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What does Gatsby reply when Nick asks him how he makes his money in The Great Gatsby?

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aristote | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 28, 2011 at 4:27 AM via web

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What does Gatsby reply when Nick asks him how he makes his money in The Great Gatsby?

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted June 28, 2011 at 1:22 PM (Answer #1)

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Quite simply, Gatsby replies with a tart, "That's my affair."  Oh my, Gatsby gives throws a pretty quick barb at Nick in the middle of Chapter V when he asks Gatsby that question, doesn't he?  Let's look at the entire exchange:

I think he hardly knew what he was saying, for when I asked him what business he was in he answered:  "That's my affair," before he realized that it wasn't an appropriate reply.

"Oh I've been in several things," he corrected himself.  "I was in the drug business and then I was in the oil business.  But I'm not in either one now."

Gatsby's reaction is incredibly telling.  It reeks of anxiety and gives wonderful evidence (and some of the first we are presented with) that Gatsby is doing something that is not entirely legal, ... or at least something that is not entirely accepted by mainstream society.

The exchange also provides another example of the awkwardness of Gatsby's personality in personal discourse.  Just as Gatsby is out of place (even in West Egg), he is even out of place in everyday pleasantries.

Noelle Thompson

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