In The Great Gatsby, why does Fitzgerald reveal rumors rather than facts about Gatsby?
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Actually, Fitzgerald reveals both rumors and facts about Gatsby, and he does so in a very deliberate way for a specific purpose. In the beginning of the novel, rumors about Gatsby are quickly established. Supposedly he had killed a man; supposedly he had been a German spy during World War I; supposedly he was Hindenburg's nephew. The rumors swirl about Gatsby, a young man of great wealth, because those who come to his parties do not know him or his personal background. They really know nothing about him because he does not want them to know. Nick comments on the unanswered questions surrounding Gatsby:
I would have accepted without question the information that Gatsby sprang from the swamps of Louisiana or from the lower East Side of New York. That was comprehensible. But young men didn't--at least in my provincial inexperience I believed they didn't--drift coolly out of nowhere and buy a palace on Long Island Sound.
Once he establishes that Gatsby's identity and his past are quite mysterious, Fitzgerald begins to solve those mysteries throughout the remainder of the novel. As the basic plot develops, bits and pieces of Gatsby's background and experiences are revealed, and the final truth about Jay Gatsby/Jimmy Gatz is realized in the novel's conclusion. The early rumors about Gatsby make him a mysterious, dangerous, and romantic figure; the facts about Gatsby are even more compelling, but the reader must wait to discover them.
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