The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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In chapter 3 of The Great Gatsby, what are the various things that people think about Gatsby and his background?

Some of the various things people think about Gatsby and his background are that he killed a man and was a German spy during the war. Another guest attempts to confirm the rumor that Gatsby was a German spy by saying he grew up in Germany. Jordan Baker also thinks Gatsby is lying about being an Oxford man.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter 3, Nick Carraway is one of the only guests formally invited to Jay Gatsby's magnificent summer party and is astonished by his neighbor's ostentatious display of wealth throughout the evening. After Nick runs into Jordan Baker, the two sit down at a table with several of Gatsby's guests and listen as a woman named Lucille mentions that Gatsby bought her a new dress after she tore her gown on a chair at his last party. Lucille's friend finds Gatsby's benevolent behavior suspicious and mentions that she heard he had killed a man. Several of the guests at the table begin discussing the rumors surrounding Gatsby and Lucille mentions that she heard he was a German spy during the war.

One of the guests at the table confirms that he heard that same rumor and actually spoke to a man who grew up with Gatsby in Germany. Another woman states that she does not believe this rumor because Gatsby was in the American army during the war. However, she does believe he killed a man. Nick comments that the many rumors surrounding Gatsby are a "testimony to the romantic speculation he inspired" and the gossip contributes to the mystery surrounding his character. Later in the evening, Nick meets Gatsby for the first time and feels compelled to ask Jordan Baker about him. Jordan mentions that Gatsby claims to be an Oxford man, but she doesn't believe him. Overall, there is much speculation that surrounds Gatsby's mysterious background, which makes him a more compelling, enigmatic figure.

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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At his party in chapter three, much speculation whirls around the mysterious Mr. Gatsby. People say he was a German spy in World War I. Some say, however, that he couldn't have been in the German army because he was in the American army. Others speculate that he killed a man. One "girl" says,

"You look at him sometimes when he thinks nobody’s looking at him. I’ll bet he killed a man."

She narrowed her eyes and shivered. Lucille shivered.

This is a testimony to how secretive Gatsby has been about his past and his source of wealth, while, at the same time, he throws lavish parties anyone is free to attend. It supports Nick's contention that Gatsby lives life in a romantic, larger-than-life way, making grand gestures.

It is the owl-eyed man who comes closest to understanding Gatsby when he notes that the books on his library shelf are real, but the pages are uncut, meaning he has never read them. Gatsby is a fraud on one level, but one who also veers close at times to the reality of what he pretends.

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Olen Bruce eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Chapter 3, while attending one of Gatsby's lavish parties, people discuss different rumors about him. One of them says that Gatsby might have killed a man, and then a party-goer named Lucille says that she thinks he was a German spy during the war (meaning World War I). Another man at the party confirms that this information is correct, as he knows someone who grew up with Gatsby in Germany. Another party-goer says that Gatsby couldn't have been a German spy during the war, as he was in the American army during the war. Then, the rumor about how Gatsby killed a man continues to circulate. Nick notes that those who find little to whisper about are inspired to whisper about Gatsby, and he chalks these rumors up to "the romantic speculation" that surrounds Gatsby. By keeping his past a secret, Gatsby inspires wild rumors. The truth about Gatsby, as Nick later discovers, is far less dramatic in many ways. 

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accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It is in Chapter 3, when Nick goes to the first of Gatsby's parties that he attends, that he discovers the hive of speculation that surrounds his host and his mysterious background. Very swiftly, he is drawn into gossip surrounding Gatbsy and who he is and his life history. Some say that "he killed someone," others say he was a "German spy during the war," that he grew up in Germany, and others argue that this was impossible as he served in the American army during the war. Nick ironically makes the following comment as he listens to all of this speculation:

It was testimony to the romantic speculation that he inspired that there were whispers about him from those who had found little that it was necessary to whisper about in this world.

This quote captures the mystery about Gatsby, this larger-than-life figure, and also the way that, to a certain extent, it suited Gatsby to build up this "romantic speculation" concerning him precisely to get him talked about and discussed, which is part of his aim in eventually winning Daisy back. It is also important to remember that Gatsby fills his house with guests who do not know him and are happy merely to gossip maliciously about his identity and past. Gatsby is completely separate from such frivolity.

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