In The Great Gatsby, what are 3 quotes that show why the story is told from Nick's point of view?

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When a narrator relates a story from his or her point of view, we call it a first person narrative. This means that the narrator recounts events from how he or she perceives it. The central ideas, thoughts and beliefs reflected in the story are mostly the narrator's own. In this sense then, the narrator would be inclined to make judgments and assumptions and come to conclusions based on his or her subjective perception. This perception is informed by the narrator's personal experiences, feelings, and values.

In The Great Gatsby, we become aware from the outset that he is telling the story. He uses first-person references, 'I', 'my' and 'me'as in the following quote from chapter one:

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

Nick uses the same form of reference throughout the novel, whether he is describing a person, place, situation or thing. In chapter 2, he says the following when he sees Tom's mistress, Myrtle Wilson, for the first time:

His voice faded off and Tom glanced impatiently around the garage. Then I heard footsteps on a stairs, and in a moment the thickish figure of a woman blocked out the light from the office door. She was in the middle thirties, and faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can.

Once again, his perception is first-person for he tells the reader what he sees. The fact that he calls her 'faintly stout' and mentions her 'surplus flesh' might be a view that Tom would disagree with because it comes across as slightly critical or even insulting since she is, after all, the woman he is having an affair with.

A third quote which proves that the story is told from Nick's point of view is when, in chapter 3, he shares with the reader what he has mentioned thus far:

Reading over what I have written so far, I see I have given the impression that the events of three nights several weeks apart were all that absorbed me. On the contrary, they were merely casual events in a crowded summer, and, until much later, they absorbed me infinitely less than my personal affairs.

In this quote, he acknowledges that he has shared his own opinions and reflections and. Throughout the novel he reports on what he assumed others were thinking or feeling and why they were acting or not acting in a particular way. It is ironic that he calls these events 'casual' when they, in actual fact, are the reason for him sharing them with us in the first place. If they had not been important, he would not have cared to mention them at all.

The reason why Nick is actually the one telling the story is obvious. The other characters were so deeply involved in the events that their roles as narrators would have been heavily slanted in their favor. Since Nick was involved with all the characters on a reasonably superficial level, his perspective would, therefore, be more objective and less personal. 

bethkathmill | Student

For the first quote, I would use something from chapter 1. Nick frames the entirety of the novel based off of an observation by his father - "'Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,' he told me, 'just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages you've had'" (1). Nick goes on to apply this observation to Gatsby, as well as his retelling of Gatsby's story, and his own role in it, and his belief in Gatsby's personal innocence, but the guilt of the society with which Gatsby was a part. Nick writes, "Observing judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parceled out unequally at birth" (2). 

For a second quote, I would use one of Nick's reflections of Daisy, as everyone in the novel (including, in this case, her cousin) seems to be in love with her. I don't know what the page numbers are like in your copy, but this is a quote from the end of Nick's first evening spent with Daisy, Tom, and Jordan Baker. It's just after Daisy has finished detailing her sorrow upon the birth of her daughter, because she was a girl, and her description of her own suffering in her marriage. Daisy has just finished explaining to Nick how "sophisticated" she is when Nick reflects, "The instant her voice broke off ceasing to compel my attention, my belief, I felt the basic insincerity of what she had said. It made me uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick of some sort to exact a contributory emotion from me. I waited, and sure enough, in a moment she looked at me with an absolute smirk on her lovely face, as if she had asserted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged" (17). 

For your third quote, I think I would pull away a bit from the central narrative of the novel and focus on some of Nick's broader reflections of New York, particularly because these, in some ways, are reflective of the author's observations of the growth of modernization and urbanization. At several points in the novel, Nick thinks about the crush of people in the city and how he can be so close to so many others and so alone at the same time. Nick recounts, "At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others - poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner - young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life" (56-7). 

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The Great Gatsby

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