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The Significance of the Creation of Psyche

An essay on the significance of the narrator creating the characters psyche

Novels can express the inner life of characters; their intimate consciousness. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a novel set in the ?Roaring 20s? which discusses the apparent nonexistence of an inner life and conscious in the hypocritical people of the era; thus they have a psyche created for them by the narrator.

The characters in The Great Gatsby seem to wander about in a daze, with a degree of apathy to everything around them. George Wilson?s wife isn?t worried about her own philandering, indeed, she believes George is ?so dumb he doesn?t know he is alive?. It also occurs when Jordan is out driving with Nick:
?Nick: You're a rotten driver, either you ought to be more careful or you oughtn't to drive at all.
Jordan: I am careful.
Nick: No you're not.
Jordan: Well, other people are.
Nick: What's that got to do with it
Jordan: They'll keep out of my way, it takes two to make an accident.?
Jordan does not really care about her poor driving. She still drives at dangerous speeds, and assumes that people will get out of her way. This apathy shown by Myrtle, Jordan, and all the other characters indicates that they are without an essence to their being, and are empty shells of people. But why then are characters created within our minds?

Nick reflects that his one ?cardinal virtue? is that he is ?one of the few honest people? he has even known. Yet we should not trust Nick?s narrative, as his inner life colours the story, and we are told of what he wants to tell. Apathy is Nick?s perception of the twenties, where people ?drift coolly out of nowhere and buy a palace on Long Island Sound?. So, one by one, our impressions of the character?s inner lives are created within our own minds. Yet these impressions are incorrect, as the truth has been distorted by Nick?s narrative ? Nick has created their psyches.

Nick wants his readers to believe that he has a conscience that is great enough to pass judgment on an amoral world, and says (rather pompously) that he is ?inclined to reserve all judgments? about other people. But as we learn later he barely ever reserves judgment, and is very partial in his way of telling the story about several characters. Nick is happy to overlook Gatsby?s bootlegging, his association with speakeasies and with Meyer Wolfsheim, but is contemptuous of Jordan for cheating at a mere golf game. And while he says that he is prepared to forgive this sort of behavior in a woman?
?It made no difference to me. Dishonesty in a woman is a thing you can never blame too deeply?
?it seems that he cannot accept her for being ?incurably dishonest?, even though Gatsby?s dishonesty far outweighs Jordan?s. When it comes to judging women, not only are they judged, but they are judged by how well they stand up to his own virtues.

Nick does not like Tom, and his opinion of him clouds his supposed nonjudgmental narrative. Tom treats Myrtle even worse than Daisy because in his eyes Daisy is worth a three hundred thousand dollar pearl necklace while Myrtle is worth a dog leash. With that fact in mind it is reasonable to assume Nick is telling us that Tom considers Myrtle to be his pet dog. Once again, Nick has created for us a concept of a character: that Tom is the Bad Guy of the story.

The significance of a story staged in a place populated by people whose identities are twisted by the narrator is that we do not know what to believe. Gatsby is set to be the hero of the story (for example, the title), but this may have been created by the narrator, as he admires Gatsby's optimism, an attitude that is out of step with the possibly fabricated sordidness of the other characters. Nick is ""in love"" with Gatsby's capacity to dream and ability to live as if the dream were to come true, and it is this that clouds his judgment of Gatsby and therefore obscures our grasp on Gatsby.

This is illustrated when Nick speaks of Gatsby?s sentimentality:
""I gathered that he wanted to recover something... that had gone into loving Daisy? out of the corner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalks really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees? through all he said, even through his appalling sentimentality, I was reminded of something - an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that I had heard somewhere a long time ago . . .""
These are Nick's words. Whose ""appalling sentimentality"" is told of here? Has Nick reported any of Gatsby's words - which make up so little of the novel - to suggest that he would even begin to put his love for Daisy in these ""sentimental"" terms? Is this Nick's sentiment for Gatsby, or perhaps Nick's attempt at displaying those ""rather literary"" days he had in college? Or both? Due to Nick creating these characters? inner lives for us, we are unable to tell whether Gatsby was a star-struck lover or a criminal mastermind.

In The Great Gatsby, the characters are empty, apathetic shells. The narrator states that he has distaste for their nothingness, and so creates an inner integrity or dishonour according to his own values.

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