In chapter 9 of The Great Gatsby, what is the irony of Mr. Gatz's comment about James Hill?

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readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the funeral of Gatsby, not many people come. However, Gatsby's father comes, who obviously is proud of his son. He has a conversation with Nick. As they talk, Mr. Gatz says that Gatsby had a great future ahead of him and that had he lived longer, he would have helped America, like James J. Hill. 

Hill was the CEO of a family of lines headed by the Great Northern Railway. He built trains that brought the country together. 

The irony is that Mr. Gatz had very little true knowledge of his son. There was little philanthropy in him. Mr. Gatz says:

‘He had a big future before him, you know. He was only a
young man but he had a lot of brain power here.’
He touched his head impressively and I nodded.
‘If he’d of lived he’d of been a great man. A man like
James J. Hill. He’d of helped build up the country.’
‘That’s true,’ I said, uncomfortably.

Gatsby did all he did to impress Daisy. This is why Nick uncomfortably agreed. He knew Gatsby better than Gatsby's father.

wheeler715 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

James J. Hill was a railroad tycoon whose nickname was "The Empire Builder."  He used his wealth and influence to expand railroads in North America.  Mr. Gatz said that his son, like Hill, would have "helped build up the country."  Ironically, Gatsby used his wealth and influence to impress others, namely Daisy.  Everything about Gatsby is manufactured illusion.  His wealth did nothing to improve America; if anything, it illustrates corruption and greed.  Gatsby put his energy in the wrong direction.  His dreams were influenced by the corrupt East, not the Romantic west.

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The Great Gatsby

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