Mikhail Bakhtin, in his essay "Discourse in the Novel," characterizes his theory of authoritative discourse as "the word of the fathers," in which previous external knowledge demands a "simultaneously internally persuasive" acknowledgement (532). Bakhtin explains further that this authoritative word is met with its influence intact and is therefore perceived as truth, finding its way into the point of view in which everything is examined. It requires complete commitment to its authority. Given its absolute authority, however, also requires that the follower accepts as true the "entire context framing it" and it "enters our verbal consciousness as a compact and indivisible mass" with no freedom to reject parts of the ideology when it no longer suits (Bakhtin, 533). It is consequently difficult for any transmission of thought or word to stand clear of this intrinsic dogma. In a novel that uses language as a device for uncovering the perceived identity of its protagonist, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby also shows evidence of this same external narration that attempts to achieve discrimination between classes and control the behavior that governs social conduct.
Fitzgerald's narrative strategy of using the character/observer Nick Carraway creates an ambiguity that distorts the reality of who the story is about and instead the story becomes about what the narrator sees and consequently interprets. In doing so, the author allows the reader to witness Nick's own authoritative scourse. By beginning the first chapter with Nick's account of his father's advice, Fitzgerald reveals the external narrative that governs Nick's interaction and comprehension of the events that unfold. Though the paternal counsel gives the impression of altruistic forgiveness for those with less "advantages", the underlying message that Nick comes to understand is far different.
I understood he meant a great deal more than that...as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parceled out unequally at birth (Fitzgerald, 2).
Nick's authoritative discourse is recognized and discarded when he sides with Gatsby late in the story. Nick emphatically announces to Gatsby, "You're worth the whole damn bunch put together," and realizes that it is the only compliment he ever gave him as he "disapproved of [Gatsby] from beginning to end" (Fitzgerald, 154). The accolade is remembered by Nick as his saving grace, acknowledging that he had been judgmental in his assumptions of Gatsby.
Gatsby's character is attacked, impugned, fabricated and speculated upon by virtually everyone in the book. As is evidenced in the party scene of chapter three, the gossip about Gatsby and his history becomes an authoritative discourse in itself as the partygoers are convinced of his background and various misdeeds stating, "somebody told me they thought he killed a man once"; "he was a German spy during the war'"; "he...