The Great Gatsby Contents
Other narrative voices
Jordan is a very important narrator, supplying details from Daisy’s life and especially the account of her choice of marrying Tom as opposed to Gatsby. This is presented in retrospect from a position of knowledge, but preserves the sense of confusion that an observer would have experienced if they were not privy to the full story.
Daisy’s distress and drunken statements are presented to the reader, with a reference to ‘a letter’ which disintegrates in the cold bath used by Jordan and the maid to sober her up. Jordan’s narrative is tantalisingly silent on the contents of the letter, forcing the reader to rely on inference based on Daisy’s behaviour and speech. It may be interpreted as a communication from Gatsby, perhaps a response to the letter that Daisy sends to Oxford to inform him of the end of the relationship, also referred to in quite vague language: ‘The letter reached Gatsby while he was still at Oxford.’ (Chapter 8)
Tom’s brief narrative of the accident which killed his mistress, Myrtle, and his subsequent encounter with Wilson, is judged to be false by Nick. Tom’s narrative is melodramatic, combining violent statements (‘He was crazy enough to kill me’) with maudlin self-pity expressed in cliché (‘I sat down and cried like a baby’).
In the final chapter, there are two further narratives about Gatsby’s origins, each of which complicate Gatsby’s own narrative. Meyer Wolfsheim relates to Nick that he first met Gatsby as a young major, newly returned from the war and extremely poor. He claims that he ‘made’ Gatsby and raised him up ‘out of the gutter’. Wolfsheim says Gatsby was ‘fine-appearing’ and ‘gentlemanly’ but it is his Oxford credentials which seem to guarantee to Wolfsheim that he can ‘use him good’.
One interesting feature of Wolfsheim’s narrative voice is the use of phonetic spellings to suggest his accent, as in ‘Oggsford’ and ‘gonnegtion’. Fitzgerald doesn’t use this technique for any other character and it could be said to be a caricature of either Jewish speakers or of New York gangsters, particularly the former as descriptions of Wolfsheim focus on stereotypical Jewish characteristics.
Gatsby’s father, Henry Gatz, offers another perspective. He talks of ‘Jimmy’, a young man who ‘ran away’ and hurt his family, but had shown early signs of wanting to ‘improve’ himself. Unlike Wolfsheim, Gatz’s voice is somewhat naïve. His pride in his son’s achievements appears untainted with any sense of his criminal connections: ‘He’d of helped build up the country’. Despite Gatsby’s lack of contact, Gatz asserts that, ‘Ever since he made a success he was very generous with me.’
There are other instances where Nick’s voice becomes blurred with the voices of others and verges on an omniscient narrative style. Most notably, in Chapter 8, Nick presents an account of events at the garage which he did not witness. This account includes minute details and dialogue, such his portrayal of Wilson:
The only possible ‘source’ of this description is Michaelis, yet it is difficult to imagine Nick interviewing Michaelis in order to gain this information. The rest of the account, after Michaelis has left Wilson, is attributed to the police, but has a more hypothetical tone:
The taxi driver
The most tenuous example of Nick reconstructing a possible narrative is in Chapter 9, as he supposes that a taxi driver tells passengers about Daisy and Gatsby returning to East Egg after the accident:
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