Thursday, May 8, 2014

How First-Person Epistolary POV Can Make a Narrator Unreliable

(Note: I'll admit upfront that I wrote this essay for an English project involving The Great Gatbsy.  It's certainly relevant for any case of first-epistolary though, so I don't feel too bad posting it here along my usual, generalized writing posts.)

The Great Gatsby utilizes first-person epistolary point-of-view.  In doing so, it presents the thoughts of the narrator, Nick Carraway, in a “looking back” sort of manner.  Nick remembers events that happened a few years in the past during most of the book.  This lowers his credibility somewhat.

Typically, people do not perfectly recall events that occurred multiple years prior.  Nick makes the happenings detailed in The Great Gatsby seem in perfect clarity.  More than likely, the epistolary format of this book causes a low credibility in Nick’s descriptions.  While the larger course of events is probably of high credibility, the specifics are not.  Unless Nick had a perfect memory, as virtually no one does, many of the details given in the book are fluffed out with falsities.

The credibility of the narrator of The Great Gatsby is low overall.  While the major plot points are likely very close to “reality,” the first-person epistolary point-of-view grants a low credibility to the vast swathes of nitty-gritty description.

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