Discussion Topic

The significance of Wolfsheim's cufflinks and comments about Gatsby's "fine breeding."


Wolfsheim's cufflinks, made from human molars, symbolize his ruthless and unscrupulous nature. His comments about Gatsby's "fine breeding" are ironic, as Gatsby's background is far from aristocratic. These elements highlight the contrast between Gatsby's crafted persona and his true origins, emphasizing themes of deceit and the corrupting influence of wealth in The Great Gatsby.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What do Wolfsheim's cufflinks reveal about his character in The Great Gatsby?

This is a very interesting detail that Fitzgerald gives us about Wolfsheim. Note how the fact that Wolfsheim has human molars, which, in his words, are the "finest specimens of human molars," add a sinister note to his character that has already been established by his obvious involvement in the gangster society of America and the corruption of such institutions such as the World Series. In addition, the fact that they are human teeth adds overtones of perhaps cannibalism or death to his character. He is clearly someone that does not mind getting his hands dirty to achieve his goals, and represents a corrupting force that taints even the supposed purity of Gatbsy and his ideals and dreams. This of course is one of many hints that are given in the book about the corruption and illegal activities that lie behind the charismatic and idealistic face of Gatbsy.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the significance of Wolfsheim's comments about his cufflinks and Gatsby's "fine breeding"?

It is through these subtle details that we learn something about Jay Gastby.  Wolfsheim's cufflinks are made from human molars.  That is a pretty disgusting thought because we can't help but wonder what kind of person would want them and what is he trying to say about himself by wearing them?  Fitzgerald wants us to think about the gruesomeness of the cufflinks and think about how they must have been extracted -- probably under torture and then think about why he wears them -- as a sign to his friends and enemies that he is not afraid to send the message to not mess with him and his business.  He is likely in the mafia, and that would explain how Gatsby came by such excess of wealth in such a short period of time.  If he is willing to associate with people like Wolfsheim, then that is saying something rather unsavory about his character.  Wolfsheim's comment about Gatsby is another piece of their relationship.  Wolfsheim wants to run his illegal activities and not get caught.  By working with someone like Gatsby that appears to be of fine breeding with his Oxford education and heroic war medals, and his 'above reproach' behvior, it makes their business less suspicious and keeps Wolfsheim 'above the law'.  Gastby isn't a criminal by nature -- he is only doing what he has to do to get the money that he thinks will attrack the attention and the love of Daisy.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on