What does gatsby tell nick about himself in chapter 4

Posted By Admin @ September 03, 2022


Chapter 4 the great Gatsby

gatsby tells nick the story of his life. does nick believe him explain. answer with specific textual evidence using RACE format RACEplease thanks ​


A dead man passed us in a hearse heaped with blooms, followed by two carriages with drawn blinds and by more cheerful carriages for friends. The friends looked out at us with the tragic eyes and short upper lips of south-eastern Europe, and I was glad that the sight of Gatsby's splendid car was included in their somber holiday. As we crossed Blackwell's Island a limousine passed us, driven by a white chauffeur, in which sat three modish Negroes, two bucks and a girl. I laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in haughty rivalry.

"Anything can happen now that we've slid over this bridge," I thought; "anything at all. . . ."

Even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder. (4.56-58)

In a novel so concerned with fitting in, with rising through social ranks, and with having the correct origins, it's always interesting to see where those who fall outside this ranking system are mentioned. Just he earlier described loving the anonymity of Manhattan, here Nick finds himself enjoying a similar melting-pot quality as he sees an indistinctly ethnic funeral procession ("south-eastern Europe" most likely means the people are Greek) and a car with both black and white people in it.

What is now racist terminology is here used pejoratively, but not necessarily with the same kind of blind hatred that Tom demonstrates. Instead, Nick can see that within the black community there are also social ranks and delineations – he distinguishes between the way the five black men in the car are dressed, and notes that they feel ready to challenge him and Gatsby in some car-related way. Do they want to race? To compare clothing? It's unclear, but it adds to the sense of possibility that the drive to Manhattan always represents in the book.

"Meyer Wolfshiem? No, he's a gambler." Gatsby hesitated, then added coolly: "He's the man who fixed the World's Series back in 1919."

"Fixed the World's Series?" I repeated.

The idea staggered me. I remembered of course that the World's Series had been fixed in 1919 but if I had thought of it at all I would have thought of it as a thing that merely happened, the end of some inevitable chain. It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people--with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe.

"How did he happen to do that?" I asked after a minute.

"He just saw the opportunity."

"Why isn't he in jail?"

"They can't get him, old sport. He's a smart man."


Nick's amazement at the idea of one man being behind an enormous event like the fixed World Series is telling. For one thing, the powerful gangster as a prototype of pulling-himself-up-by-his-bootstraps, self-starting man, which the American Dream holds up as a paragon of achievement, mocks this individualist ideal. It also connects Gatsby to the world of crime, swindling, and the underhanded methods necessary to effect enormous change. In a smaller, less criminal way, watching Wolfshiem maneuver has clearly rubbed off on Gatsby and his convolutedly large-scale scheme to get Daisy's attention by buying an enormous mansion nearby.

Suddenly I wasn't thinking of Daisy and Gatsby any more but of this clean, hard, limited person who dealt in universal skepticism and who leaned back jauntily just within the circle of my arm. A phrase began to beat in my ears with a sort of heady excitement: "There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired." (4.164)

Nick thinks this about Jordan while they are kissing. Two things to ponder:

Which one does he think he is: the pursued or the pursuing? The busy or the tired? Perhaps we are meant to match these adjectives up to the two people involved in the main love story, in which case Gatsby is both the pursuing and the busy, while Daisy is the pursued and the tired.
If Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby are locked into a romantic triangle (or square, if we include Myrtle), then Jordan and Nick are vying for the position of narrator. Nick presents himself as the objective, nonjudgmental observer – the confidant of everyone he meets. So it's interesting that here we get his perspective on Jordan's narrative style – "universal skepticism" – right after she gets to take over telling the story for a huge chunk of the chapter. Which is the better approach, we are being asked, the overly credulous or the jaded and disbelieving? Are we more likely to believe Jordan when she says something positive about someone since she is so quick to find fault? For example, it seems important that she be the one to state that Daisy hasn't had any affairs, not Nick.

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