “I’m inclined to reserve all judgments…. Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope” (Fitzgerald, 1-2). Given Nick’s language and first-person narration, Fitzgerald implies that Nick is an unreliable narrator. Nick attempts to connect with the reader by asserting his own honesty and morality, but the …show more content…
In his reminiscence, Nick clearly sympathizes with Gatsby, as Nick typically downplays Gatsby’s unfavorable qualities, underscoring Nick’s own lack of confidence. Nick himself lives humbly in comparison to his West Egg neighbors, and over time he develops an unspoken longing to engage in the decadent lifestyle that he originally detests. Despite his initial criticism, Nick feels more than friendship for Gatsby — Nick idolizes Gatsby and his charmed lifestyle. In fact, Nick associates Gatsby with “hope,” equating Gatsby to a bold social pioneer. By doing so, though, Nick falls victim to the exceptionalism of the upper class — ironically, both the ideal and norm. Nick subconsciously self-regulates his actions upon recognizing that he falls outside such norm. Nick’s own behavior changes as he continues his interaction with Gatsby and other wealthy people. Nick writes, “I have been drunk just twice in my life, and the second time was that afternoon” (Fitzgerald, 29). Because of his first-person narration, the reader cannot know the veracity of Nick’s …show more content…
As he faces the reality of adulthood, Holden clearly demonstrates his jaded, cynical worldview. After his expulsion from Pencey Prep, Holden reinforces his belief that societal constructs are “phony.” Before departing from Pencey, Holden says, “I was sort of crying. I don 't know why. I put my red hunting hat on, and turned the peak around to the back, the way I liked it” (Salinger, 52). For Holden, the red hunting cap represents repressed emotion, which drives his rebellious nature. Holden symbolically wears his cap “the way [he] liked it” with “the peak around to the back” in expression of his social defiance. Holden voices his disillusionment and frustration with society, yet he never reveals his inner fear — social conformity. However, through critiquing the “phoniness” of those around him, Holden attempts to avoid confronting his fear of growing up. Holden resists change by clutching his childhood and refusing to accept reality. By avoiding his fear, Holden inadvertently falls victim to panopticism. Salinger employs negative capability in writing that Holden “was sort of crying” without “[knowing] why.” Holden evades offering an explanation for his tears, allowing the reader to ascertain the extent of his inner turmoil. Holden masks this psychological fragmentation with a facade of resistance — typified through his red hunting

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