In the first five chapters, Jay Gatsby is an ambiguous figure. When Nick goes to a party for the first time at Gatsby’s house in chapter III, he does not see Gatsby for some time. He does however listen to several party guests as they gossip about their host. “Somebody told me they thought he killed a man once,” a girl says. “I don’t think it’s so much that,” says another, “it’s more that he was a German spy during the war.” In chapter IV, another young lady says, “He’s a bootlegger … One time he killed a man who had found out that he was nephew to Von Hindenburg and second cousin to the devil.”
These rumors are clearly exaggerated, and Gatsby does not behave like someone who is capable of murder. But when Gatsby talks about himself, he contributes a bit to the mythologizing of himself. For example, he says he is “the son of some wealthy people” and that he was “educated at Oxford.” Whether or not what he says about himself is believable depends in part on one’s own opinion. But his lack of specific details makes these tales a bit questionable. For example, the phrase “some wealthy people” is vague and could have been easily made up. And when he said that he was “educated at Oxford,” Nick notes that he “hurried” the phrase, which suggests that it was a lie. In the end of course, thanks to Tom Buchanan, we find out that there is a lot more to Gatsby’s past.