F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gastby
Pauly, Thomas H. Gatsby as Gangster. Studies in American Fiction, vol. 21 no. 2, 1993.
Thomas H. Pauly, after an evidently thorough examination of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, is convinced that Jay Gatsby, the mysterious figure upon whom the novel fixates, is a sinister character and a mastermind regarding illegal activities. Despite Gatsby’s charming attitude and contrary claims, Pauly believes that “Gastby is a businessman…whose business is crime—and this means whatever illegal enterprise comes to hand. Today he would be dealing in narcotics and selling arms to terrorists (46).” Throughout his essay, Pauly provides examples to promote the accuracy of his proposal. One of the first examples that Pauly employs to support his claim is the phone call that Nick intercepts following Gatsby’s death. “Without ever confirming that he is speaking to Gatsby, the caller blurts out how his disposal of the stolen bonds has miscarried (46).” While this instance, of course, serves as proof that Gatsby was involved in illegalities, it in no way demonstrates his adequacy in the area of crime. Quite to the contrary, this event only impresses Gatsby’s ineptitude in criminal activities; his accomplices are unsuccessful in their unlawful endeavors. Pauly further asserts his assumption by explaining that many readers, like Nick, the narrator, are under the impression that Gatsby gained his immense wealth by “facilitating a necessary liaison between the crude Wolfshiem and the proprieties of respectable society (48).” In the novel, Nick comes to the conclusion that Gatsby, with his charm and social status, is the leader in public relations for Wolfshiem’s operations. Pauly, however, insists that, in order to have achieved such wealth and social status, Gatsby “would have needed to be a more cunning criminal than Nick allows.” Pauly believes that Gatsby utilizes his amiable façade to “gain the confidence of his victims and to mask his crafty maneuvering (48).” In his essay, Pauly regards Nick as an unreliable narrator. He feels that, because Gatsby exhibits those noble personality and characteristics which Nick respects but finds to be rare and almost nonexistent in their social circle, Nick is biased and cannot view Gatsby under any kind of negative light. Pauly claims that Gatsby’s uniqueness almost validates his iniquities (49-51). Nick demonstrates very little reaction when Tom reveals Gatsby’s entanglement with stolen bonds (Fitzgerald, 141)), as well as when he receives the phone call following Gatsby’s demise (Fitzgerald, 174). Pauly states that, if anything, these occurrences serve only to convince Nick that Gatsby’s death has saved him from further corruption (50). Pauly goes on to assert that Gatsby may have planned to use Nick as an “agent for his bonds,” and that Nick is too naïve to consider Gatsby’s offers of help as anything more than friendly attempts to express gratitude (50). “I’m going to make a big request of you today,” Gatsby says to Nick before introductions with Wolfshiem (Fitzgerald, 71). Nick concludes that Gatsby’s request is fulfilled later on when Jordan tells him of Gatsby’s plan to meet with Daisy through Nick. At lunch with Wolfshiem, Nick is baffled by Wolfshiem’s presumption that he is seeking “a business gonnegtion (Fitzgerald, 75).” Nick never realizes that, as Pauly speculates, Gatsby may have been following through with his considerations for Nick as an outlet for his bonds, but sensed his wariness toward Wolfshiem and scrapped that part of his plans by changing the subject (50). In another instance later on, Gatsby’s remarks to Nick further insinuate his plans to include Nick in his criminal activities. The night before the meeting with Daisy, “Well, this would interest you. It wouldn’t take up much of your time and you might pick up a nice bit of money. It happens to be a rather...