Narrative gaps


The most obvious example of gaps in the narrative is in Chapter 2, where Nick fails to connect certain stages of his experience at the party in Tom’s apartment in New York. This is attributed to drunkenness, but it is a signal to the reader that Nick’s narrative can be ambiguous and uncertain.


Other gaps take the form of allusions to events about which we know nothing else. Meyer Wolfsheim tells part of a story about Rosy Rosenthal, and indeed all the stories involving criminal activity are either cut short or allusive in some way. In Chapter 7 Tom refers to a place he stayed with Daisy called Kapiolani, when he ‘carried [her] down from the Punch Bowl to keep [her] shoes dry’, in order to undermine Daisy’s resolve to leave her husband for Gatsby. These allusions imply an included audience, privileged with the knowledge of the rest of the story. Daisy knows to what Tom refers and this highlights their private, shared experience, from which Gatsby is excluded. The allusions to criminal activity also emphasise the secretive world inhabited by Gatsby, and the ways in which Nick is not initiated into that world because he doesn’t want a ‘gonnegtion’. 


When Jordan presents a similarly fragmentary account of Daisy’s decision to ‘change’ her mine’, she omits details because she herself is not privy to them, identifying Daisy’s experience as completely personal to her. The letter which Daisy is holding when she tries to call off the wedding to Tom is seen to disintegrate in the bath water (‘coming to pieces like snow’) and remains a tantalising piece of communication which Jordan cannot illuminate and Nick, unusually, does not attempt to imagine. Even the identity of the letter writer remains mysterious (we might speculate that this is Gatsby but there is no evidence for this).


Elsewhere, there are many examples of passages which derive from Nick’s imagination, producing significant gaps in the narrative for readers who do not uncritically accept Nick’s version. The following are all reconstructed with the authority of an omniscient narrator:

  • The account of Wilson’s movements
  • Gatsby’s thoughts and feelings as he leaves Louisville
  • Gatsby’s reflections as he uses the pool for the last time
  • Jordan’s motivations
  • Daisy’s world as a debutante.

Yet Nick is very clearly not endowed with this quality. He says himself that his perception was ‘distorted beyond my eyes’ power of correction’ emphasising the uncertainty of his accounts.

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