Why does Jordan narrate chapter 4 of The Great Gatsby?

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Nick Carraway narrates chapter 4, as he does the whole novel, but he allows Jordan four or five pages to tell the story of Daisy's history with Gatsby and Tom in her own words. As Nick sets the scene, he meets Jordan at the Tea Room in the...

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Nick Carraway narrates chapter 4, as he does the whole novel, but he allows Jordan four or five pages to tell the story of Daisy's history with Gatsby and Tom in her own words. As Nick sets the scene, he meets Jordan at the Tea Room in the Plaza Hotel, and she tells him the story while sitting up very straight in her chair.

The story reads more like a letter Jordan might have written, but Nick is at pains to describe it as an oral narrative. It is as if he transcribed it word for word—but he never says he does that, and it would be a very odd thing for him to do, especially over tea in a fancy hotel. Therefore, he almost certainly must be reconstructing the narrative from memory—and then putting it into Jordan's voice as if it is entirely Jordan's story.

In this section, Jordan describes how much she admired the older Daisy. She talks about how popular Daisy was, and how she came across Daisy once with Gatsby, a young officer, sitting with Daisy in her white roadster. The two were utterly absorbed in each other. As Jordan describes it:

The officer looked at Daisy while she was speaking, in a way that every young girl wants to be looked at sometime, and because it seemed romantic to me I have remembered the incident ever since. His name was Jay Gatsby and I didn’t lay eyes on him again for over four years—even after I’d met him on Long Island I didn’t realize it was the same man.

Later, Jordan tells the story of Daisy's marriage to Tom, strongly implying that Daisy didn't want to marry him. She also tells Nick that Tom's infidelities started as soon as he was married and that there were scandals because of Tom's behaviors.

Nick apparently includes this passage as a verbatim first-person tale from Jordan's own mouth to make it as credible as possible. He does this so that we will fully believe in this version of the story. Of course, what the reader must keep in mind is that this is a third hand account. It comes through Jordan to Nick and from Nick to us. We are called to question how much Jordan's story has been altered by Nick, intentionally or not, to coincide with the portrait of Gatsby that Nick is trying to create.

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Nick Carraway is the first-person narrator of The Great Gatsby. While he more often presents dialogue that he seems to remember verbatim, in chapter 4 he offers about a five-page narrative, apparently exactly as he remembers Jordan Baker telling it to him. Jordan’s story is prefaced by Gatsby’s mysterious comment that while Jordan and Nick are having tea, she will talk to him on Gatsby’s behalf: “Miss Baker has kindly consented to speak to you about this matter.” Later, Nick gets irritated:

I don’t like mysteries…, and I don’t understand why you won’t come out frankly and tell me what you want.

Gatsby shrugs it off, assuring him that Jordan wouldn’t do anything wrong.

Jordan later tells Nick that she had been present when Daisy first knew Gatsby back in Louisville, and she, as a bridesmaid, had seen Daisy completely fall apart on her wedding day to Tom. The story is important because Jordan has known Daisy at various stages, and Gatsby is aware of this. She needs to establish her intimacy with Daisy and Gatsby so that Nick will trust her to be the intermediary and be a willing accomplice in the affair.

After Jordan delivers her story about Daisy and Gatsby’s thwarted love, Nick finally starts to put two and two together. She tells him it was no coincidence that Gatsby bought the exact house across from the Buchanans. Nick now sees how carefully Jay has crafted his plan, and knowing of Nick's interest in Jordan, he picked her for his mission.

He came alive to me, delivered suddenly from the womb of his purposeless splendor.

Nick realizes that his earlier impression of casual indolence had been utterly wrong.

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Jordan doesn't narrate all of Chapter IV, but she does narrate one section of the chapter. After Nick describes the usual guests at Gatsby's parties, Gatsby and Nick go into town, and Gatsby eventually introduces Nick to one of his associates, Meyer Wolfsheim. Later that afternoon, when Nick meets up with Jordan at the Plaza Hotel, she tells him the story of how Gatsby and Daisy met, years ago, and how Daisy ended up marrying Tom Buchanan when Gatsby went away to fight in World War I. I suspect one of the reasons Jordan narrates this section of the novel is that it's a rather long story she tells, and filtering it through Nick's consciousness would dilute it. Everything in the novel hinges on this story, and allowing Jordan to tell it helps draw attention to it in a way that it would not if Nick narrated. In addition, having Jordan tell it puts the reader in the same position as Nick. He hears the story, unfiltered, from her, and it seems as though he listens in rapt attention. Allowing Jordan to tell the story herself means that we get it uninterrupted, just like Nick.

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