Nick's Judgement In The Great Gatsby

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In The Great Gatsby, the story of the summer of 1922 is delivered through the first person narrative of Nick Carraway. Since the novel 's publication in 1925, many discussions have arisen over the reliability of Nick 's account. This is because his personal judgements and opinions are woven into the narration, giving it bias. One such judgement is made in the title of the novel. By depicting Jay Gatsby as "great", the reader is compelled to wonder; how does this opinion on the man influence Nick’s narrative? Critics are divided on the subject of how deluded Nick actually is. William Voegli (2003) claims that Nick is grounded and honest- if not initially naive, but ultimately changed by his experiences. Being the bystander, he is able to observe …show more content…
It is the extent to which this partiality distorts his vision, that critics discuss. Voegli explores Nick 's claim of "reserv[ing] all judgements" as per his father 's advice. He believes that Nick interprets this advice on an ethical ground, observing the moral rather than the material differences between people. Hence, "it is not advantages or opportunities that are parcelled out unequally, but 'fundamental decencies. '" From this, Voegli develops his argument that while "Nick judges Gatsby with a leniency" that he does not necessarily extend to other characters, he is still able to maintain a passive narrative and "hold two opposite ideas in his mind at the same time." While I do agree with this point, it seems that it makes Nick more contradictory rather than open-minded. Many times he shows his ambivalence, such as at Myrtle 's party, where he is "simultaneously enchanted and repelled." This suggests to me that Nick is rather hypocritical; even as he expresses his disapproval for the indecency of some characters, he finds himself too "within" to be able to defy it. Voegli, however, justifies this criticism; by believing that not all men are born honourable, Nick is able to allow for some despicable actions, as he understands that they themselves see it as entirely justified. Thus, "even as Nick praises Gatsby, he expresses disdain for him," and "even as Nick condemns Tom, he allows for Tom 's meager ration of fundamental decencies." Voegli is suggesting that even as Gatsby gives Nick a confidential glimpse into his "extraordinary gift for hope," Nick makes the choice to remain "earth-bound," hence giving us the assurance that his admiration for Gatsby does not sway his narrative so significantly that we can no longer believe his judgements. In a way, Nick is the only voice of reason, as he recognises the negative qualities in people, but is also perceptive enough to understand why they are the way they

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