In a novel the narrator is the vehicle, the one telling the story to the reader. Laying out critical information, describing the setting, creating mood and atmosphere, and generating information upon which we create our opinions on characters and events in the novel. These are classically what we associate the narrator with regard to the novel and its progression. The characters that the author describes are the major focus of the novel. Characters change and develop over the course of the novel, if there were no kind of change in any of the characters the novel would be almost pointless. Stories need to have rounded characters, whether they change for the better of worse, if nothing happened the novel wouldn t be much to read and wouldn t leave the reader satisfied one way or another in the end. What is interesting is when the narrator takes on a different type of role in a novel. He is no longer used merely as a device to incorporate information; instead he plays an important and active part in the development of the plot.
Traditionally the narrator is usually outside of the story, but in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nick Carraway (the narrator) is much more than that. Nick in this novel is an active member of the story, being only second in importance to the main character Jay Gatsby. This novel takes a very different approach in its development of the characters. Having the narrator change more than any of the other characters, this thesis will explain Fitzgerald s unusual development of the characters and their greater significance through the novel. For although we would expect a certain, standard technique in telling a story, Fitzgerald uses a much different method.
The first person to discuss is the main character of the story Jay Gatsby. A self made man, who amasses a great amount of wealth, he is a romantic idealist trapped in his own world. Though we would initially expect this character to have the most profound and recognizable change for no other reason than he is the main character, he doesn t. Not only does he not change but he in fact he is incapable of change. He cannot, because his life is dedicated to the fulfillment of a romantic dream. A dream so powerful he becomes blinded with this self-delusion that no matter what happens, what the turn of events, it will come true. He never changes or grows in the novel. Over the course of the novel more and more information is given about him, and we slowly learn more about this mysterious millionaire, but nothing changes about him. He dedicates his life to Daisy Buchanan. He moves his home to be near her, throws regular parties at the off chance she might show up, generates his great wealth with the impression that money will win her back to him. He doesn t recognize that he can t bring back the past. That events that happened can t be reconstructed. Yet his child like romanticism, which doesn t change or waver at any point assures him that his one true ideal will one day be his. What is interesting and briefly touched upon is the question of what would happen if he did win the heart of Daisy. For he has built his hole life around what he believes to be this one perfect woman, and where would he go and what would he have after he aquires the only thing he believes he ever wanted. Sometimes the dream, the ideal of that perfect person doesn t always turn out the way it seemed like it would, to realize at some point she isn t everything. To do so would show some mild development, but for Gatsby his perfect ideal remains though the course of the novel.
The second character that plays a significant role in the novel that doesn t show any development is Tom Buchanan. Tom is a sterling example of the established rich class. He is a powerful, self-involved, elitist. Born into money, he has long been a member of the upper class unlike Gatsby. Tom having neither morals nor integrity represents the rich and their attitudes of the time. He shows of, throws parties to boast his possessions, including his mistress. He is incapable of emotions, which would make him out to be a more human character. He feels no remorse for causing Gatsby s death or for braking Myrtle s nose, only self-pity for his own misfortunes. From the beginning of the novel to the very end he is basically to put it simply and bluntly a jerk. He holds his wife to a great double standard in, it is all right for him to have an affair and to even let it be common knowledge, but it would be completely unexceptable for his wife Daisy to do the same. For a character like tom to develop he would have to come to some serious realizations about himself. He would have to change all of his attitudes and behaviors, which for him would be near impossible. While characters such as Nick feel a certain provincial squeamishness over all that happens at the end of the novel he is oblivious.
The last character of the novel that I will mention, the one who makes the novel unique is Nick Carraway. Though he is the narrator of the story, he is also a functioning character in the novel, second in importance only to Gatsby. More importantly he is the only character we see in the novel that goes though any kind of change or development. The novel begins and ends with Nick, and in a way the events tell the story of his development. In the beginning of the novel nick is reserved. Listening to advice given to him by his father he tends to reserve personal judgement of others. He sees faults of the other characters but does not act or say anything about them. He tolerates people, giving them what you might call the benefit of the doubt, he doesn t judge people. Nick interacts with the other characters in the story and even befriends the solitary Gatsby. This is very unusual for the narrator to be in the middle of the story, interacting as much as he does with others and going through the most dramatic change. He continues to reserve judgement on anyone until he turns thirty. Around this point his morals and his duty to speak up start to kick in. He can no longer tolerate the behavior and morals of the eastern upper class. He returns west after Gatsby s funeral, realizing that everyone except for Gatsby had been without morals and is too materialistic. No one except for Gatsby had shown any other real positive qualities like his romanticism and idealism. Nick over the course of the novel changes, while at first he can be tolerant, towards the end he feels like he can no longer idly sit back and be a part of this society with all its loose morals. Nick has principles and values that change over the novel, this is something we don t see in any other of the characters.
What makes The Great Gatsby such a unique novel is the fact that besides the narrator, none of the characters develop through the novel. None of them change or grow as people they just continue to function as they always have, staying exactly the same. The narrator, who in most novels would play a small part, is the only character who makes any kind of change. While at first he can tolerate them, toward the end he can no longer stand their behavior. Nick moves back west, leaving behind this unchanging world that he feels he no longer wants to be a part of.