Study Guide for The Great Gatsby

By F. Scott Fitzgerald

Chapter 6 (103-118)

James Gatz (103-107)

How did Nick find out the truth about Gatsby's real biography? Why does he decide to set it down at this point in the narrative (right after Gatsby has attained his illusory dream)?

At what precise moment did James Gatz become Jay Gatsby

James Gatz--that was really, or at least legally, his name. He had
changed it at the age of seventeen and at the specific moment that
witnessed the beginning of his career--when he saw Dan Cody's yacht drop
anchor over the most insidious flat on Lake Superior. It was James Gatz
who had been loafing along the beach that afternoon in a torn green
jersey and a pair of canvas pants, but it was already Jay Gatsby who
borrowed a rowboat, pulled out to the TUOLOMEE, and informed Cody that
a wind might catch him and break him up in half an hour.  (104)

What had James Gatz been doing with his life until this point? (Any Huck Finn allusions?) Where did he really go to college? How much of Fitzgerald's own boyhood do you find in James Gatz?

Nick describes 'Jay Gatsby' as the sort of alter ego that "a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent....". What does he mean by that? If you could be anybody in the world, who would you be?

His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people--his imagination had
never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that
Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic
conception of himself. He was a son of God--a phrase which, if it means
anything, means just that--and he must be about His Father's business,
the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented
just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be
likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.  (105)

Where does Jay Gatsby roam in his travels with Dan Cody on the Tuomolee? What is Dan Cody's history? How did he make his money? How did he lose his life? What did Gatsby take from his experience with Cody?

Cody was fifty years old then, a product of the Nevada silver fields,
of the Yukon, of every rush for metal since seventy-five. The
transactions in Montana copper that made him many times a millionaire
found him physically robust but on the verge of soft-mindedness, and,
suspecting this, an infinite number of women tried to separate him from
his money. ... I remember the portrait of him up in Gatsby's bedroom, a gray, florid man with a hard, empty face--the pioneer debauchee, who during one phase of American life brought back to the Eastern seaboard the savage
violence of the frontier brothel and saloon.  (106)

Paragraph: What version of American History is Fitzgerald teaching us when we finally learn the true biography of Jay Gatsby?

Tom Buchanan's Visit (107-110)

Do you believe that Tom and his party of East Eggers just happened into Gatsby's mansion to get a cold drink? How does Tom respond when Gatsby tells him, "I know your wife." (108) How are the East Eggers rude to Gatsby?

Party #5: Daisy and Tom at Gatsby's Mansion (110-118)

What makes this party so unpleasant for Nick? What is going on in the subtext of the scene (ie the unspoken realm where the real action is taking place)? How does Gatsby introduce Tom to all of his guests? What does Tom do while Daisy dances and chats with Gatsby? What does Tom think Gatsby does for a living?

What makes Daisy so uncomfortable about associating with the people at Gatsby's party? What does Tom know about Daisy that Gatsby does not? What point is Fitzgerald making about class lines in America?

She was appalled by West Egg, this unprecedented "place." that Broadway had begotten upon a Long Island fishing village--appalled by its raw vigor that chafed under the old euphemisms and by the too obtrusive fate that herded its inhabitants along a short-cut from nothing to nothing. She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand. (113-14)

By the end of the evening what has happened to the romance between Daisy and Gatsby? (115)

Tom laughed and turned to me.

"Did you notice Daisy's face when that girl asked her to put her under a cold shower?"

Daisy began to sing with the music in a husky, rhythmic whisper, bringing out a meaning in each word that it had never had before and would never have again. When the melody rose, her voice broke up sweetly, following it, in a way contralto voices have, and each change tipped out a little of her warm human magic upon the air.

"Lots of people come who haven't been invited," she said suddenly. "That girl hadn't been invited. They simply force their way in and he's too polite to object." (115)

Gatsby realizes he has made a mistake, but he still believes that he can recapture the past. Look at the way Nick describes Gatsby's attempt to turn back the years:

"I'm going to fix everything just the way it was before," he said, nodding determinedly. "She'll see."

He talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was. . . .

. . . One autumn night, five years before, they had been walking down the street when the leaves were falling, and they came to a place where there were no trees and the sidewalk was white with moonlight.

They stopped here and turned toward each other. Now it was a cool night with that mysterious excitement in it which comes at the two changes of the year. The quiet lights in the houses were humming out into the darkness and there was a stir and bustle among the stars. Out of the corner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalks really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees--he could climb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder.

His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy's white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips' touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete.

Through all he said, even through his appalling sentimentality, I was reminded of something--an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that I had heard somewhere a long time ago. For a moment a phrase tried to take shape in my mouth and my lips parted like a dumb man's, as though there was more struggling upon them than a wisp of startled air. But they made no sound, and what I had almost remembered was uncommunicable forever. (117-118)


Paragraph: After the party, Nick realizes that Daisy and Gatsby's relationship is finished, but Gatsby will never accept that fact.  Where has Gatsby's dream gone wrong? Why, by the 1920's, has the American Dream gone awry?