Point of View in The Great Gatsby

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  • 0:03 Who's Responsible?
  • 0:46 Nick Carraway
  • 1:18 First Person Point of View
  • 2:05 Peripheral Narration
  • 3:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

If you've ever read or heard of 'The Great Gatsby,' you may be familiar with the the main character of the story, Jay Gatsby. But have you ever stopped to wonder about the point of view of the book? This lesson covers and clarifies the novel's point of view, offering insights into the main characters and their perspectives.

Who's Responsible?

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald tells the story of an exceptionally wealthy man of mystery, Jay Gatsby, who rose from relative obscurity, purchased an immense mansion in West Egg on the Long Island Sound, and spent every weekend throwing blowout parties for hundreds of people. Behind that extravagant exterior, Gatsby is a complex and lovesick man, driven by his singular need to secure the affection of his long-lost love, Daisy Buchanan.

But how exactly do we know all of this? Who shares with us the spectacular moments that make up Gatsby's existence, along with the nitty gritty details about his innermost desires and insecurities?

Nick Carraway

The Great Gatsby is told from the point of view, or through the eyes, of Nick Carraway, a Midwestern man who finds himself on the East Coast after World War I. Although Carraway comes from a wealthy family (he's descended from a duke), he leads a relatively modest existence. Compared to Gatsby's rolling estate, Carraway's cozy bungalow next door looks like a shack. This stark comparison between dwellings, and ultimately lifestyles, helps shape the way Carraway participates in the story, and also how he narrates it.

First Person Point of View

The Great Gatsby is narrated by Carraway, but the way he tells the story changes throughout the book. Many of Carraway's insights are described through the first person point of view, where he references himself as he expresses his thoughts, feelings, actions, and observations: 'I lived at West Egg, the - well, the less fashionable of the two…'

Throughout the story, Carraway explains what he's doing and what he's saying, and occasionally offers us a little nugget of insight about what he thinks of Gatsby or the other people around him. For instance, in Chapter Six, he makes the following observation about Gatsby: 'He talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy.'

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