The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Is there any reason to think that Gatsby is being honest in The Great Gatsby?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Jay Gatsby is a self-made man who climbed the social ladder after becoming a successful bootlegger, and he bought a luxurious mansion in the West Egg where he holds magnificent summer parties. Initially, Nick Carraway hears many rumors surrounding Gatsby while he is at his party. There are rumors that Jay Gatsby is related to Kaiser Wilhelm and that he is a German spy. Nick also hears a rumor that Gatsby once killed a man, which is why he is so nice to everyone and goes out of his way to avoid conflict. At Gatsby's party in chapter 3, Jordan Baker tells Nick that Gatsby claims to be an Oxford man but she does not believe him.

In chapter 4, Nick rides with Gatsby into the city and Gatsby lies to Nick by telling him fabricated stories about his past. Gatsby says that he is from a wealthy family: how he attended Oxford, earned a decoration from Montenegro, and lived like a "young rajah" collecting jewels throughout the world. Initially, Nick does not believe a word that Gatsby says until he shows him a picture and medal from Montenegro. Nick responds by saying:

Then it was all true. I saw the skins of tigers flaming in his palace on the Grand Canal; I saw him opening a chest of rubies to ease, with their crimson-lighted depths, the gnawings of his broken heart (Fitzgerald 72)

Given the concrete evidence Gatsby produces and his charismatic personality, one could assume that he is telling the truth. The West Egg is full of people who are considered "new rich," and Gatsby would probably not be putting himself in the public limelight if he were a criminal. Gatsby's smile and charisma are also charming, and he could easily give off the impression that he is genuine.

Overall, Gatsby's public image, the evidence he shows Nick in chapter 4, and his seemingly genuine personality would suggest that he is being completely honest.

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