The shepherds of the Bible are known for their leadership, but the most important element of these characters is not what they do, but what they see. The shepherds of the Nativity Story would be unable to tell the story of Christ’s birth had they not witnessed it firsthand. Shepherd are the most prominent symbols of witnesses in classic literature. Many novels in the more recent past have used these biblical figures in their work. Most notably, F. Scott Fitzgerald linked The Great Gatsby to the Bible through the narrator, Nick Carraway, the witness of the story. The shepherds witness the birth of Christ, and Nick witnesses the death of Gatsby. While Nick hears of Gatsby well before he sees him, the same can be said for the shepherds, who were visited by an angel to tell of Jesus’ nativity. F. Scott Fitzgerald utilizes Nick as a “shepherd” as the ultimate witness to Gatsby’s peak and downfall. In placing him in such a crucial role, Nick defines Jay Gatsby as a Christ figure. The Bible lingers heavily in Fitzgerald’s work. Nick finds rebirth in Gatsby’s death, and which make Nick the modern-day shepherd who “repeats the past” by following the path of the archetypal witnesses of the biblical era.
Shepherd/Witness motif in other works of Literary Merit:
-Benvolio of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
-Winterbourne of Daisy Miller by Henry James
-Newland Archer of The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
-Horatio of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet
You provided a very intriguing analysis of Nick Carraway’s character, that elevates his position as a narrator. After reading your post I have to think of Nick as a witness to the whole story, just like the shepherds were in the Bible. If I had one question it would be what is the purpose of a third party observer telling the story versus a first-hand account? Maybe include a few more sentences about how Nick’s presence adds to Fitzgerald’s portrayal of Gatsby as a glorified figure. Very interesting comparison!
This post is creative and insightful. I appreciate your ability to apply the shepherd motif to the Great Gatsby in a way that isn’t literal. Is there any way you could incorporate the fact that being a shepherd is a position of respect in the Bible? For, example Isaac is the chosen one over his brother, Eseau, who is a farmer. I would recommend delving a bit further into the idea of Gatsby being a Christ figure.
I had never thought of Nick as nothing but a witness in Gatsby’s life until now. This host is insightful and perfectly written. Perhaps it could have been shorter, but I’m not complaining. I would like to know if the historical viewpoints on shepherds changed once the people saw them as ‘leaders’ like they were in the bible. What were they seen as before they were the heroes of the Bible?