How did Jay Gatsby get all of his money in The Great Gatsby?

Quick Answer

The text strongly implies Gatsby made his money from bootlegging. Tom does research on Gatsby and finds out he has been in business with Meyer Wolfsheim selling grain alcohol over the counter in drug stores. Wolfsheim uses him as a frontman in his business ventures on account of Gatsby's good looks and refined manners. Since not much background is given, it is possible Gatsby acquired additional wealth from other illegal business.


Expert Answers info

Dayna Watsica eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write4,795 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Like all good novels, The Great Gatsby contains elements of mystery. This is the case with Jay Gatsby's fortune. He throws elaborate parties and impresses everyone, but no one really knows where this man came from and how he made his money. What makes Gatsby's wealth even more elusive is that he never says how he made his money. When someone asked him, he simply said that was his business. Here is the text:

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 the appropriate reply.

That said the book implies that Gatsby made his fortune in an unsavory way. 

At one part of the book, people believe that Gatsby made his money from bootlegging, that is, the sale of alcohol. This might sound odd, but from an historical point of view, the sale of alcohol was profitable, owing to the prohibition movement. From this perspective, the sale of alcohol is tantamount to the sale of drugs today.

More concretely, Daisy tells Tom that Gatsby owned a chain of drug stores. It was presumably here that Gatsby distributed alcohol. 

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write5,416 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

In Chapter VII of The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchanan reveals as much about Gatsby's wealth as Fitzgerald cares to divulge to the reader. 

"Who are you, anyhow?" broke out Tom. "You're one of that bunch that hangs around with Meyer Wolfsheim--that much I happen to know. I've made a little investigation into your affairs--and I'll carry it further to-morrow."

"You can suit yourself about that, old sport," said Gatsby steadily.

"I found out what your 'drug-stores' were." He turned to...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 571 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

bigdreams1 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write309 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Arts