The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Chapter 4

Professor Tony Bowers from the College of DuPage explains Chapter 4 in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby.

The Great Gatsby | Chapter 4 | Summary



Throughout the summer Nick Carraway continues to attend Jay Gatsby's parties and notices that some guests attend a Gatsby gathering only once, while others appear each week. One frequent guest, Ewing Klipspringer, attends the parties so often that he becomes known as "the boarder." As the summer progresses, Gatsby and Nick's friendship grows, with Gatsby encouraging Nick to enjoy his beach, ride in his hydroplane, and join him for lunch. While out for a ride with Gatsby one afternoon, Nick realizes that Gatsby is aware of the many stories being shared about him. To set the record straight, Gatsby tells Nick about his past, claiming that he's from the Midwestern town of "San Francisco," that he graduated from Oxford, and that he is a decorated war hero. Gatsby also intimates that his family had died and left him a good deal of money. Many of Gatsby's facts about his past directly reflect the obviously false rumors circulating around him, and ring false to Nick.

In New York, Gatsby introduces Nick to Meyer Wolfsheim, a business associate, and Nick discovers that Wolfsheim has a questionable past in gambling and other illegal activities. Following the meeting with Wolfsheim, Nick spots Tom Buchanan and introduces Gatsby to him. Gatsby appears inexplicably flustered to meet Tom. Through Jordan, it is revealed that many years ago—before the war—Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan had a passionate fling. Gatsby had wanted to marry her, but her parents were vehemently against it. Gatsby was called into service and Daisy promised to wait for him, but while Gatsby was away, she met and was quickly engaged to Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby dedicated himself to amassing wealth and moved across the bay from Daisy, hoping to impress her and win her back. Gatsby asks Nick to arrange a lunch with Daisy that he can unexpectedly arrive at, surprising Daisy.


This chapter continues the theme of superficiality versus truth, or facade versus reality. In creating a new life for himself—one to impress Daisy—Gatsby has obviously left the reality of his past behind him. His personal history is fabricated, and the origin of his money is just as murky. Through these lies, the true picture of Gatsby is beginning to emerge: like many other characters in the novel, he is dishonest and obsessed with appearances. He may, in fact, even be a criminal. Nick's fears of Gatsby being involved in organized crime are a sharp contrast to Jordan's perception of Gatsby as a brokenhearted soldier who would stop at nothing to win back the woman he loves. Both interpretations of Gatsby's characters are somewhat true. After hearing both sides of the story, Nick is equally perplexed about his feelings for Gatsby: he admires the man's determination and drive, yet is disgusted by his (seemingly) illegal means of amassing wealth.

While driving to meet Wolfsheim for lunch, Gatsby is pulled over for speeding. He simply waves a card at the officer, however, and is let go without even a warning. This is another clue that Gatsby occupies a high rank in society and that he may have come by his celebrity immorally. Gatsby's clout hints again at his involvement in organized crime—the officer practically apologizes to Gatsby for pulling him over, rather than reminding him of the law.

Gatsby's past relationship with Daisy provides more insight into her character. It appears that she truly was in love with Gatsby but was discouraged from marrying him because he was poor. Even though she said she would wait for him, she chose to marry Tom, a man capable of gifting her with pearls worth more than $350,000. For Daisy—and clearly for her old-money family—good breeding is more important than love. Perhaps this is why Daisy chooses to stay with Tom despite his abusive behavior and obvious adultery. Again, appearances are more important than reality in her circle, and to East Eggers, Tom is the catch of a lifetime.

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