Explain the Significance of the Opening Two Chapters of the Great Gatsby
Explain the significance of the opening two chapters of the Great Gatsby.
Fitzgerald opens ‘The Great Gatsby’ with the introduction of Nick Carraway, who is the story’s narrator. The first chapters of the novel establish some contradictions in Nick’s point of view. He describes himself as ‘inclined to reserve all judgements’, however as the novel progresses, it is clear to see that this is not true as he also views himself as morally privileged, with a better idea of ‘decencies’ then most others. Furthermore, Nick admires Gatsby and so totally disregards his earlier statement that Gatsby represents everything Nick scorns about New York. On the other hand, Nick is to some extent non-judgemental and with his inclination to reserve judgement, opens up to other people with whom he may off not become friends.
To establish faith in the narrator, Fitzgerald develops Nick and positions him both within and without the dramatic situation, producing a dynamic effect. Before beginning to write about and describe Gatsby ‘The man who gives his name to this book’ Fitzgerald gives his utmost attention to developing Nick. In Nick’s ‘younger… years’ he was given the advice that ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one . . . just remember that all the people in this world havent had the advantages that youve had.’ In saying this, it is clear to see that Nick is from a higher, middle class family with a strong sense of moral justice as is shown when he explains that he is related to ‘prominent, well-to-do people in this Middle Western city for three generations.’ The reader is encouraged to trust Nick and to believe in his impartiality and good judgment; a biased narrator will make the narrative reactionary, not honest, so stressing his good judgment is crucial.
As the chapter progresses, Nick’s background is further explained, in the way that he continues to sell himself, informing the reader that he is an educated man, having graduated from Yale University. This seemingly simple detail is crucial. It qualifies Nick to be part of the action which he will unfold, a tale of socialites, money, and privilege, while also keeping him carefully apart, in the way he never truly mixes himself in the drama of the novella. All in all, this causes the readers, who would want to believe in their own moral strength, to start to completely believe in Nick as a narrator, expecting him to give the same judgement as they themselves would give.
Fitzgerald also uses the opening chapters to make Gatsby an enigma, creating an atmosphere of suspense, whenever his name is mentioned. Throughout the first two chapters Jay Gatsby is never seen, but only talked about. Gatsby stands in absolute contrast to the other characters of East Egg. In the opening chapters of the novel Nick is yet to find out the origin of the ever present ‘green light’, which affects Gatsby in such