In high school literature classes, whenever the time comes to discuss The Great Gatsby, one of the first things to come up is always Nick Carraway and his unreliable narration. We all know that the events in the novel are told mostly from Nick’s perspective, and we’re all more than aware that said perspective is limited and biased.
Yet, talking about the novel in our class, I started looking at it from different lenses. I made an effort to see how the concepts we are discussing involving race could fit into The Great Gatsby‘s plot, setting, and characters. It was easy to see that most of the characters are privileged, experiencing the privilege we talk about in class, living luxurious lives and caring about nothing else but their own desires. It was harder, however, to pinpoint that privilege in Nick Carraway. As the narrator, he rarely talks about his faults, so one never really gets a full picture of him without doing a close analysis of his words.
One thing stood out to me: his hypocrisy. Despite claiming early on in the book that he would “reserve all judgements”, Nick goes on to judge every single person he meets, depicting to the reader not how those characters truly are, but instead how he sees them. These opinions are obviously influenced by people’s status in society: he judges them by their wealth, their personality, and their morals, in that order. This, I believe, can be seen as analogous to the kind of privilege we’ve been discussing in class. Nick lives in his own little privileged world and dislikes interacting with others who do not belong in it. This can be compared to white privilege in the U.S. and around the globe, since people prefer keeping their limited views on life rather than trying to understand someone else’s. Like Nick, people dislike getting out of their comfort zones and, hence, tend to prematurely judge others. To solve the problem, the opposite behavior must be encouraged: we need to talk to people different from us, even if it is uncomfortable, in order to truly understand them.