Pretty Little Liar
Gatsby is a self-made man. Son of poor farmers from North Dakota, he becomes a millionaire and the owner of a luxurious mansion where extravagant parties are hosted. Gatsby is a legend but he never mentions his past. Many people gossip about his life. In this extract, Gatsby finally talks about his past to Nick, the narrator.
“I’ll tell you God’s truth.” His right hand suddenly ordered divine retribution to stand by. "I am the son of some wealthy people in the Middle West - all dead now. I was brought up in America but educated at Oxford, because all my ancestors have been educated there for many years. It is a family tradition.”
He looked at me sideways - and I knew why Jordan Baker had believed he was lying. He hurried the phrase “educated at Oxford,” or swallowed it, or choked on it, as though it had bothered him before. And with this doubt, his whole statement fell to pieces, and I wondered if there wasn’t something a little sinister about him, after all.
“What part of the Middle West?” I inquired casually.
“My family all died and I came into a good deal of money.”
His voice was solemn, as if the memory of that sudden extinction of a clan still haunted him. For a moment 20 I suspected that he was pulling my leg, but a glance at him convinced me otherwise.
“After that I lived like a young rajah in all the capitals of Europe - Paris, Venice, Rome - collecting jewels, chiefly rubies, hunting big game, painting a little, things for myself 25 only, and trying to forget something very sad that had happened to me long ago.”
With an effort I managed to restrain my incredulous laughter. The very phrases were worn so threadbare that they evoked no image except that of a turbaned “character” 30 leaking sawdust at every pore as he pursued a tiger through the Bois de Boulogne.
“Then came the war, old sport. It was a great relief, and I tried very hard to die, but I seemed to bear an enchanted life.”
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
Notes: to swallow: allow food/drink to pass down the throat to choke: to have something stuck in the throat to haunt: to trouble repeatedly a rajah: an Indian prince big game: large animals hunted for sport laughter: the act of laughing