What does this quote from The Great Gatsby mean? "Yes … Well, can't talk now … I can't talk now, old sport … I said a small town … He must know what a small town is … Well, he's of no use to us if Detroit is his idea of a small town."

This quote alludes to Gatsby's criminal business ventures and portrays him in a different light. Gatsby's entire disposition changes on the phone as he takes on a serious, direct tone. The nature of the call concerns an associate's decision to conduct business in Detroit instead of a small town, which upsets and frustrates Gatsby. One can infer that Gatsby wishes to conduct business in small towns to avoid metropolitan police and additional competition.

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Once again, Daisy's time with a love interest is interrupted by a phone call. As Daisy inspects Gatsby's surroundings, she exclaims over all the details of his younger life. She is giddy with excitement over a photo of Gatsby as a young man sporting a pompadour hairstyle and standing on a yacht. Of course, Gatsby doesn't want to tell her the truth about his background; he has spent immense effort crafting a particular, wealthy, image of himself and wants Daisy to focus on all he has accomplished. In the middle of this fantastical reunion, the tone shifts suddenly when Gatsby receives a phone call.

As readers, we can only hear Gatsby's side of the conversation, much as Daisy and Nick would have heard. Although the intention of the caller is somewhat unclear, we can infer that this is a business call. Whether Gatsby is organizing bootlegging distribution or illegal bond sales, this caller is an employee of sorts in need of Gatsby's business direction. Gatsby indicates that he wants to steer clear of business dealings in large cities in this conversation, keeping his criminal activities under the radar as much as possible.

The call is a reminder that Gatsby has crafted a particular image of himself for Daisy, but that image is built on illicit activities. It is also symbolic of the corruption inherent in Gatsby and Daisy's relationship. Both characters bring deceit to their reunion: Gatsby is not truthful with Daisy about the man he really is, and Daisy has no real plans to leave Tom. This call creates a shift in tone that foreshadows the eventual implosion of Gatsby's efforts to win Daisy's heart. When Tom later references Gatsby's shady business dealings as he convinces Daisy to come home with him, she will likely recall this very conversation as evidence that Tom is a more truthful man than Gatsby.

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After Gatsby reunites with Daisy for the first time in five years, he takes her on a tour of his magnificent estate, and Nick draws his attention to an old photograph of him in a yachting costume. When Daisy inquires about the photograph, Gatsby attempts to divert her attention by suggesting that she look at clippings of her that he collected over the years. It is apparent that Gatsby is purposely avoiding the subject and does not want to speak about his past, which is something Nick finds suspicious. Just before Nick calls his bluff, Gatsby answers the phone and says,

"Yes ... Well, I can’t talk now ... I can’t talk now, old sport ... I said a SMALL town ... He must know what a small town is ... Well, he’s no use to us if Detroit is his idea of a small town." (Fitzgerald, 100)

One can surmise from Gatsby's shady business partner and fabricated identity that the phone call is associated with some sort of underground, criminal business venture. Gatsby's composed, casual disposition immediately changes on the phone as he takes on an authoritative, direct tone. He is apparently concerned about a decision an associate made to conduct business in Detroit after being told to manage business in a small town.

The fact that Gatsby desires to conduct business in a small town implies that he wishes to remain inconspicuous and avoid certain risks. In regards to a criminal enterprise, small towns have less police and competition that threaten to jeopardize the operation. The phone call not only interrupts Gatsby's fantasy but reminds the reader that there is much more to Gatsby than meets the eye.

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This is an odd intrusion into the scene in which Daisy and Gatsby have reunited for the first time in five years. It is raining, and Gatsby is showing Daisy his mansion with Nick tagging along. They stop in front of photo of Gatsby in a yachting costume. Daisy says she never knew Gatsby had a yacht. Gatsby tries to change the subject and divert her attention by mention all the clippings he has of her. Nick is thinking sardonic thoughts about Gatsby's fakery—not believing for a minute he has anything to do with a yacht and wanting to ask to see what Nick believes are his non-existent "rubies—" when the phone rings.

Gatsby picks it up. It is a way to move past the yacht photo as well as an insertion of reality into the magical world of reuniting with Daisy. It is clearly a business call about a deal concerning a small town, and we witness a decisive, no nonsense Gatsby, a far cry from the man earlier so nervous about meeting Daisy. It is a reminder that Gatsby's money doesn't simply materialize from nowhere, though we don't get concrete information about what is going on.

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When Gatsby brings Nick and Daisy to his house for a tour just after he and Daisy have reunited in chapter five, a phone call interrupts them. Gatsby takes the call and tries to end the conversation quickly. Just prior to this scene, Gatsby had been evasive with Nick while explaining the source of his astonishing wealth. What the reader is able to infer from the call is that Gatsby is involved in business that he wants to conduct "under the radar" of the law. "I said a small town" implies that Gatsby does not want a lot of public attention paid to whatever he is doing, and that he does not want to attract the attention of sophisticated metropolitan police, federal authorities, or perhaps competitors. He is speaking to an associate about a third associate who he clearly thinks needs to be cut out of their business dealings.

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