I'd like to have some preciseness about a phrase extracted from the Chapter Four of The Great Gatsby. Jordan explains to Nick that Gatsby is "a regular tough underneath it all." I was told...

I'd like to have some preciseness about a phrase extracted from the Chapter Four of The Great Gatsby. Jordan explains to Nick that Gatsby is "a regular tough underneath it all."

I was told that the entire phrase refers to the fact that Gatsby is a violent man, regardless of what others have painted him to be. But, I'm a little perplexed by this explanation because Jordan insisted on the fact that Gatsby was very tactful about Daisy, and we know that there are many critical gossips about him. So, how could she emphasize the depth and the purity of his love for Daisy and declare that he is a violent person at the same time? Could it be possible that Jordan says, ironically, that he is the opposite of a tough; or could "regular" used in an approving informal sense, i.e. "likable", "nice", like in the phrase "a regular guy"?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter Four of The Great Gatsby, as in other chapters  F.Scott Fitzgerald juxtaposes character against character in order to depict the ethical growth and change in his narrator, Nick Carraway. First, Nick talks with Gatsby himself who unwinds his myth about himself with "the world as his mistress." While Gatsby relates his history to  him, Nick begins to wonder if there is not something "a little sinister about him after all." Then, he meets Mr. Wolfschiem, who praises Gatsby as "a man of fine breeding" who "would never so much as look at a friend's wife."  However, Nick wonders about Wolfschiem after Gatsby nonchalantly tells him that the man with human molar cuff links is the man who fixed the World Series in 1919. Then, Nick is told by Jordan Baker that Gatsby has purchased the mansion "so that Daisy would be just across the bay." Suddenly, Jay Gatsby comes alive to Nick.

Jordan informs Nick that Gatsby wishes him to invite Daisy to his house on an afternoon, and then have Gatsby over.

The modesty of the demand shook me. He had waited five years and bought a mansion where he dispensed starlight to casual moths so that he could 'come over' some afternoon to a stranger's garden.

Jordan explains, 

"He's afraid. He's waited so long. He thought you might be offended. You see he's a regular tough underneath it all."

What Jordan implies here is that Gatsby is not really an upperclass man of refinement and breeding. He is just a tough guy, a man who associates with an underworld criminal such as Wolfschiem, an ex-soldier, and a man of questionable reputation himself since he has obviously fabricated his past to Nick earlier in the chapter--he has something "sinister," about him, after all, as Nick narrates. Yet, he is also a sensitive person, however, who hopes to attain "the grail" for which he has waited five years. So, although Gatsby is rather unrefined, he aspires to a higher social level. As Jordan also says in this chapter,

"There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired."

And, Gatsby is "the pursuing," the "tough," the man of slightly questionable reputation who is a "bit sinister." This is what Jordan Baker implies about him in her statement.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since I was the one who answered your previous question, allow me to explain. Jordan defines Gatsby (from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby) as "a regular tough." In the previous explanation, the word tough was translated to "violent." I believe that the understanding of the word violent may be the one thing which proves to be confusing. Violent does not always mean something negative. In fact, the word violent refers to something, or someone, which is severe, extreme, and uncontrolled.

In this sense, Gatsby is "violent." His extreme love for Daisy does not allow him to move on with his life. His passion for her is so severe that he has purchased a home where he can stare in her direction. Lastly, Gatsby's love for Daisy is uncontrollable (illustrated by the fact that he does not give up even when he finds out she is married).

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The Great Gatsby

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