The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Does Nick trust Gatsby in chapter 4?

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Not particularly, no.  When Gatsby tells Nick the story about being the son of a wealthy family from the Middle West who went to Oxford because it was a family tradition, he "looked at [Nick] sideways," and Nick says that he began to understand why Jordan always thought Gatsby lied.  Such a look, as though Gatsby can't look Nick straight in the eye, or as though he is checking to see Nick's reaction to the claim, indicates a lack of honesty.  Gatsby "hurried the phrase" that he had...

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liteachr | Student

There are moments in chapter 4 where Nick's feelings towards Gatsby are certainly put to the test. This would include his questioning of Gatsby's veracity, in light of the many rumors about Gatsby's character that were shared by some of the guests at the party, as well as the very extravagant picture that Gatsby paints of himself on their ride into New York city. Then, as if there are not already enough reasons to doubt Gatsby's "story", meeting the very shady Meyer Wolfsheim, a business associate of Gatsby who sat with them at lunch, would appear to seal the idea in Nick's mind that he should not trust his enigmatic neighbor. Yet, we cannot ignore the fact that the chapter ends with Nick agreeing to help Gatsby, in his plan to reunite with Daisy at Nick's cottage. Does Nick actually buy Gatsby's "story" or does he look beyond the possible lies and see something deeper, profounder and more amenable to his own romantic spirit? We need to examine Nick's motivations and character more closely, within the context of the story, in order to answer this question.

Nick Carraway initially came out to the East coast in search of something that he didn't have back home in the Midwest. This could be seen as a need to fulfill a "dream" of becoming independent and making his own mark in the business world. He starts out optimistically enough, learning about the trade while on the job and getting his own place on Long Island, where he soon becomes a regular commuter and resident of West Egg. He then begins to meet several people, some who are themselves transplants from the Midwest, living their lives in the prescribed societal order of the day, such as the Buchanans and their ilk, representing Old Money and established wealth in East Egg; the newly rich whose domiciles were restricted to West Egg; and the aspiring but poorer folk, who so desperately wanted to become members of the upper class that they would attend every party thrown by Gatsby in order to rub elbows with the rich. Nick, himself a product of the upper class, was less of a social climber and more of an observer of this scene. He certainly witnessed and heard many disturbing things about the relationship between Daisy and Tom; among them Tom's philandering ways and Daisy's heartbreak, yet her unwillingness to leave her marriage; the behavior of many of the guests at Gatsby's party who were willing to enjoy his benevolent hospitality but who spoke disparagingly of him behind his back; the fact that few of the guests even knew who Gatsby actually was but were willing to attend his parties and avail themselves of his many generous amenities. All of this was noted by Nick, yet he reserved his judgement of Gatsby until after he had met him and learned something about his past, not from Gatsby himself but from Jordan.

It is later that same day, when he and Jordan meet for tea, that she discloses to Nick what Gatsby had told her the night of the party. How he and Daisy had once been in love and how he had decided to buy the house across the bay from hers, in the hope that she would come to one of his parties so they could meet again. When Gatsby learns that Nick is Daisy's cousin, how he hopes that a reunion between himself and Daisy might still happen, if Nick would agree to invite Daisy for tea so that he could casually "drop by" and the once extinguished flame could be reignited again. At this point, Nick could have decided that Gatsby was merely using him to get to Daisy and he could have rejected the plan, but he doesn't. If Nick merely had a pragmatic personality he would have scoffed at this idea but apparently he has a bit of the romantic nature within himself, which enables him to appreciate Gatsby's undying love for Daisy and his very strong and real desire to win her back. Also, Jordan's words that "Daisy ought to have something in her life" also sway Nick to want to help his cousin, too. By his acceptance to go along with Gatsby's plan, Nick shows that in spite of the "roughneck" Gatsby may be and the objectionable means by which he has gained such tremendous wealth, there is still something admirable in Gatsby's singular pursuit of his love for Daisy, which Nick cannot deny. While he may not always trust Gatsby's judgement Nick does trust Gatsby's love for Daisy and this solidifies his acceptance of Gatsby as a friend, the only one he will have that summer before Gatsby is killed and Nick decides to move back home. This suggests that Nick, at this time, feels that Gatsby is more trustworthy than the rest and this will be borne out later on in the novel, when Nick says to Gatsby, "You're worth the whole damn bunch put together."

charriganbarry01 | Student

Our narrator, Nick opens the chapter by listing the numerous people who enjoyed the hospitalities of Gatsby's parties but "paid him the subtle tribute of knowing nothing whatever about him." Nick is perhaps framing his own doubts and suspicions about Gatsby around the multitudes who knew little about him but where quick to feed the rumors of his unscrupulous past.

As the chapter continues, Nick's uneasiness and questioning of who Gatsby is continues to grow. He acknowledges to the reader that Gatsby is aware of the "bizarre accusations" but in relating his conversation with Gatsby in this moment, his questioning trust is fully revealed.

Gatsby offers to tell "God's truth" and gives a brief history of himself and his family history.  Perhaps it is because of his emphasis on "God" that sets off Nick's warning bells-certainly a reference to god seems anomalous to Gatsby's character- but in that moment, Nick notices that Gatsby looks at him sideways and he understands why "Jordan Baker had believed he was lying."

Gatsby continues his story and further evidence of Nick's distrust is revealed when Nick relents that he believes Gatsby to be pulling his leg.  Nick later underscores this when he admits his surprise that the medal of honor later produced by Gatsby had an "authentic look."

Perhaps he wants to believe Gatsby or perhaps it is simply too unbelievable to think someone could live a life as Gatsby has described, but regardless, Nick is unable to put to rest his distrust of the man named Jay Gatsby.