Explore the function of the narrator in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

Authors Avatar by rider1994 (student)

Explore the function of the narrator in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and Brett Easton Ellis’ “Less Than Zero”

Published in 1925 by author F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, is considered a literary classic by many critics. The eponymous novel is set in the “Roaring 1920’s” post World War 1 and tells the tale of Jay Gatsby through the novel’s narrator, Nick Carraway. The exposition begins when we are told of the socio-cultural divide between the upper class of America, by a character who has just moved to Long Island from Minnesota. The clear separation between West Egg and East Egg is an idea explored by Nick, who is a resident of the “lower-upper” class West Egg. Throughout the novel, it can be observed that events that occur are a direct parallel to the life of Scott Fitzgerald, as he projects characteristics of both Gatsby and Nick that were similar to his own. It is widely believed that the book is written in a manner that is cynical of the American Dream and of the elitist society, in a biased fashion that favours Gatsby. Conversely, Less Than Zero is a novel set in the 1980s and tells the story of affluent college students, who lead hedonistic lifestyles with the security of their parents’ wealth. Brett Easton Ellis’ first novel in his oeuvre is written during the years following the Vietnam War of economic prosperity in Reagan’s America and highlights the fragmented society caused by passionless relationships between friends and family and the lack of morality present in upper class America. The two novels contrast in the cities that they are set in; The Great Gatsby is set in New York’s Long Island, whilst Less Than Zero is set in California on the opposite coast of America. However the behaviour of the two generations is quite similar, and is reflective of the influence of money on higher-class society during the respective periods.

In The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway is not only the narrator, but also a character that actively participates in the novel and it his opinion that dictates how the reader perceives other characters. One obvious example of this is in the novel’s title, as the epithet “Great” is used to describe a character that the reader has not yet met. This suggests that Nick Carraway idolizes Gatsby in some aspects and to some degree, aspires to what Gatsby represents. “… Produced like the supper, no doubt, out of a caterers basket.” This short extract is taken from a section where Nick is describing a lavish party that is frequently held by Gatsby. The metaphor implies that Gatsby is almost God-like in the way he is able to throw extravagant parties yet remains anonymous to those that attend. During the 1920’s, there was a period of what was known as prohibition, where all alcohol was banned, and yet people are often described drinking throughout The Great Gatsby. This could be a condemnation of upper class society, as it suggests they are just as immoral, if not more so, than the lower classes. Fitzgerald himself went from a family of mediocrity to a sudden rise in splendor through his writings, and can therefore relate to the awe that one might feel when acclimatizing to such a society. Less Than Zero’s narrator, Clay, does not represent its author in the same way as Nick does, however Easton-Ellis uses Clay to magnify the issues that surrounded affluent college students during the 80s. Clay often negatively portrays the actions of other characters, which can be seen as an act of hypocrisy. For example,

Join now!

“Because you both stole a quarter gram of cocaine from me the last time I left my door open. That’s why.”  

At this point, Clay accuses his sisters of stealing his cocaine, which they put down to him “leaving his door unlocked”. This may be a reference to the lack of privacy or a lack of trust within society to such a degree that one cannot trust even their closest family.

Nick Carraway is arguably a biased narrator, through his romanticized and idealized description of the novel’s protagonist and adversely, his foil, Tom Buchanan. On their first encounter ...

This is a preview of the whole essay