Rumors About Gatsby

List all of the rumors about Gatsby mentioned in chapter 4 of The Great Gatsby.

In chapter 4 of The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby is rumored to be a German spy, a relative of the Kaiser, a bootlegger, an Oxford man, and a war hero, among other things. He is also rumored to have killed someone.

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Chapter 4 occurs after Nick first attends one of Gatsby's large, flamboyant parties. Nick continues to talk about the rumors flying about Gatsby at the parties as the chapter opens. First, we learn that

"he's a bootlegger," said the young ladies, moving somewhere between his cocktails and his flowers.

Another rumor is that

one time he killed a man who had found out

that he was nephew to von Hindenburg and second cousin to the devil.

As we can tell by the phrase "second cousin to the devil," even the people spreading the rumors seem to know they are exaggerated.

However, the themes of the rumors in chapter 4 are the same as those in chapter 3 in which people speculate Gatsby is a criminal or a spy. And while it is difficult to separate fact from fiction this early on, we will later find out that he most likely is a bootlegger, amid other criminal activities.

Gatsby himself contributes to the false rumors about himself in this chapter. He tells palpable lies, such as that he grew up in San Francisco. We know this is a lie: Gatsby locates the city in the Midwest when it is on the Pacific Ocean in California, something any resident would know. Gatsby also says he went big game hunting in the capital cities of Europe, a preposterous lie, as there is no "big game" wandering around the streets or parks of the cities Gatsby mentions, such as Paris. Nick, who knows better, laughingly imagines him in Paris chasing "a tiger through the Bois de Boulogne." Gatsby also states:

I am the son of some wealthy people in the

middle-west—all dead now. I was brought up in America but educated at Oxford because all my ancestors have been educated there for many years.

Gatsby also says he was decorated for valor in World War I and promoted to major, a story that seems to be true. As with the stories others tell about him, Gatsby's own tales are a mixture of fiction and truth.

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Nick Carraway mentions some of the outlandish rumors surrounding his enigmatic, wealthy neighbor Jay Gatsby in chapter 4. Several of the rumors circulating about Jay Gatsby are that he is a bootlegger, murderer, and a relative of von Hindenburg, the president of Germany. These rumors reflect the mysterious nature of Gatsby's sudden rise to the upper echelon of society and are attempts to explain his unusual behavior.

Unlike other wealthy aristocrats, Gatsby does not participate in his lavish parties, refrains from drinking alcohol, and some guests perceive him to be too hospitable. After one guest accidentally ruins her dress at his party, Gatsby buys her an expensive new dress, and she interprets his kind gesture as a way to avoid trouble.

Before Gatsby indirectly requests Nick's help reintroducing him to Daisy, Gatsby attempts to clear his name during a trip into the city with Nick. As they are driving, Gatsby contributes to the rumors surrounding his mysterious persona by claiming to hail from a wealthy family in the Midwest. Gatsby also attempts to confirm the rumor that he is an Oxford man. Nick notices the way Gatsby hurries the phrase "educated at Oxford" and understands why Jordan Baker did not believe him.

Gatsby continues to spread false rumors about himself by claiming to have lived like a "young rajah" following the Great War. Gatsby says that he traveled throughout Europe collecting jewels and hunting big game animals before returning to the United States. Gatsby also includes the rumor that he was an accomplished soldier in WWI and even shows Nick a medal he received from the nation of Montenegro.

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At the beginning of chapter 4, Nick recalls some of the rumors that he overhears concerning Jay Gatsby's identity and occupation. Nick overhears some young ladies saying that Gatsby is a bootlegger, while other party guests insist that Gatsby is the nephew of Von Hindenburg. There is even a rumor that involves Gatsby killing a man who attempted to reveal Gatsby's relation to the German officer. Later on in the chapter, Gatsby picks Nick up and attempts to persuade him that he is an Oxford man who hails from a wealthy Midwest family. Whenever Nick asks where Gatsby grew up in the Midwest, Gatsby responds by saying, "San Francisco." However, Nick Carraway does not believe Gatsby's fabricated past and struggles to control his laughter as Gatsby continues to lie. Later on in the story, the audience learns about Gatsby's humble beginnings, and Tom Buchanan publicly reveals that Gatsby made his fortune as a bootlegger.

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I heard he killed a guy.

I heard he's a German spy.

No, he's not.  He's a relative of the Kaiser.

Everyone knows he's a bootlegger.

He's an Oggsford man.

He's a great war hero.


These, of course, are not the actual quotes, but they are the rumors that float throughout the novel, like the "rumors" of America itself:

It's the land of opportunity.

Land of the brave.

Land where my fathers died

Land of the pilgrims' pride.

All these conceptions and misconceptions show the promise and false promise of Gatsby and the America Dream.  In the end, they're all true--and false.  They're both enigmatic, paradoxes.

Nick even asks Gatsby about his past: What midwestern city are you from?  Gatsby answers, "San Francisco." Then, Gatsby:

"claims to have studied at Oxford and lived in all of the capitals of Europe; then he enlisted in the war effort, where he was rapidly promoted to major and decorated by every Allied government, including Montenegro. He pulls out a photograph of himself in Oxford cricket whites, as well as a medal awarded by the government of Montenegro, in order to corroborate his story."

One thing is for sure, Gatsby loves to wear white.


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