F. Scott Fitzgerald has Nick carefully select dialogue involving Gatsby to create particular impressions. Some pertains to his family history and some to his ostensible studies at Oxford. The obvious lies disturb Nick.
“I am the son of some wealthy people in the Middle West. . . . I was brought up in America but educated at Oxford.”
“What part of the Middle West?” I inquired casually.
Because Nick is at first mystified about such obvious lies and errors, he plays special attention to Jay’s elaborations and contradictions as the novel advances. In one late scene, the highly skeptical Tom confronts Jay about Oxford, asking him when he went there.
“It was in nineteen-nineteen. I only stayed five months. That’s why I really can’t call myself an Oxford man. . . . It was an opportunity they gave to some of the officers after the Armistice.”
Daisy responds not to Jay directly, but to her husband. Offering him a drink, she says that by drinking it, he “won’t seem so stupid to [him]self.”
One place Gatsby’s response is especially significant comes rather late, as things are not progressing smoothly. After acting as the intermediary between Jay and Daisy, Nick comes to realize how impossible Jay’s dream truly is. Nick understands, as Jay refuses to understand, that Jay is seeing himself and Daisy as they used to be, which is making his success with Daisy impossible. Nick tells him,
“You can’t repeat the past.”
“Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”
Gatsby grows rich not just because he wants money and lovely things; he romantically believes that wealth has a purity that will rub off on him and grant him the impunity by which rich people operate. It shocks him to realize that he has projected all of this onto Daisy.
“Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly.