Chapter 4

The Great Gatsby
Chapter Four
Learning Objectives
• Develop the symbolic aspects of Gatsby’s car and
why it is important
• Increase your understanding of Gatsby’s mysterious
character and why we can’t trust him
• Focus on Meyer Wolfsheim and understand how he
adds another dimension to Gatsby’s character
• THINK – about the three most important
things/events/issues that occurred in chapter 4.
• PAIR – discuss your ideas with the person beside
• SHARE – as a group, share your ideas and decide
on the top three things you should know about this
Chapter Summary
• Gatsby visits Nick’s house for the first time, and
talks of his wartime experience.
• They travel into the city, where Gatsby introduces
Nick to Meyer Wolfsheim.
• Later, Jordan tells Nick about Daisy’s past, her brief
love affair with Gatsby, and her subsequent marriage
to Tom.
The Animal Kingdom
Nick refers to an ‘old timetable’ containing a list
he made in the summer of 1922 of the visitors to
Gatsby’s back yard, those who ‘paid him subtle
tribute of knowing nothing whatever about
him’. He lists characters whose names bear
allusions to animals of various descriptions.
Each of these animal’s carry negative
associations, and are shown to belong to the
power-hungry, parasitical jungle Nick had
already outlined in chapter 3.
The Animal Kingdom
• Some of the animals are horned and masculine in
nature – the Hornbeams, Blackbucks (note reference
to ‘dirty money’), Hammerheads and Cecil
Roebuck. Some are animals characterised by their
wily, industrious natures – the Leeches, ‘Rot-gut’
Ferret and Edgar Beaver. Another distinct group are
characterised by their association to fish and
pungent smells – the Fishguards, Ripley Snells, Mrs
Ulysses Swett, S.B. Whitebait. Faustina O’Brien also
reminds us of the legend of Faust, the character who
sold himself to the devil. All of these characters,
with their weirdly negative world associations are
shown, by their lack of interest in Gatsby, who ‘sold
out’ to the world of glamour and wealth.
Gatsby’s Car
• We have already discussed the symbolism
related to cars in previous chapters but today we
will focus on Gatsby’s.
• A potent symbol throughout the entire novel, the
care is shown to be both an indicator of status
and a harbinger of doom.
• As a group, find three quotes which describe his
car from the opening pages of chapter 4 and
explain what you think it symbolises.
Gatsby’s Car
• Gatsby’s car is described as being ‘swollen here and
there in its monstrous length’ and like a ‘green
leather conservatory’. Gatsby’s car, then, is more
like a home in its proportions, being ‘terraced with
a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen
suns.’ The ‘green’ of the leather symbolises wealth
in its connection to the ‘green’ dollar, but it also
subtly associated with the green light at the end of
Daisy's dock. We are reminded throughout the entire
novel that the entire show – the car, the house, the
parties and the possessions – all exist in order to
recapture her.
Gatsby and Nick
Look over the conversation Nick and Gatsby have in the car on the way to New
As a group, discuss what we learn about Gatsby’s character and how Nick feels
about him. Think about:
• Gatsby's restlessness
• His attitude towards all his objects
• The information (lies?) he tells Nick about his life
• Quotes which describe the way he says those ‘facts’
• Whether Nick believes him or not
You must refer closely to the text and provide quotations and analysis.
Gatsby and Nick
• Gatsby’s possessions do not make him happy. He
seems to get no intrinsic pleasure from the collected
artefacts around him and seems self-consciously
aware of the pretence upon which he has built his
public persona. As such he ‘chokes’ on his lie to
Nick that he was educated at Oxford and seems
burdened by an intense energy: ‘he was never quite
still; there was always a tapping foot somewhere
or the impatient opening and closing of a hand’.
He seems to be aware that he could be exposed at
any time – unlike the complacent Tom, who revels
luxuriously in the splendour of his castle, Gatsby
seems never to be at rest with himself.
Gatsby and Nick
• He props up his history with handy objects of
authenticity such as war medal and photographs of
his time at Oxford, almost like a man on the run
from the law. His stores are overblown, unrealistic
and tinged with equal measure of fantasy and selfpity (note the way he keeps referring cryptically to
the ‘sad thing that happened to me’ and, how, when
the war came, he ‘tried very hard to die in order to
forget it!) These unwittingly comical reflections
stretch his credibility to the limit and Nick is left
feeling ‘more annoyed than interested’ in the favour
that Gatsby has asked him.
Meyer Wolfsheim
• Critics have poured scorn on Fitzgerald’s open
caricature of Wolfsheim, who seems to embody a
very stereotypical Jewish man. In reality, though, it
is worth remembering that Fitzgerald portrays white
Anglo-Saxon Protestants with equal distaste and that
he doesn't single out the Jewish community for any
specific invective.
Meyer Wolfsheim
As a group, discuss the importance of this character
and why he is introduced to the novel. Think about:
• What he reveals about Gatsby
• Your own impressions of this character
• How he is described
• His purpose and role
Particularly distasteful
character who has a shallow
way of conducting two
conversations at once.
Constantly looks around
him as if to evade
detection from the forces
of the law.
Meyer Wolfsheim
• Gatsby reveals he is the person who fixed the World
Series in 1919, therefore connecting him to
characters like Jordan baker who openly cheat in
order to gain privilege. His preoccupation with
Gatsby’s ‘Oggsford’ education is another indicator
of the premium given to Anglican values among the
wealthy classes.
• Wolfsheim is shown to represent the cut-throat
impersonal world of big business, where the players
eat each other alive. Nick is understandably
disconcerted by him and his connection to Gatsby
makes us question his ethics.
Meyer Wolfsheim
• Nick’s perceptions of Meyer Wolfsheim is markedly
different from the view held by Gatsby. In the
narrative, Wolfsheim’s reconstruction of the death
of Rosy Rosenthal follows Gatsby’s account of his
own history and precedes Jordan's recollection of
her encounter with Daisy and the handsome young
lieutenant. The placing of Nick’s narrative of
Wolfsheim’s tale of violence among gangsters
inevitably causes sinister overtones to reverberate
into the framing glimpses of Gatsby's past.
• Gatsby is dually presented as a heroic soldier and
innocent lover as well as hinting at his corruption.
Narrative Deviation
At this point, Nick re-tells the story of Gatsby and
Daisy’s love affair from Jordan’s point of view.
He relates her words as if they were exactly as
he remembers them of the October in 1917.
Does this effect the reliability of Nick’s narrative
Can Jordan be trusted to tell the truth?
She has already been shown as a liar – do we feel
comfortable hearing the story from her
Daisy’ Marriage to Tom
Jordan recalls her meeting with Daisy, five
years previously, Daisy’s surname prior to
her marriage was Fay.
• In groups, discuss what important
information Jordan gives the reader (and
Nick) about Daisy and Gatsby’s past.
Remember to justify your response with
quotes and chart the differing emotions
Daisy has about the different men in her life.
Daisy’s Men
• Jordan tells how Daisy had been the ‘most popular girl’ in their
Louisville hometown when they were growing up. The colour white is
mentioned in connection to her three times, thus establishing her as the
archetypal fairy-virgin whose parents don’t approve of the relationship
she has formed with a young soldier (Gatsby) and force her to finish with
• She is shown to get over this disappointment quickly by becoming
engaged to Tom Buchanan the next February, Jordan, her bridesmaid,
tells of how she discovered Daisy drunk on her bed on the day of her
wedding breakfast, clutching a letter in her hand (from Gatsby) and
crying uncontrollably. Significantly, she attempts to toss away the
£350,000 pearl necklace Tom had given her as an engagement present and
says she has ‘changed her mind’. This fickle tendency to change her mind
will become even more significant at the end of the novel.
Daisy’s Men
• The letter and the pearl necklace are important symbols of
stability and status at this crisis point in Daisy’s life. As
Gatsby’s letter come apart in hands ‘like snow’, her decision
seems to have been made for her. Gatsby’s love is perceived
as transient and unstable, whereas Tom’s version of ‘love’
represents rock solid permanence, by virtue of its immutable
She didn’t say another word. We gave her spirits of ammonia and put
ice on her forehead and hooked her back into her dress, and half an
hour later, when we walked out of the room, the pearls were around
her neck and the incident was over.
Daisy’s Men
• Daisy, through choice, has become an emblem of Tom’s old money. She
abandons her romantic urges, casts off her emotional coat and embarks
on a marriage which will offer stability of status. Note the effort of the
others to ‘ice’ her into submission, cooling her truer passion for the man
she loved, and they way they ‘hook’ her into her dress. For she has,
indeed, become a piece of meat in this transaction. This is borne out in
Jordan’s recollection of how Tom began cheating on her almost
immediately after the wedding was over, as well as his love of alcohol.
• Jordan then informs Nick that Gatsby's ‘favour’ is to ask him to invite
Daisy round to his house for tea, in an attempt to rekindle an affair that
had been extinguished by ice and snow years earlier.
• Read Chapter 5 for Monday!
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