Nick Carraway: An Unreliable Narrator

The story of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is about a man, named Nick Carraway, who moved to Long Island’s North Shore to work as a government corporate-bond trader at Wall Street. He is the neighbor of a very wealthy and popular man, named Jay Gatsby—who is deeply and hopelessly in love with Nick’s second cousin, Daisy. However, Daisy is already married and has a family with Tom Buchanan—a famous polo player. The novel is simply a love story; it is a story of a hopeless romantic in love with a woman whom he will never have again. With the lack of morality and unrestrained materialism of the people around him, Nick had witnessed the gift of hope of Jay Gatsby and the evils within New York City.

The whole story is narrated by Nick Carraway, who had close experiences with both Gatsby and Daisy. Everything in the story is only the collection of Nick Carraway’s perception on various issues, his opinions of them, and the thoughts he had racing during the experience. Looking at the way Nick narrated the story, it can be ascertained that Nick Carraway is biased to Gatsby throughout the story, in such a way that the accounts are very much one-sided as opposed to it being an impartial reminiscence of his past.

Nick says that he is a man who is inclined to reserve all judgments (7), when in fact throughout the story he has been making negative judgments towards the other characters except Gatsby. He called the other characters a rotten crowd and that Gatsby is worth a whole lot put together (160). This shows that Nick thinks better of Gatsby than of the other characters in the story—putting him on Gatsby’s side. He describes Jordan Baker as an incurably dishonest (64) and careless person (65), Tom and Daisy as careless people who smash-up things and creatures and then retreat back into their money or vast carelessness (186), Mr. McKee as feminine (36), and George Wilson as a spiritless man (31). Nick admits that the only one exempted to his reactions is Gatsby, and that he represents everything for which he has an unaffected scorn (8)—making it difficult for him to make judgments against him. He exempts Gatsby from his judgments because of Gatsby’s extraordinary gift of hope, and for Nick, reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope (7). Unlike the other characters in the story, Nick shows approval of Gatsby by the way he describes him and his actions. The first time he met Gatsby, he describe Gatsby as an “elegant young rough-neck whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd” (54). Whether or not Nick’s judgments are true, it still shows that Nick is not a person who is inclined to reserve all judgments.

Nick’s friendship with Gatsby greatly affects his judgment towards Gatsby. Nick has always been a good friend to Gatsby. He supported and helped Gatsby in getting Daisy back even if he knows that what Gatsby is doing is wrong. Nick even agreed to the favor of Gatsby into hosting a tea party with only Gatsby and Daisy as his invited guests (88). He made sure that Tom Buchanan will not be around at the tea party. He did not care about what Tom will feel, he only cared for Gatsby’s happiness. Nick, being the only good friend to Gatsby, even arranged Gatsby’s funeral (171). He made sure that the funeral was grand and that people will actually visit and mourn for his loss. Because of their strong friendship, for Nick, he and Gatsby are a team. He says that he and Gatsby both experience scorn against everyone they know (172). After Gatsby’s death, East Egg for Nick is now haunted and an eye sore (183). He moved back to West Egg because living East became pointless for Gatsby is no longer around.

Nick, throughout his narration, often intentionally overlooks Gatsby’s many wrong doings. Nick knows that Gatsby sells alcohol illegally, even though the Prohibition is in effect, and has a bond business with Mr. Wolfsheim—a man rumored to have fixed the Word Series. Despite of knowing all this, Nick quickly suspends his judgments against him because of the fact that they are very close friends. He also did not meddle in Gatsby’s affairs with Daisy even if he knows that what they are doing will just hurt people—including them. It shows how willingly Nick allows himself to be partial to Gatsby, despite maintaining an illusion of him being a fair man. It is unfair how Nick accepts Gatsby’s wrong doings when he disapproves of Jordan Baker cheating off her golf game, along with many other things. On the night that Tom confronted Gatsby, Nick was not upset at Gatsby; he was upset at the other characters. He told Jordan Baker that night that he had enough of all of them (149) showing that he is siding with Gatsby, despite being no different from all the other men.

Nick and Gatsby had a very strong relationship, and it can be seen through Nick’s many dealings with Gatsby. As a result of their strong connection, Nick’s narration of The Great Gatsby becomes heavily biased towards Gatsby’s favor, often highlighting the events that show Gatsby’s good character in a good light, whilst downplaying the unfavorable ones. Knowing how biased Nick is towards Gatsby, it is helpful in a way that the readers will not only understand Gatsby, but also understand Nick’s character— and how Nick deals with those close to him, in this case Gatsby. It shows that Nick is a loyal and true friend to Gatsby, despite his many, many flaws. He is willing to overlook many critical inadequacies that Gatsby had, all for the sole purpose of being his friend.


This is a review I did for my LIT103 class. I’m so happy with the results and the positive comments my professor gave me, so I thought it’s worth sharing to others. Please do cite this post if you’re going to use it. Also, don’t forget to cite the book as well!
Fitzgerald, F.Scott. The Great Gatsby. 1926. Reprint. Great Britain: Penguin Books, 1994. Print.

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7 thoughts on “Nick Carraway: An Unreliable Narrator

  1. Pingback: F. Scott Fitzgerald: The King of the Jazz Age | Books on the Wall

  2. Pingback: Personal Perusal: Why You Have to Read the Great Gatsby – SOBABOY

  3. This was amazing it really helped and you should be proud of what you’ve written! I’m always amazed when people can write so much and not drag on and kept me interested!

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