How Did Gatsby Get Rich?

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald incorporates a rich protagonist that appears to have a vast measure of cash for parties. On top of that, he spends this money on his lavish parties every weekend. This is one of the reasons why most people ask the question: How did Gatsby get rich? Indeed, the exemplary book clarifies all and is worth giving a read. You would want to see Jay Gatsby prevail as he continued looking for the American Dream.

The events of the book occur during the 1920s in a well-off neighborhood where individuals run to a costly chateau but nobody is by all accounts mindful of the host. The narrator of the story Nick Carraway, discloses everything to us as we read the story.

To learn more about Jay Gatsby and his insurmountable wealth, continue reading this article.

Where Did Gatsby Live?

James Gatz was born in around 1890 in the rural side North Dakota, to a poor rancher family. He went to St. Olaf College in Minnesota, however, dropped out within the first few weeks into his first semester since he detested supporting himself by filling in as a janitor.

In the summer of 1907, in the wake of dropping out, he went to Lake Superior, where he met a big shot from the copper industry, Dan Cody in Little Girl Bay. Cody turned into Gatz’s coach and welcomed him to accompany him on his ten-year long yacht journey. At seventeen years old, Gatz changed his name to Jay Gatsby and, in the following five years, acquired the ways and the style of the rich.

Gtasby also served in World War 1 and during the war, was able to reach the position of Major in the United States sixteenth Infantry Regiment, and was awarded for courage for his cooperation in the Marne and the Argonne. After the battle (as he additionally discloses to Nick Carraway years after the fact), he lived in the United Kingdom for some time, where he went to Trinity College, Oxford. In any case, he has a problem with being called an “Oxford man”. He discloses to Tom Buchanan that “I just remained five months”. “That is the reason I can’t generally consider myself an Oxford man”.

With his tremendous salary, Gatsby bought a house in the anecdotal West Egg (a reference to Great Neck or maybe Kings Point) of Long Island. West Egg lies on the opposite bay from old-cash East Egg (a reference to Sands Point), where Daisy, Tom, and their three-year-old little girl Pammy live. At his West Egg house, Gatsby consistently has huge extravagant parties, open to any and all individuals, trying to pull in Daisy as a guest in the party.

How Did Gatsby Get Rich?

Gatsby’s opulent soirées dazzle all who attend, yet the source of his wealth remains a mystery. Despite inquiries, Gatsby remains tight-lipped about his financial origins, adding to the intrigue surrounding his affluence. The novel subtly hints at illicit means behind his fortune.

During World War I training in 1917, a 27-year-old Gatsby meets and falls for Daisy Fay, whose wealth and refinement stand in stark contrast to his own circumstances. Daisy’s subsequent marriage to Tom Buchanan propels Gatsby to pursue a life of wealth and stature to win her affection.

Although Gatsby never explicitly reveals the source of his riches, readers speculate that his wealth stems from illegal activities, possibly involving espionage or gambling. His association with Meyer Wolfsheim, notorious for fixing the 1919 World Series, further fuels suspicions of his involvement in criminal enterprises.

In a heated exchange with Tom, Gatsby’s connection to Wolfsheim is exposed, with allegations of selling illicit grain alcohol in drugstores. Gatsby’s nonchalant response implies acknowledgment of the truth, suggesting he indeed profited from smuggling liquor during Prohibition, along with engaging in stock fraud.

Daisy’s revelation about Gatsby’s ownership of a chain of drugstores hints at his involvement in distributing illegal alcohol. It’s evident that Gatsby’s fortune was amassed through a combination of bootlegging and fraudulent stock dealings, adding layers to his enigmatic persona.

How Did Gatsby Make His Money Quotes?

Following are a few important quotes from the text that might give the readers a hint as to how Gatsby got rich:

  • “There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whispering and the champagne and the stars. At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft, or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his motor-boats slid the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam. On weekends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains.”
  • “I think he hardly knew what he was saying, for when I asked him what business he was in he answered ‘That’s my affair,’ before he realized that it wasn’t the appropriate reply.”
  • “I found out what your ‘drug-stores’ were.” He turned to us and spoke rapidly. “He 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.”
  • “See!” he cried triumphantly. “It’s a bona-fide piece of printed matter. It fooled me. This fella’s a regular Belasco. It’s a triumph. What thoroughness! What realism! Knew when to stop, too – didn’t cut the pages. But what do you want? What do you expect?”

Did Gatsby Inherit His Money?

In chapter number 6 of the novel, we get to learn more about Gatsby’s past. As stated earlier, his birth name was James Gatz. A college dropout, Gatsby saved the life of a rich man called  Dan Cody, who acknowledged and admired the act and took James Gatz under his wing. That was when James decided that he wanted a name that sounded “richer” and told Cody that his name was Jay Gatsby.

Upon his death, Dan Cody left $25,000 for Gatsby under his will. However, after his death, Cody’s mistress cheated Gatsby out of the inheritance. It was then that Gatsby swore to become a wealthy man once again while he looked for Daisy.

Some people question whether or not Gatsby inherited his money. The answer to that is no he did not. A young man in the 1920’s, Jay Gatsby falls under the category as “new money”. The reason is because he earned and made his wealth all on his own, from scratch, unlike people like Tom Buchanan who fall under the category of “old money” since they inherited their fortune from their family.

How Did Gatsby Die?

One question that pops up again and again is why did Gatsby kill himself? The truth is that Gatsby did not commit suicide. Most people who have not read the book or seen the movie simply assume that Gatsby killed himself even when that is not the case.

During a trip that Gatsby, Carraway, Bake and the Buchanan’s take to New York City, Tom makes a detour at a gas station in “the Valley of Ashes”, which is a pretty run-down part of Long Island. There he meets George Wilson (the owner of the gas station), who confides in Tom that his wife, Myrtle, might be having an affair. This alarms Tom and he leaves in a rush, since he was the one who had been having an affair with Myrtle.

At a party in a costly lodging suite, the easygoing discussion advances into a heated encounter between Daisy, Gatsby and Tom. Furiously, Gatsby demands that Daisy consistently adored him, not Tom, and that she just wedded Tom for his cash. Daisy concedes that she loved both Tom and Gatsby. At that point, the party separates, with Daisy driving Gatsby out of New York City in the yellow Rolls-Royce and Tom leaving with Daisy’s companion Jordan Baker and Nick in Tom’s vehicle.

From her room upstairs at the service station, Myrtle sees a moving vehicle coming towards them. Erroneously believing that Tom had returned for her, she runs out towards the vehicle, however she is struck by the car and is killed immediately. In a panic, Daisy drives from the location of the occasion (which is never uncovered to be either a mistake or being deliberate). At Daisy’s home in East Egg, Gatsby guarantees Daisy that he would assume the fault in the event that they are ever caught.

Tom discloses to George that it was Gatsby’s vehicle that murdered Myrtle. George goes to Gatsby’s home in West Egg, where he shoots and kills Gatsby before committing suicide. Gatsby is later discovered dead, gliding in his pool. So it was actually George Wilson who killed himself rather than Gatsby. In fact, the latter was murdered.


In the story, F. Scott Fitzgerald, through Nick Carraway, illuminates how James Gatz transformed into a completely new individual and amassed his wealth through organized crime. Throughout the 1920s, many individuals engaged in smuggling, selling, and distributing large quantities of liquor. This lifestyle became entrenched for numerous individuals, including the protagonist of this timeless novel.

With Prohibition coming to an end in the mid-1930s, replicating this method of wealth accumulation is no longer feasible today. (Not to mention, it was illegal and perilous). Thus, the illicit liquor trade during Prohibition sets the backdrop perfectly for the story, adding a unique dimension and cementing it as another classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Nabeel Ahmad

Nabeel Ahmad is a serial entrepreneur who has founded multiple successful businesses in the fields of marketing, software development, design, e-commerce, and more. He is the founder and CEO of Vertabyte, a full-service digital media agency that partners with enterprise-level companies, many of which have million-dollar valuations, and helps them achieve their business goals. Nabeel has been a strategic advisor to many successful startups and brands, and regularly provides consultancy to them in crafting the best business and marketing strategies. At Vertabyte, his special focus is on leveraging the power of social media to boost businesses exponentially. An award-winning marketing expert, Nabeel has a deep understanding of modern marketing strategies and principles, and knows how to apply them to businesses to help them succeed in the modern world. His expertise in marketing has allowed him to help a number of businesses increase their revenue by tremendous amounts.