The Great Gatsby — Chapter IV

Arnold RothsteinChapter IV opens with a long list of summer visitors to Gatsby’s house. Most of the names are humorous — Clarence Endive, George Duckweed, the Smirkes and the Leeches. Ripley Snell and Mrs. Ulysses Swett are involved in yet another of the book’s many car accidents.

Finally Gatsby pays a visit to Nick with his own car. He balances on the dashboard “with that resourcefulness of movement that is so peculiarly American.” The car is a character in its own right:

It was a rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hat-boxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns.

Sounds like somebody’s overcompensating.

Gatsby’s essential emptiness is hinted at: “I had talked with him perhaps six times in the past month and found, to my disappointment, that he had little to say.” For others, Gatsby is a blank canvas on which they can project their version of the American Dream. To Nick, he is “simply the proprietor of an elaborate road-house next door.” Perhaps sensing this, Gatsby demands to know what Nick thinks of him, and then spins a tale that is “God’s own truth,” crammed full of British education and Continental polish, adventure and heroism, and always, always, magic.

Nick is frankly incredulous now, but still fascinated (“it was like skimming hastily through a dozen magazines”). But Gatsby sells his story with two physical proofs: a medal awarded him by “little Montenegro,” and a photograph of Gatsby at Oxford. Nick is convinced.

Nick meets Gatsby and Gatsby’s associate, Meyer Wolfsheim, for lunch. The purpose of Mr. Wolfsheim appears to be to serve as a cat’s paw (or “Katspaugh”), a tool Gatsby can use to further convince Nick of his authenticity. Nick spots Tom Buchanan in the restaurant, after which Gatsby disappears.

Later that afternoon Jordan Baker relates a story to Nick that explains “the very sad thing that happened” to Gatsby — he met Daisy and lost her to Tom Buchanan, who wasted no time in breaking his marriage vow and wrecking his car. Things settled down for the Buchanans when their daughter was born. But now Gatsby has suddenly shown up on West Egg and expects Nick to be his cat’s paw, to bring him and Daisy together.

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2 Responses

  1. And these pearls of racism:

    “in which sat three modish negroes”

    “flat-nosed Jew raised his large head and regarded me with two fine growths of hair which luxuriated in either nostril”

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