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In chapter four of The Great Gatsby, how does F. Scott Fitzgerald utilize Meyer...

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thughey813 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 4, 2012 at 11:47 PM via web

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In chapter four of The Great Gatsby, how does F. Scott Fitzgerald utilize Meyer Wolfsheim's character to set the tone?

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lschertz | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted December 9, 2012 at 1:20 AM (Answer #1)

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Prior to chapter four, the tone of the novel appears to be one of hope and success.  Gatsby holds successful parties every weekend and they are attended by many fun, exciting people.  Everyone is welcome, and most everyone is hopeful and light hearted.  Gatsby is hounded by phone calls almost constantly, showing that he is popular and successful, as businessmen apparently cannot wait to talk to him.

However, in chapter four, Nick meets Meyer Wolfsheim through Gatsby.  Wolfsheim sets a tone of uneasy cynicism.  Fitzgerald  has Nick describe the man distastefully, as a

small flat-nosed Jew... [with] a large head..with two fine growths of hair which luxuriated in either nostril" (p. 73).

Right away, this begins setting an uneasy, cynical and ugly tone.  All of the other characters have been described in wonder and beauty, even if they are unsavory (consider Nick's dislike of Tom, but his glorious description of him). 

Wolfsheim then proceeds to tell a story relating a time in the restaurant across the street in which some of his business partners were shot.  He tells this story in a matter-of-fact tone and with great expression, which lends itself to the uneasy tone of the chapter.

The uneasiness continues to be developed when Nick states:

"His eyes, meanwhile, very slowly around the room...except for my presence, he would one short glance beneath our own table" (p. 75)

Here, we can sense this man's uneasiness and his cynical distrust of people.  Fitzgerald uses this to help develop the tone of the story, because if this man is connected to Gatsby, then it becomes obvious that Gatsby's past may not be as clean and sparkly as it is presented.

As Meyer continues, we learn that he has known Gatsby for several years, so the uneasy tone is developed as the narrator begins to realize that Gatsby may currently be involved in something unsavory.

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