The Great Gatsby

Unreliable Narration in F. Scott Fitzgerald and Julian Barnes 11th Grade

An “unreliable narrator” is defined as “a narrator whose credibility has been seriously compromised.[1]” The phrase itself was first coined by Wayne C. Booth in The Rhetoric of Fiction (1961): in the course of his analysis, Booth goes onto argue that “A narrator is reliable when he speaks or acts in accordance with the norms of the work, unreliable when he does not.[2]” Although a theory later challenged by Peter J Rabinowitz, the idea of the "unreliable narrator" does provide some context to the concept of “unreliability.” As I will argue, the main difference between the presentations of two respective narrators, Tony in The Sense of an Ending [2011] and Nick in The Great Gatsby [1925], is how reliable the narrators consider themselves to be, compared to what the reader may believe. Although both seem to some extent unreliable, our opinions do change at key moments in each novel.

The way in which the narrators are used by the writers provide clues as to why they act as they do. Fitzgerald uses his book as an opportunity to launch a scathing attack on American society in the 1920s. He argues that instead of separating itself from the days of the past as originally thought, American society has changed very little, with distinct...

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