If you’ve read The Great Gatsby book or watched the movie, the small character called Klipspringer may have completely escaped your attention.
While the book doesn’t say too much about him, per se, he does impart a lasting impression once you realize what Fitzgerald was trying to say about him.
Who is Klipspringer in The Great Gatsby?
When Is Klipspringer Introduced in The Great Gatsby?
Ewing Klipspringer is introduced to the reader in Chapter 4 of the novel.
The narrator, Nick Carraway, describes Klipspringer as a “slightly worn young man with shell-rimmed glasses and scanty blonde hair.”
Gatsby tells Nick that he calls Klipspringer “the boarder” because he spends all his time at Gatsby’s house.
Nick tells us that “A man named Klipspringer was there so often and so long that he became known as ‘the boarder’—I doubt if he had any other home.”
You might wonder how this could be possible, but when you consider that Gatsby’s mansion has so many rooms that even Gatsby can’t seem to remember them all, you will understand how one person could virtually live there and not be noticed too much.
Who Is Klipspringer and What Does He Do?
Klipspringer appears to be a party guest who simply decided never to leave.
He does appear to have one redeeming value—he plays the piano.
In the movie, you will see Klipspringer playing the piano like a drunken madman at the party that Nick attends.
In the novel, Gatsby invites Daisy over to his mansion so he can impress her with his wealth. He asks Klipspringer to play something so he and Daisy can dance together.
Though living at Gatsby’s mansion rent-free, Klipspringer does not appear to be grateful. When Gatsby asks him to play the piano, he does so grudgingly, as if he were being taken advantage of, instead of the other way around!
Worse still, after Gatsby is murdered, Klipspringer leaves the mansion immediately.
Fitzgerald doesn’t say where he goes, but wherever he is, he does manage to call. Not with condolences, however, but to say that he believes he left a pair of shoes at the mansion and would Nick be so kind as to mail them to him!
Nick hangs up on him, understandably so.
What Does Klipspringer Symbolize in The Great Gatsby?
The Great Gatsby is a tragic love story, but behind all that, the novel is a description of the immorality and callousness of the ultra-wealthy.
Ewing Klipspringer is nothing more than a moocher. He represents the leeches in society who don’t give a damn about anyone but themselves.
This man also represents the callousness of people who take advantage of others. As they rely on the goodness of other people, they have no such goodness within themselves.
Klipspringer takes everything that Gatsby has to offer, then acts as if Gatsby’s death was an inconvenience for him.
Meanwhile, he expects another good man (Nick) to do him yet another favor (mail his shoes), as he himself doesn’t even show the slightest decency to attend Gatsby’s funeral.
While F. Scott Fitzgerald doesn’t tell us very much about Klipspringer, the words that he does use show us that the world is full of takers and givers.
Klipspringer was definitely a taker, and Gatsby was the giver.
It could be that these two extremes were something that Fitzgerald was warning his readers to avoid.
Takers have no genuine interest in their host, and givers are frequently taken advantage of.
Why Does Gatsby Allow Klipspringer to Stay at His House?
Jay Gatsby wants to appear to be the perfect gentleman, rich enough to party with all of New York, which would include sharing his good fortune with others.
If Gatsby can entertain hundreds (if not thousands, Fitzgerald doesn’t give us a number) of partygoers every single weekend, what harm is there in letting one partygoer stay?
Perhaps if Klipspringer had caused trouble, stolen from Gatsby, or staggered around drunk and accosted the ladies, Gatsby may have asked him to leave.
However, with great wealth comes the expectation that sharing is not only possible, but expected.
Jay Gatsby came from dirt-poor beginnings. He knew what it was like to not have a place to stay or have a less-than-ideal living situation.
Perhaps Gatsby felt sorry for Ewing. Perhaps he didn’t see that Klipspringer was taking advantage of him. Perhaps Gatsby felt that wealthy people who can afford to feed someone should do so.
Fitzgerald doesn’t tell us what Gatsby’s real thoughts or feelings are toward his boarder, so this part remains a mystery.
Whether or not Klipspringer has a family, whether he was a friend to Gatsby or simply loved parties, it is quite clear that if Klipspringer had any real feelings for Gatsby, he would have at least sent flowers, called to offer condolences, or attended the funeral.
Is Klipspringer Related to Gatsby?
Not that we know of.
F. Scott Fitzgerald doesn’t say that he’s even distantly related to Gatsby, but at the same time, he doesn’t say that he isn’t.
It’s a family tradition that wealthy family members take care of those who are less fortunate, but there is no indication that this is the case.
In fact, it would seem impossible in 1925 for Klipspringer to return to any family members who might still be living in North Dakota.
Klipspringer has already disappeared by the time Gatsby’s father shows up, so the chances that the pair are even remotely related seem slim.
It appears that Klipspringer was nothing more than a moocher who took advantage of Gatsby’s kindness and hospitality.
Did Klipspringer Know about Gatsby and Daisy?
Again, while author F. Scott Fitzgerald doesn’t say directly, it’s hard to imagine that he didn’t know and probably didn’t care.
After Gatsby and Daisy start seeing each other that summer, Jay goes to great lengths to tell Nick that he fired nearly all of his staff so that no one would gossip about Daisy.
He doesn’t mention if Klipspringer was still taking up residence there, but chances are that he was.
It’s likely that even if Klipspringer was privy to Daisy and Gatsby’s affair, he didn’t care. As long as he had a place to stay, liquor to drink, food, and entertainment, he most likely didn’t give a darn if Gatsby was having an affair with the devil himself.
Did Owl Eyes and Klipspringer Know Each Other?
It doesn’t appear that they did, other than both were party guests.
While Gatsby mentions that Klipspringer was a constant house guest, Owl Eyes is only mentioned as a partygoer who shows up most weekends.
Even old Owl Eyes may not realize that Klipspringer never leaves the mansion. He probably assumes, along with everyone else, that he goes home after the party has ended.
So while both Klipspringer and Owl Eyes may have met at Gatsby’s house, it seems unlikely that they knew each other outside of Gatsby’s parties.
If you’ve watched the movie version of the Great Gatsby with Leonardo DiCaprio, you may have heard someone say that Klipspringer was related to Beethoven. This was simply added to the movie and is never mentioned in the book.
It’s interesting to note that only one partygoer shows up to Gatsby’s funeral—Owl Eyes. Not Klipspringer, who virtually lived with Gatsby, but Owl Eyes, who always seemed impressed by Gatsby’s library.
This was perhaps F. Scott Fitzgerald’s way of saying that your friends are those who actually show up for you, not necessarily the people who are always around you.
Written by Kerry Wisby – GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Owner & Founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Kerry Wisby, a former teacher with a BA in English, is the founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com. With a passion for all things 1920s, including The Great Gatsby novel, her website is the ultimate source for Roaring Twenties fashion, history, and party ideas. Read more about Kerry here.