The Great Gatsby: Eggs That Betray- Getting Past Fake News
Updated: Mar 10
Eggs that betray? East and West Egg play an integral role in this classic novel. Yet it is still a strange phrase. The truth is that it is an anagram of the title of the novel, The Great Gatsby. That is a bizarre coincidence, unless it's not. It is an intentional clue as to the truth of this book. Where it leads us, most people miss.
The character of Meyer Wolfsheim is an unforgettable and formidable one that hangs out in the background of The Great Gatsby, with hair protruding from his nostrils under that flat nose. It is confounding to think this book is not about what it appears, but Wolfsheim is the central hub to the whole novel. This may seem unbelievable, even Nick thinks, “The idea staggered me. I remembered…but if I had thought of it at all I would have thought of it as a thing that merely HAPPENED, the end of some inevitable chain. It never occurred to me that one man [Meyer Wolfsheim] could start to play with the faith of fifty million people — with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe.” This is what F. Scott Fitzgerald is doing with his readers. He is playing with the faith of millions of people. Most readers want to believe that this novel concerns some romantic notion of love or the American Dream or some other such nonsense, but Fitzgerald weaves a deeper narrative than that. The Great Gatsby is speaking of those in power and how they use people in order to accomplish their purposes and that is the way of the world.
We first meet Wolfsheim, “in a well-fanned Forty-second Street cellar” restaurant, probably some sort of speak-easy or other unsavory hang-out, as he is relaying a story about paying one man to keep another man’s mouth shut. Gatsby introduces Wolfsheim to Nick and through this conversation we learn that Wolfsheim fixed the 1919 World Series. Wolfsheim is not a good man and is most likely a powerful mobster besides, he has cuff-links made out of human teeth! Wolfsheim has “gonnegtions” (connections) at the top. We already know that Gatsby has an “in” with police when he is pulled over earlier. He gets out of a citation by
“Taking a white card from his wallet, he waved it before the man’s eyes.
‘Right you are,’ agreed the policeman, tipping his cap.
‘Know you next time, Mr. Gatsby. Excuse ME!’”
This is because Gatsby works for Wolfsheim, a man who has police in his pockets. Not that the reader doesn’t already believe it, but Wolfsheim is the money behind Gatsby’s seeming wealth. During a conversation after Gatsby’ death Nick asks,
“Did you start him in business?” I inquired.
“Start him! I made him.” [Wolfsheim replied]
“I raised him up out of nothing, right out of the gutter. I saw right away he was a fine-appearing, gentlemanly young man, and when he told me he was at Oggsford I knew I could use him good.”
Besides the rumors surrounding Gatsby, that he is a bootlegger and may have even “killed a man,” Tom knows the truth,
“He [Gatsby] and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That’s one of his little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him, and I wasn’t far wrong.”
This is a claim that Gatsby confirms not by denying it but by saying, “What about it?” Like in, So what?
There is another little fact that the reader must deal with. How it is that the narrator, Nick, a cousin to Daisy, just happens to move in right next to Jay Gatsby, a man who has been obsessed with Daisy for five years? The reader is told in Chapter 1 that a young man at Nick’s office suggested taking a house together near New York and that this young man found the house, “but at the last minute the firm ordered him to Washington, and I [Nick] went out to the country alone.” The coincidence of this house being placed beside Gatsby’s is a little overwhelming. Gatsby is into making arrangements and meet-ups. He must have designed this occurrence through his contacts [Wolfsheim's gonnections]. Gatsby had been throwing extravagant parties across the bay for the elite in society and, most likely, all of Wolfsheim’s associates. Gatsby had another reason for doing it though; He was trying to lure Daisy over. It wasn’t working. So, he arranges Nick to move in next door and also arranges Jordan Baker through a private conversation to convince Nick to have Daisy over where Gatsby will arrange to “suddenly appear” at his door. Convenient.
In Chapter 4 we begin to learn that Gatsby isn’t an especially educated person. Nick listens to how Gatsby changes how he speaks by eventually “leaving his elegant sentences unfinished” and how he calls San Francisco a city in the Midwest. Nick sees through Gatsby’s act. For Wolfsheim, however, Gatsby is ideal, he is “…the kind of man you’d like to take home and introduce to your mother and sister.” Wolfsheim uses Gatsby as the face of business. He doesn’t look like a gangster. In fact, Gatsby had
one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced — or seemed to face — the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.
But Wolfsheim didn’t know everything. He didn’t know Gatsby had a weak point. Of all the things Wolfsheim could have said were important to him, he reveals an essential character trait to Nick. Meyer Wolfsheim believed that Gatsby was “…very careful about women. He would never so much as look at a friend’s wife.” As every reader knows, this was not true. Gatsby’s betrayal of Wolfsheim’s trust is what eventually seals his destiny.
Tom confirms the “truth” about Gatsby trying to take his wife, Daisy, away during a quite literal heated exchange in the Plaza Hotel. Jay Gatsby discloses that he has had a five-year fantasy of returning to sweep Daisy off her feet. Tom knows that this is an ill-fated romantic notion on Gatsby’s part. Many readers, for some reason, believe that Daisy and Gatsby really want this, to run off together, but none of that is true. Gatsby has fabricated some stalker’s dream-world about a woman he fell for five years prior, but has never contacted since. Gatsby, “says he’s read a Chicago paper for years just on the chance of catching a glimpse of Daisy’s name.” This doesn’t sound healthy. It is through this encounter in the hotel with Tom and subsequent events, including Gatsby waiting outside the Buchannan house after the crash, that Gatsby slowly begins to understand his imaginings will never come true. Daisy loves Tom and not Jay. She never really thought about Gatsby at all until he was mentioned quite recently. Besides, it has been five years. Not only is she married now, but she has a child.
The question then becomes, how does Wolfsheim come to find out about this fault of Jay Gatsby’s? Through Tom, of course. Tom tells Jordan that he has been, “making a small investigation of his [Gatsby’s] past.” He repeats this fact in the Plaza hotel room in Chapter 7,
“Who are you, anyhow?” broke out Tom. “You’re one of that bunch that hangs around with Meyer Wolfsheim — that much I happen to know. I’ve made a little investigation into your affairs — and I’ll carry it further to-morrow.”
In this conversation we also discover that Tom has some unsavory connections as well. Tom is friends with a certain Walter Chase, a man who was in the bootlegging business with Wolfsheim and Gatsby. Gatsby says,
“’I guess your friend Walter Chase wasn’t too proud to come in on it.’
‘And you [Gatsby] left him in the lurch, didn’t you? You let him go to jail for a month over in New Jersey. God! You ought to hear Walter on the subject of YOU.’
‘He came to us dead broke. He was very glad to pick up some money…’”
It appears that Tom knows this Walter Chase quite well. So much so, that certain inferences can now be made about Tom. Tom is thirty and apparently rather wealthy. A large swath of land, a big house, riding horses and all, in East Egg. How is it that Tom is so well off at his age? How is it he knows the doings of gangster-like characters like Meyer Wolfsheim, Jay Gatsby and Walter Chase? And why was Tom also in that cellar restaurant where Nick met Wolfsheim, where Gatsby deliberately disappears upon meeting Tom. It is possible that Tom is also someone important in organized crime. In Chapter 6 Tom even appears to have a bodyguard-like man named Sloane with him. A man who “didn’t enter into the conversation but lounged back haughtily in his chair.” It is almost as if Tom was wearing cuff buttons made of human molars. Is this not what Nick was intimating about Tom at the end in Chapter 9? “I shook hands with him…Then he went into the jewelry store to buy a pearl necklace — or perhaps only a pair of cuff buttons — rid of my provincial squeamishness forever.” This is an intriguing statement because of what Meyer Wolfsheim had for his cuff buttons, “They were composed of oddly familiar pieces of ivory. ‘Finest specimens of human molars,’ he informed me.”
The truth of the matter is that Tom was not about to let his wife take the fall for killing Myrtle with the car. Surely, she told him what had happened on the drive home as they sat across the table from each other at the end of Chapter 8. Gatsby was already a suspect, better to keep it that way. Tom was in the valley of ashes and saw how upset Wilson was about Myrtle’s death and it wouldn’t take a whole lot for people to believe that Wilson was so distraught that he might just kill Gatsby and then kill himself. It is not too much of a stretch to believe Tom made a call to someone like Wolfsheim. Even Nick in the last chapter intimates these thoughts about Tom in what Tom may have advised, “I couldn’t forgive him [Tom] or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused.”
Wolfsheim already had his doubts because of the change in the staff around Gatsby’s house.
“Gatsby had dismissed every servant in his house a week ago and replaced them with half a dozen others…and the general opinion in the village was that the new people weren’t servants at all.”
They weren’t servants. They were Wolfsheim’s men. In fact, “The chauffeur — he was one of Wolfsheim’s proteges” This is the same chauffer that, “—heard the shots — afterward he could only say that he hadn’t thought anything much about them.” He hears gun shots at Gatsby’s house and thinks nothing of them? This is because he is a mobster.
What about George Wilson? If Gatsby’s house is full of mobsters, how does a frightened, timid little man like George Wilson walk into that? Wouldn’t these gangsters notice? Besides, Wilson would still have to get up the guts to shoot a strange man? People did see George walking around that day, they said he was “acting sort of crazy” walking slowly, but no one saw a gun. “Then for three hours he disappeared from view.” Where did George go? He was on foot, but then disappears? Is it possible someone picked him up? Maybe a chauffeur? Because he unexpectedly appears in Gatsby’s backyard, dead. It bears telling that no gun ever appears physically at the scene of the crime. Only shots were heard. No gun is ever noticed or found. This is important because of these lines from Chapter 9:
Someone with a positive manner, perhaps a detective, used the expression “madman.” as he bent over Wilson’s body that afternoon, and the adventitious authority of his voice set the key for the newspaper reports next morning. Most of those reports were a nightmare — grotesque, circumstantial, eager, and untrue.
According to the text, “someone” who might have been a “detective” used an authoritative voice that set the tone for the newspaper “reports” which were “circumstantial” and “untrue.” This seems strange. People got it in their minds that a “madman” killed Gatsby and then himself because some guy that looked and sounded like a detective said so.
How is it that so many readers are convinced beyond a doubt that Wilson killed Gatsby? Wolfsheim, in his own words, tells Nick that he can’t believe it. “DEAR MR. CARRAWAY. This has been one of the most terrible shocks of my life to me I hardly can believe it that it is true at all.” Of course he can’t believe it. The reports are false. Wolfsheim had Gatsby and George killed. This is why Wolfsheim tells Nick multiple times that,
“I can’t get mixed up in it,” he said.
“There’s nothing to get mixed up in. It’s all over now.” [said Nick]
“When a man gets killed I never like to get mixed up in it in any way. I keep out.”
Nick idolizes Gatsby, “there was something gorgeous about him [Gatsby], some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life... it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.” Before it all began, Nick was naïve. By the end of the novel Nick learns about human nature from the underbelly of humanity in men such as Meyer Wolfsheim and Tom Buchannan. It was even seen in his own cousin Daisy.
They were careless people, … they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…
This is the stuff Nick learns in the most difficult way. In fact, Nick “wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart.” These were “what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.” The book is not really about the American Dream or romantic love, but the true way of the world and the destruction of hope which, when paired with men of ruthlessness, will end up smashed on the side of the road in the Valley of Ashes.