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Free Study Guide-The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald-Book Notes

 

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CHAPTER IV


Summary

This chapter also opens with another small glimpse into a party at Gatsby’s house with the guests still gossiping about their host. Nick interrupts his description of the party to list some of the guests that came to Gatsby’s house during the summer. He had jotted down the names on a railroad time table. Many came from East Egg, including the Leeches, the Voltaire’s, the Blackbuck’s, the Dancies, Mr. Whitebait, the Fishguard’s, Maurice Flink, and the Hammerhead’s. Guests from West Egg included the Poles, the Catlip’s, and James B. (“Rotgut”) Ferret. Other guests included Francis Bull and George Duckweed (theatrical people), Klipspringer (who

came so often he was called the boarder), the Chromes, the Backhysson’s, S.W. Belcher, Miss Haag, P. Jewett, and Claudia Hip.

Nick turns from the long list to tell about the first time Gatsby comes to his home. He has arrived in his elegant automobile to take Nick into the city for lunch. During the drive, Gatsby asks Nick, “What’s your opinion of me anyhow?” and then launches into an explanation of his background. He first says he is the son of a wealthy family from the “middle-west”. He then adds he was educated at Oxford, inherited a great deal of money, and then “lived like a young rajah in all the capitals of Europe...collected jewels, hunting big game, painting a little...and trying to forget something very sad that had happened.” He then tells about joining the war in hopes of getting killed, but instead he receives decorations for his bravery from every Allied government. Nick’s first reaction to these tales is to laugh incredulously, but he is also fascinated with Gatsby’s story. Then his neighbor pulls out a war medal from Montenegro, and to Nick’s astonishment, it almost looks real. So does the picture of Gatsby supposedly taken in front of Oxford when he in school there. After showing these souvenirs to Nick, Gatsby tells his neighbor, “I’m going to make a big request of you today.” That is why he has told Nick about his background, for Gatsby does not want him to think he is “just some nobody.”

Nick then learns that Gatsby will not make his request personally. Instead, he has asked Jordan Baker to discuss the matter with Nick at tea. Nick’s reaction to this is to be annoyed, for he feels the request will be something fantastic, and he does not want to waste his date with Jordan discussing Gatsby. During the rest of the drive into New York, Gatsby sits silent and correct, except when he is stopped by a policeman for speeding. Gatsby pulls out a card from his wallet and shows it to the officer, who then replies, “Know you next time, Mr. Gatsby. Excuse me!” Nick’s sense of wonder expands, but he says little to Gatsby. Instead, he sits and observes the passing surroundings. He spies Mrs. Wilson at her husband’s gas pump in the Valley of Ashes. He sees a dead man in a hearse, followed by two carriages filled with mourners that have “tragic eyes.” He notices a limousine driven by a white chauffeur and carrying “three modish Negroes.” He stares at the city skyline rising ahead “in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of non-olfactory money.” Then Nick reflects that anything can happen in New York, a city filled with mystery and beauty.


When Nick joins Gatsby for lunch, he finds him seated with Meyer Wolfsheim, a man in his fifties who wears human molars as cuff links. During their meal, Wolfsheim broods about Rosy Rosenthal’s murder at the Metropole years before; after lunch, Gatsby tells Nick that Wolfsheim is the man who fixed the World Series in 1919. Nick, with his proper Midwestern upbringing, is shocked about everything relating to this gentleman and curious about Gatsby’s relationship to him. When Gatsby goes to make a phone call, Nick quizzes Wolfsheim, who says he has known their host for several years. He then brags on Gatsby as “a fine man of breeding,” and a handsome and perfect gentleman who is “very careful about women.” When Gatsby returns, Wolfsheim takes his leave in order to let the two younger men discuss their sports and young ladies. Gatsby then apologizes for making Nick angry earlier in the car, and Nick explains that he does not like mysteries, and he does not like requests going through Jordan Baker. Gatsby responds by saying, “ Oh, it’s nothing underhand. Miss Baker’s a great sportswoman, you know, and she’d never do anything that wasn’t right,” humorous words spoken to a man who knows that Jordan is “incurably dishonest.” As the two of them leave the restaurant, Nick spies Tom Buchanan and goes up to him and introduces Gatsby, who suddenly has “a strained, unfamiliar look of embarrassment.” Gatsby then suddenly disappears without saying good-bye, and Nick goes to meet Jordan for tea.

As they have tea in the Plaza Hotel, Jordan begins telling Nick a story about Daisy when they were both young girls back in Louisville in 1917. Daisy, at age 18, was the richest and most popular girl in town. One spring day Jordan spied her sitting in her white roadster with a handsome lieutenant, whom Daisy introduced as Jay Gatsby. Jordan thought little about the meeting except to feel pangs of jealousy over the romantic way the soldier looked at Daisy. Soon, however, rumors circulated about Daisy trying to run away to say good-bye to a soldier who was going overseas, but her family stopped her. Daisy seemed to brood for a few months, but by autumn she appeared as happy as ever. In winter, she became engaged to Tom Buchanan, a very wealthy young man from Chicago. But the night before her June wedding, Daisy got drunk and told Jordan she had changed her mind about the marriage. As Daisy cried, Jordan noticed a crumpled letter in her hand, and Daisy refused to let go of it. By the next day, the episode had passed, and Daisy married Tom Buchanan and soon began their lengthy travels. Almost immediately, Tom started to see other women, and Daisy’ misery began.

As Jordan and Nick leave the Plaza Hotel, they hear children in the park singing “The Sheik of Araby,” an appropriate song that seems to foreshadow Gatsby’s sneaking into Daisy’s life, just as the Sheik of Araby was sneaking into a tent. With this song in the background, Jordan tells Nick the most astonishing news of all. “Gatsby bought the house so Daisy would be just across the bay.” Then Jordan reveals Gatsby’s request, which Nick had expected to be something fantastic. “He wants to know if you’ll invite Daisy to your house some afternoon and then let him come over.” He wants to see Daisy, and he wants Daisy to see his house; but Daisy is not to know ahead of time that Gatsby will be there, for he is afraid she might choose not to come. Nick is totally amazed at the modesty of Gatsby’s small request. After five years and the purchase of a grand mansion, all he wants is to “come over some afternoon to a stranger’s garden.” The mystery fades, and the real Gatsby comes alive to Nick; his neighbor is a man with a noble dream, and he is “delivered suddenly from the womb of his purposeless splendor.”

 

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