In Chapter Six, why does Fitzgerald reveal the truth about Gatsby's background at this particular point in the novel?
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Prior to Chapter Six, Fitzgerald devoted much of the novel to creating rumors about Gatsby's past and how he made his fortune, from bootlegging to spying. This is effective in building suspense: it imbues Jay Gatsby with an air of mystery and makes the reader want to know more about his background. In other words, it keeps us, the reader, guessing.
At the beginning of Chapter Six, Nick tells us that a journalist has come to Gatsby's house to see if he has a comment. In one sense, the journalist is symbolic of the reader because he is asking for clarification, just as the reader is eager to know whether all of the rumors we have read are true. By introducing this character, then, Fitzgerald creates the perfect opportunity to finally reveal Gatsby's life story. With these rumors finally put to bed, the reader can then focus on the forthcoming events which are so crucial to the plot; namely, the reconnection of Gatsby and Daisy.
In Chapter Six, Nick advises Gatsby not to ask too much of Daisy, not to ask her to repudiate her love for Tom: “You can’t repeat the past,” he says. Gatsby disagrees: “Why of course you can!” (116). Even the exclamation mark is significant here because it indicates the enthusiasm and certainty of Gatsby’s response. His life since he lost Daisy in his youth has been directed to this moment of being able to “get her back” so that he can relive the dream he had made her into when they first met, captured especially in their first kiss. Fitzgerald tells us about Gatsby’s past at this particular moment because doing so coincides with Gatsby’s opportunity to recreate it. In other words, Fitzgerald and his character recreate the past together, the author by the structure of his novel, and the character by the life he has led and the dreams he has nurtured up to this point.
Fitzgerald decided this time to tell about Gatsbys past because he wanted to put all of the rumors that have been told about him at rest. People have been saying he was a murderer, a German spy, in a Mob, etc. Now, he has decided that he has gone long enough without telling the truth. Also, it comes up again later in the book...
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