Narrators are a medium through which ideas held by characters in the book are intertwined with interpretations of the reader. The reader is guided by the perspective each narrator takes and has to consider this point of view when analyzing the content of the novel. The story is told through the eyes of a character who drifts between the background and foreground of conflict: many narrators are men of thought, not of action. Each narrator’s characteristics influence their positions and opinions throughout a book. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”, Nick Carraway describes himself as a morally correct, nonjudgmental confidant who crosses paths with the prodigious people of the East and in doing so witnesses Jay Gatsby’s ephemeral dream of lavishness and love. Nick ultimately proves to be the most duplicitous, judgmental, and superficial character in the book who cites Gatsby’s misfortune as the evidence toward his refutation of romanticism and the perceived definition of what it means to be American.
Within the first few pages of the novel it is apparent that Nick consistently lies to maintain a false image of himself in the eyes of others yet pretends he has no interest in maintaining it. Therefore, he is duplicitous. Publicly, he carries himself in an eloquent, dignified manner; he appears unbiased and patient, eliciting the trust of others. But behind this curtain of empty gestures and false sincerity Nick admits that he is entirely uninterested in the grief of men he knows in only a superficial sense. He claims that “most of the confidences were unsought.” Frequently “[he] [feigns] sleep, preoccupation or hostile levity when… an intimate revelation [is] quivering on the horizon.” (1). The personified intimate revelation quivering on the horizon embodies the weakness and emotional instability of these unknown men. Nick is duplicitous in that he uses his good reputation to his advantage by soliciting personal information from others, while stressing his disinterest in maintaining his image. Nick sees his personality as a tool to manipulate others because despite expressing his disdain toward these uninvited confessions, he continues to maintain an honest and trustworthy image in the eyes of others: sacrificing the integrity of his claim. Nick attempts to hide his judgmental nature in order to establish himself as the only morally correct and trustworthy character in the book. The item of Nick’s greatest judgment is Jay Gatsby, who “represented everything for which [he] [had] unaffected scorn” (2). However, Nick also insists that “there was something gorgeous about him… as if he were related to one of those intricate machines… it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness...” (2). Both his “unaffected scorn” and excessive praise are a result of his extensive judgment of Gatsby. Nick’s metaphor compares Gatsby to a machine, which implies Nick sees Gatsby as a man untouched by doubt who is convinced he can achieve anything. Like a machine there is a purpose to his work, a defined goal that is being surmounted. Gatsby’s actions are manifestations of his desire to be wealthy. He is flamboyant, pompous, and only cares about impressing the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan. He has designed his own personality, causing Nick to feel scornful toward his inability to be authentic. Although he is superficially motivated, Nick finds something unbroken and raw about his sheer will power to remain in character at all times. He respects the fact that although Gatsby represents all that he despises, his gestures draw in those around him: he has embodied his desires to the point at which he believes if he plays his part without deviation, acting will become reality.
Nick is superficial in a subtle and reserved way, not at all in the same sense as Jay Gatsby, who parades his prodigality through the streets. He mentions that “[his] family [had] been