Obligatory intro: Hi! I’m reading The Great Gatsby, blogging about it, and pointing out all the homoerotic subtext because if not me, then who? It’s all we’ve got in this ruined world. Catch up right over here.
Now, before we do anything else, we need to talk about the first sentence of chapter 4, which happens to be the most objectively perfect sentence in all of the English language: “On Sunday morning while church bells rang in the villages along shore, the world and its mistress returned to Gatsby’s house and twinkled hilariously on his lawn.” I mean. I just. The syntax. The juxtaposition of Sunday morning churchgoers and the house of sin that is Gatsby’s abode. “Twinkled hilariously.” I want this on a T-shirt, and I want it now.
Nick makes it sound like he frequented these parties all summer long, but really he only went twice. During one of those times he decided to make a list of everyone who was there because he’s a big huge nerd. I had to read about this for three pages. You probably have better things to do, so here are the highlights:
Clarence Endive—came once in white knickerbockers, fought off a homeless man in Gatsby’s garden.
Ripley Snell—got so drunk someone ran over his hand in the driveway.
Klipspringer—literally just lives in Gatsby’s house. Remember how much I admired Jordan Baker? Scratch that. This is who I want to be. This is why I’m here. I want to live in the mansion of a wealthy man who has no idea I exist.
One fine July day, Gatsby old sports his way into Nick’s life again. He actually pulls a Regina George and tells Nick to get in, loser, because they’re grabbing lunch at an underground speakeasy. Nick’s description of this encounter is incredible. He says that this is only the first time Gatsby’s ever invited him out, despite the fact that Nick’s already gone to two whole parties, mounted Gatsby’s hydroplane (a euphemism if I ever saw one), and made use of Gatsby’s beach at his “urgent” request. Presumably, if the beach is not used, it ceases to exist. But anyway, Nick’s annoyed. He and Gatsby are bros. They’ve partied. Nick mounted his hydroplane. What’s a guy gotta do to get a calling card around here?
Now avert your eyes if you’re a sweet summer child, because Nick has decided to get weirdly weird about Gatsby’s car. He describes it as “swollen here and there in its monstrous length,” but don’t be disgusting. He’s talking about a car. That’s how people talk about cars.
Nick tells us that, as far as he’s concerned, Gatsby is just a dude—no more or less gorgeous than any other dude. Or rather, that’s what he thought before this fateful car ride. Gatsby starts acting fidgety. He then flat-out demands to know what Nick thinks of him. I can see this conversation going one of two ways:
Nick tells him he is the height of masculinity, the very epitome of class, and the sexy standard to which we must all aspire.
Nick barfs out something incomprehensible.
Nick goes for option 2 because he’s an emotional potato who has never entertained sordid thoughts about anyone’s car, ever. In any case, it was a rhetorical question; Gatsby ignores him and just straight-up gives us a backstory that I’m sure is 100% accurate. He was educated at Oxford. His whole family died and left him buckets of cash. At this point Nick tries not to laugh (that’s the unfeeling cyborg in him), but I kind of see his point. Gatsby’s really selling this. He proceeds with “THEN CAME THE WAR, OLD SPORT,” and that’s where he lost me, too. But somewhere in there he smiles the smile that launched a thousand ships, and Nick believes him instantly.
Gatsby says he’s going to make a big request of Nick today. But he’s not going to do it; Jordan Baker’s going to do it for him, for some reason or another.
They speed through the valley of ashes and Nick glimpses Tom’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson, working the gas pump on the side of the road where anyone could just accidentally run her over. Gatsby gets stopped by a cop. The cop realizes who he’s talking to and apologizes. They then pass a funeral procession, and Nick is glad that the family’s grief could be momentarily interrupted by Gatsby’s phallic sin wagon of a vehicle. Nick is giddy with the thought that anything could happen as they make their way into the city. “Even Gatsby could happen,” he thinks. I’m not sure what that means. Or maybe I know exactly what it means.
At lunch, Gatsby introduces Nick to an associate of his, Meyer Wolfshiem. Nick has a bad feeling about this man. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because his idea of a conversation starter is to tell Nick about the gang war that happened right outside. Or maybe it’s because Gatsby tells him quietly that Wolfshiem fixed the 1919 World Series. Or maybe it’s because his cuff buttons are made of human teeth. Whatever the reason, Nick starts to wonder if Gatsby’s rags-to-riches story isn’t entirely innocent. Maybe he’s not a sexy orphan war hero. Maybe he’s a criminal!
Gatsby leaves for a hot second, and Wolfshiem says, “Fine fellow, isn’t he? Handsome to look at and a perfect gentleman.” He says that the first time he ever met Gatsby, he decided Gatsby was the kind of guy “you’d like to take home and introduce to your mother and sister.” It’s not clear here whether he means as his future stepfather, his future brother-in-law, or his lover in the nighttime. Wolfshiem also says that Gatsby would never so much as look at a friend’s wife, the logistics of which must be very complicated.
They see Tom Buchanan. Nick goes over to say hi, and to introduce his old fling to his new fling. You’ll remember that Tom is obsessed with Nick. He “[demands] eagerly” to know where Nick’s been, and also how he’s been, and what he’s even doing here. Nick indicates Gatsby, but Gatsby has disappeared.
Do we learn why? Boy, do we! Jordan tells Nick the whole tragic tale. It takes a really long time, actually, so I’ll paraphrase. Back when Daisy was young and unmarried, she was in love with some hot lieutenant named Jay Gatsby. He went off to war and she married Tom instead. The day before the wedding, however, she got rip-roaring drunk and wanted to call it off because she’d received a letter from Gatsby. Ultimately, she went through with the marriage. She was pretty into Tom, after all. Tom was just as great a person then as he is now, though, so he cheated on her immediately.
Gatsby was poor back then. The change in his pocket wasn’t enough, so he vowed to win Daisy’s heart with money. Once he was rolling in it, he bought a house across the lake from hers and started throwing parties to get her attention. That sounds normal enough. Here’s how you get girls, according to Jay Gatsby:
Lesson 1: Throw parties. Constant parties. Lavish, expensive parties. Parties for years. Just kind of hope she attends.
Lesson 2: Repeat lesson 1.
Finally, Jordan cuts to the chase: Nick is going to invite Daisy over for tea. Unbeknownst to Daisy, Gatsby will also be there. Nick has some questions. Question 1: Why does he have to do it? Well, just in case Daisy doesn’t want to see Gatsby, of course. It’s a ruse. That’s a bit of a yikes. Question 2: Why can’t they do all of this at Jordan’s place instead? Because Gatsby wants Daisy to see his house, and Nick lives right next-door. Shut up, Nick. This plan is great. Stop pointing out obvious complications.
Nick is being a fussy baby about this. I’m not sure if it’s because he doesn’t want to get involved, because the plan is stupid, or because he’s into Gatsby, but he compensates for it by inviting Jordan to dinner and thinking, “There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.” I’m tired. I had to read three whole pages of the Gatsby party roll call, plus Gatsby’s entire lovelorn history, and that kind of thing takes a lot out of you.
Until next time, old sports.
Old sports in this chapter: 8. Old sports overall: 13.
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