Why is Nick Carraway made the narrator of "The Great Gatsby"?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nick Carraway is the narrator for several reasons, but the chief reason is his subjective and sympathetic view of Jay Gatsby. In Carraway's lyrical hands and romantic eyes, Gatsby becomes greater than just a vulgar, pretentious grifter and con man in a pink suit who aims too high and loses his life as a consequence.

It is important who tells your story, and in Carraway's telling Gatsby becomes no less than a symbol of the American Dream. To Fitzgerald, the American Dream is the recurring hope of his European ancestors that they could remake the past. They could, they thought, come to this green, pristine (and to their European eyes), unsettled land and start anew, recreating Eden. Gatsby wants to do the same with Daisy, believing that if he can just turn back the hands of time to five years past, he can build a paradise with his beloved. Of course, as with anyone pursing this dream, it is a fantasy that can never be realized. However, as Nick recognizes and conveys, those who keep trying attain a nobility that raises all dreamers to a certain tragic grandeur.  As Nick puts it,

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

More prosaically, Nick is perfectly situated as the narrator. He lives next door to Gatsby and sympathizes with him. At the same time, he is close to the Buchanans. He is Daisy's cousin, and he went to college with Tom. He is of their social class and also of Jordan's social class. He understands them as only a person of their class can, but he also understands Gatsby.

lizbv eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nick Carroway is a good and logical choice for a narrator because, although the character tells the story in first person, he is able to tell us the story of Gatsby and Daisy (and others) from an objective third person point of view.  Though he is involved in the events, he is really set on the outside of everything as a onlooker and observer.

Additionally, Nick's opening lines tell us that he will be a good, neutral and objective narrator. He informs the reader about his father's advice to him: "Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone... just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had" (Fitzgerald 6). He then goes on to say, "In consequence I'm inclined to reserve all judgement" (6).  Therefore, we can assume that Nick truly does restrain from passing judgement and is more inclined to give us an open and objective viewpoint for the story.  We are then able to observe the events through his eyes, without any emotional filter that Gatsby's or Daisy's story may include in the retelling of events.

taangerine | Student

Nick Carraway was made the narrator the of the Great Gatsby because he was not physically involved in many of the incidents. He therefore had a neutral understanding and view of how things were played out in the story. 

udonbutterfly | Student

In my opinion Nick is meant to be the objective voice in the book, to look at everyone in an objective way but he judges people from time to time. Imagine if the story was from Daisy's perspective I don't think the story would have been delivered properly.  OR imagine if the story was actually by Gatsby I don't think the story would've been named The Great Gatsby, it would show too much pretentiousness in Gatsby if it were named so. Also the mystery around Gatsby would become nonexistent.

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The Great Gatsby

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