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I'd like to know if, in the following excerpt from the chapter Eight of The Great...

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coutelle | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted May 7, 2013 at 6:12 PM via web

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I'd like to know if, in the following excerpt from the chapter Eight of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, "guessed at his corruption" means "judged him corrupted" or "lost themselves in conjectures about his corruption": 

The lawn and drive had been crowded with the faces of those who guessed at his corruption—and he had stood on those steps, concealing his incorruptible dream, as he waved them goodby. 

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 7, 2013 at 7:06 PM (Answer #1)

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Many of the people who came to Gatsby's parties, mostly without invitations, liked to exchange rumors about him, as Nick realizes in Chapter 2. Nobody knows anything about him for sure. They are just "guessing," and then some of the guesses get passed on as facts. Everybody seems to think he made his fortune through some kind of corruption. It never really does come out exactly how Gatsby makes his money. Even Tom Buchanan, who has had him investigated, is only guessing about part of what he tells Nick, Daisy, Jordan, and Gatsby at the Plaza Hotel in Chapter 7.

"I found out what your 'drug stores' were." He turned to us and spoke rapidly. "He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter, That's one of his little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him, and I wasn't far wrong. . . . That drug-store business was just small change," continued Tom slowly, "but you've got something on now that Walter's afraid to tell me about."

It would be incorrect to assume that people "judged him corrupted" or that they "lost themselves in conjectures about his corruption." People just assumed that his money came from questioinable enterprises and gossiped about them, but they didn't really care that much--except for Tom--and they didn't "lose themselves in conjectures," having little or nothing to go on.

Gatsby is not like other successful crooks of his time. He is desperately anxious to present a facade of perfect respectability for the sake of Daisy. He is a paradox: a gentleman hood. Many mobsters of his time tried to act like gentlemen when they were with respectable people, but they didn't try to conceal the fact that they were mobsters.

The phrase "guessed at his corruption" undoubtedly means that people guessed about what kind of illegal enterprise Gatsby was engaged in. He tried to present an image of complete respectability, but there was enough truth in the gossip about him to suggest strongly that he had a shady background. Nevertheless, his guests were delighted to come to his parties and even more delighted if they were able to meet him personally.

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