The real secret behind Gatsby
The Great Gatsby is one of the best-known American novels, but weirdly, and strangely reflective of Gatsby himself, one of the least understood.
In the course of the novel, we find out what Gatsby is hiding: not only his criminal bootlegging, but also his family name, Gatz, and his poor, ethnic-American roots, which in the end exclude him from the upper-class Anglo-American social circles he hoped to enter. We understand his frustrated American dream, and we understand too why he felt the need to fabricate for himself the pedigree of a patrician family with the Anglo-sounding surname Gatsby.
Of course, what got Gatsby in the front door of her house during the war was his officer status. The novel makes clear how the war gave Gatsby a new social status when it made him an officer. He crossed the “indiscernible barbed wire” between classes when he put on the “invisible cloak of his uniform.”
What the novel doesn't answer is how Gatsby, a poor farm boy from North Dakota and apparently a German-American to boot, got to be an officer in the US Army when Germany was the enemy. The novel definitely “guards secrets” on this point. The novel's narrator Nick Carraway naturally comes to doubt Gatsby's account of a military commission that was supposed to have been issued out of a made-up upper-class background.
- The real secret behind Gatsby