How is "knowing nothing whatever about him" a "subtle tribute" paid to Gatsby by his guests in The Great Gatsby? From the opening of Chapter 4...

1 Answer | Add Yours

e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

There is some sarcasm in this statement and perhaps a greater double meaning as well. 

This phrase appears after a snippet of conversation that Gatsby's party guests have insinuating that Gatsby is not who he appears to be and is, in fact, a bootlegger, a cousin of Von Hindenburg and "second cousin to the devil". 

Suggesting that most of the guests did Gatsby the tribute of knowing nothing about him, Nick references 1) the idea that the party guests accept hospitality offered to them from Gatsby and 2) these guests look past the sinister gossip to do so. 

Ironically, it is the party guests who espouse this sinister gossip. They are the ones painting the ugly picture of Gatsby and they feed his reputation for ostentatious parties by attending them. 

So it is not in tribute that they attend Gatsby's parties and not exactly in tribute that they "look past" his reputation, as they, in a sense, are the parties and they certainly are partly responsible for his reputation. 

On a basic level, Nick is saying that the party-goers are shallow hypocrites deserving of the same kind of derision they so freely pass out. Nick's statement, seen in this way, is one of sly derision in itself. 


We’ve answered 317,297 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question