In Gatsby’s conversation with Nick, Gatsby, who has many belittling rumors surrounding him, tries to get Nick to sympathize with him by describing himself as a nice person who has gone through “hard” times, but his attempts are unsuccessful. Because of the rumors, Nick wants to know more about Gatsby because, “[He] had talked with him perhaps six times in the past month and found, to [his] disappointment, that [Gatsby] had little to say,” which led Nick to believe there was something suspicious about Gatsby. 64) Over the past month or so, Nick had heard many rumors about Gatsby having “killed a man” (49) and being a “German spy during [World War I]” (44). Gatsby’s behavior during the conversation strengthened these rumors in Nick’s mind. During their conversation, Gatsby “hurried the phrase ‘educated at Oxford,’ or swallowed it, or choked on it, as though it had bothered him before” which led Nick to wonder “if there was something sinister about him” (65). Whenever Oxford was mentioned, Gatsby was hesitant to continue that conversation, which seemed as though Gatsby was lying about his past and that made Nick even more suspicious.
Furthermore, Gatsby did not help erase the rumors from Nick’s mind when Tom and Gatsby, “shook hands briefly, and a strained, unfamiliar look of embarrassment came over Gatsby’s face,” and when “[Nick] turned toward Mr. Gatsby, [he] was no longer there” (74). This behavior proved to Nick that Gatsby is trying to hide something from his past and is very uncomfortable discussing it. Although there are topics about his past that make Gatsby uncomfortable, he freely explains his past to Nick.
In order to make a good impression on Nick, Gatsby always speaks elaborately and is very nice to Nick. Gatsby says, “‘Good morning, old sport. You’re having lunch with me and I thought we’d ride up together’” (64). Gatsby explains that he lives like a “rajah,” but that he has had some hardships and is “trying to forget something very sad that had happened to [him] a long time ago” (66). Although Gatsby is wealthy, he explains that he has personal problems in order to get Nick to sympathize with him.
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Then, Gatsby tries to explain his war experience by saying, “‘It was a great relief, and I tried very hard to die, but I seemed to bear an enchanted life” because he was sad about his incident and by saying he wanted to die, he could get Nick to sympathize with him and forget about the rumors surrounding him, but Nick never does (66). Another way Gatsby tries to explain to Nick he is not a bad person is by showing Nick his accomplishments from the war. The photograph which Gatsby carried around with him read, “‘Major Jay Gatsby [… ] For Valour Extraordinary’” (67).
By doing so, Gatsby proves that he supported the Americans thus trying to erase the rumor of him being a German spy. Although there are many strong rumors around Gatsby, he tries to convince Nick, who believes in those rumors, that he is an innocent, normal man because he is in love with Daisy and wants Nick, Daisy’s cousin, to set him up. Though Gatsby discusses very personal issues that make him seem like the “common man,” his actions around Nick like having a gambler for a friend and acting suspiciously whenever anything related to Daisy came up, cause Nick to believe that Gatsby was guilty of something.
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