The Great Gatsby Chapter 4 Summary

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we summarize Chapter 4 of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic of American literature, ''The Great Gatsby,'' and provide analysis of some key plot points.

Gatsby Has a Secret

'Secrets, secrets are no fun; secrets, secrets hurt someone!' is a common playground rhyme you probably heard once or twice in the course of your childhood. Like many common tropes, it contains within it a grain of truth. Secrets can be harmless - white lies, we usually call them - but they can also be dark secrets which, if revealed, can affect relationships or worse.

In Chapter 4 of The Great Gatsby, the narrator, Nick Carraway, learns a secret about his neighbor, Jay Gatsby, upon which the rest of the book's events will turn.

Gatsby's Guests

The chapter opens with Nick relating a long list of names he compiled of the people who frequented Gatsby's parties. The list mainly comprises many of the rich and famous of 1920s New York, including business tycoons, movie stars, and even 'old money' socialites.

Gatsby's Questionable Past

We then see Gatsby driving up Nick's driveway on a day they have planned to lunch together in New York City. Gatsby proposes that they drive into the city together. While on the drive, Gatsby relates his past to Nick. Gatsby tells a story similar to one which Jordan Baker had previously relayed to Nick and then discredited. The story goes that Gatsby came into some money from family relations who had died, went to school at Oxford in England as part of a family tradition, spent some time as a playboy in Europe spending money and trying to forget a particularly hurtful part of his past, and then fought in World War I.

Nick discounts the story at first, remembering what Jordan Baker had told him, until Gatsby produces a photograph and a medal which corroborate his story. With Nick now believing all, Gatsby tells Nick that he has a favor to ask of him, but he can't ask it himself. Jordan Baker, whom Nick is having tea with later that day, will ask it for Gatsby. This annoys Nick.

At lunch, Nick meets Gatsby's business associate, Meyer Wolfsheim. Wolfsheim reminisces about a friend who was murdered across the street, and soon after Gatsby leaves to take a phone call. When Gatsby is gone, Wolfsheim and Nick speak amiably about Gatsby. When Gatsby returns, Wolfsheim departs, and then Nick learns from Gatsby that Wolfsheim is a gambler and is the man who fixed the 1919 World Series. After this revelation, Nick sees Tom Buchanan at the restaurant and waves to him. He introduces Tom to Gatsby, but Gatsby quickly disappears.

Gatsby's Request

After this, the chapter jumps to Nick's meeting with Jordan. Jordan relates a long story of Daisy's past with Gatsby when Gatsby was a soldier stationed in Louisville. He and Daisy had appeared to be deeply in love, and it was only after Gatsby had departed (presumably for the war) that Daisy met and became engaged to Tom Buchanan.

After the story of Gatsby and Daisy's past, Jordan relays Gatsby's request: that Nick orchestrate a secret meeting between Daisy and Gatsby. Nick is to invite Daisy over for tea without mentioning Gatsby, at which point Gatsby will stop by Nick's house and the two will reunite. Though Nick doesn't agree to arrange the meeting at the end of the chapter, he doesn't disagree either. The chapter ends with him pulling Jordan closer and kissing her.

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