Visions of Blindness: Narrative Structures in 'The Great Gatsby' and 'Snow Falling on Cedars'

Monique Rooney

Abstract


F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1926) and David Guterson’s Snow Falling On Cedars (1995) are both novels that thematise the act of murder. The narration that unravels the murderous events in each novel is complicated through the creation of perspectives that are essentially unstable. The Great Gatsby utilises Nick Carraway’s singular narration as the primary though unreliable viewpoint to tell the story of Jay Gatsby and his adulterous and tragic affair with Daisy Buchanan on Long Island in New York City. This affair leads to the manslaughter of Tom Buchanan’s mistress Myrtle Wilson, the murder of Jay Gatsby and the suicide of George Wilson. By contrast, Snow Falling on Cedars builds narrative through a set of multiple, fragmented perspectives, although the primary viewpoint belongs to the white journalist Ishmael Chambers. The narration is partly structured through the genre of courtroom drama in which the murder case involves a Japanese American, Kabuo Miyamoto, who has been accused of killing Carl Heine, a German American fisherman. Carl Heine’s death by drowning would have been assumed to be an accident if not for the racist assumptions made by the detective and the Coroner, and by the close-knit and racially divided community of San Piedro Island. In each novel, the narrator is compelled to form a judgement regarding the accused, and in each novel the unequivocal location of blame in any one individual is made problematic. Both novels utilise gendered, racial, ethnic, and sexual stereotype as a way of exploring the themes of blame and judgement.

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