Who Is Henry C Gatz in The Great Gatsby?

Last Updated: December 18th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

Who Is Henry C Gatz in The Great Gatsby

In the final chapter of The Great Gatsby, we are introduced to one final character.

While Gatsby’s death leaves everyone shocked, only a few actually attend the funeral, including Henry C. Gatz.

Who is Henry Gatz, and why does he attend Gatsby’s funeral when almost no one else does?

Who Is Henry C. Gatz?

Henry Gatz is actually Jay Gatsby’s father, his biological father.

When Gatz shows up, this immediately shows that Gatsby has lied about his past when he told Nick Carraway that everyone in his family had died and left him a great deal of money.

While Gatsby’s father doesn’t mention his mother, one can assume that she has passed away, otherwise, she may have come as well.

Where Is Henry Gatz From?

Jay’s family isn’t from the Midwest, as he told everyone, unless you want to consider North Dakota the Midwest.

Gatsby’s father was a poor farmer who tried his best to make a living, but his son, James Gatz, AKA Jay Gatsby, apparently had bigger dreams.

old man walking in the park with a cane

Jay left home at 16 to find work and see the world. Known to his friends as Jimmy, he changed his name to Jay Gatsby after saving the life of millionaire Dan Cody.

Where Do Nick and Henry Gatz Meet?

A few days after Gatsby’s death, Nick receives a telegram from Mr. Gatz saying that he had heard about his son’s death via a Chicago newspaper and that he would be arriving soon for the funeral.

This was a welcome development for Nick who has been frantically searching for someone close to Gatsby to make funeral arrangements. In his frustrating search, he discovers that almost no one, including Meyer Wolfsheim, will have anything to do with Gatsby now that he has passed on.

Even Daisy and Tom leave town for parts unknown, not even sending a note or flowers.

When the phone rings at Gatsby’s house, Nick answers and tells the caller that Gatsby has passed on. The caller hangs up before Nick can find out who it is.

So you can imagine Nick’s relief when Mr. Gatz calls. Jay Gatsby’s father finally shows up at Gatsby’s mansion, where he meets Nick. He refuses to take Jay’s body back to North Dakota, saying that “Jimmy always liked it better down East.”

What Does Henry Gatz Tell Nick About Gatsby?

Nick is frustrated with his inability to find anyone to attend Gatsby’s funeral, He travels to New York and nearly breaks down the door of Meyer Wolfsheim, insisting that his close business associates should attend the funeral.

Wolfsheim again tells Nick that he will try to attend, even as he explains that it was he, Wolfsheim, who had helped Gatsby make his fortune.

old man as henry gatz walking towards mansion

Returning to Gatsby’s mansion, Nick finds Gatsby’s father going through Gatsby’s house, amazed at the wealth and culture this self-made man had acquired.

This is when Jay Gatsby’s father pulls out a copy of Hopalong Cassidy that Jay had owned as a boy.

Written in pencil in the back of the book were notes made by the young Jimmy Gatz for self-improvement. Henry Gatz proudly explains that Jimmy had always wanted more than to be just a simple farmer.

“Jimmy was bound to get ahead. He always had some resolve like this or something. Do you notice what he’s got about improving his mind? He was always great for that.”

Mr. Gatz is obviously proud of his son and tells Nick that he isn’t even angry at him for leaving home and never contacting them again. He’s too proud of what his son had accomplished to be angry.

When Mr. Gatz asks Nick how he knows his son, all Nick can say is that he was a close friend, apparently, Jay Gatsby’s only close friend.

What Does Henry Gatz Look Like?

While F. Scott Fitzgerald does not go into a lot of detail regarding what Mr. Gatz looked like, he does tell us that he was “old” and had a grey beard.

Nick describes his clothing as looking cheap and worn out and that Mr. Gatz had a sort of “helpless” demeanor around him.

old man as henry gatz

We don’t know much more about what Mr. Gatz looked like, but he appears to be an honest but naive man who believes his son earned his fortune honestly, never questioning how this “great man” could have attained so much in such a short time.

What Happens at the Funeral?

While reporters and the media swarm the house, they are simply there for the sensational aspect of Gatsby’s murder and George Wilson’s suicide.

Nick throws them all out of the house as he desperately tries to phone people, hoping he can get at least a few friends to show up.

In the end, almost no one attends the funeral. Mr. Gatz may feel pride and adoration for his son’s accomplishments, but it seems that none of the people that Gatsby had tried to impress in his lifetime thought much of him.

Only Owl Eyes, a few servants, the mailman, the minister, Nick, and his father.

“I tried to think about Gatsby then for a moment, but he was already too far away, and I could only remember, without resentment, that Daisy hadn’t sent a message or a flower. Dimly I heard someone murmur, ‘Blessed are the dead that the rain falls on,’ and then the owl-eyed man said ‘Amen to that’, in a brave voice.”

While Wolfsheim had promised to try to attend, he doesn’t. Neither does Daisy nor Tom nor Jordan Baker.

Despite all the business acquaintances Gatsby had, and the thousands of people who had attended his parties and relied on his hospitality, even the “boarder” Ewing Klipspringer, don’t seem to care about Gatsby’s death.

Nick notes,

“I found myself on Gatsby’s side, and alone. From the moment I telephoned news of the catastrophe to West Egg village, every surmise about him, and every practical question, was referred to me. At first I was surprised and confused; then, as he lay in his house and didn’t move or breathe or speak hour upon hour, it grew upon me that I was responsible, because no one else was interested—interested, I mean, with that intense personal interest to which every one has some vague right at the end.”

It’s a small, sad funeral that ends with bad weather and leaves Nick with bad feelings.

What Happens After the Funeral?

a coffin and a candle at a wake

Angry, Nick decides to try to talk things out with a few people, including Jordan Baker.

Jordan Baker is angry and feels that Nick dumped her. She informs him that she’s engaged now (which doesn’t seem very likely). Nick regrets that things went bad between them, but he never asks her why she didn’t attend the funeral.

A few months after the funeral, Nick sees Tom Buchanan in Manhattan. Nick won’t shake Tom’s hand, and Tom can’t understand why.

Tom confesses that he was the one who told George Wilson that it was Gatsby’s car that struck Myrtle and killed her (read more on Myrtle Wilson Character Traits ). He also told George where Gatsby lived.

Nick is horrified that Tom would do such a thing, even though he had already suspected that he had. He tries to hold on to his anger but realizes that Tom is like a spoiled child, and it’s pointless to try to make him understand what he had done.

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—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…”

As Nick watches Gatsby’s mansion grow weeds and look abandoned, he removes some graffiti from the stairs and walks down to the dock where he first saw Gatsby.

“On the last night, with my trunk packed and my car sold to the grocer, I went over and looked at that huge incoherent failure of a house once more. On the white steps an obscene word, scrawled by some boy with a piece of brick, stood out clearly in the moonlight and I erased it, drawing my shoe raspingly along the stone. Then I wandered down to the beach and sprawled out on the sand.”

He remembers the green light on Daisy’s dock and the tremendous love Gatsby must have had for Daisy, living his entire life in hopes of recreating a past that could never be.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning…

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Nick decides that he’s finished with New York, the hypocritical, uncaring people of East Egg, and even West Egg, which is now haunted for him by his memories of Gatsby. He decides to return to the Midwest and leave West Egg forever.

Final Thoughts on Henry Gatz

Why the young Gatsby never contacted his father again isn’t known since the author doesn’t tell us.

Perhaps he was afraid that someone would discover the truth about his past and look down on him.

Perhaps Gatsby thought that his father wouldn’t be proud that he had made his millions through illegal sources.

Or it could be that Jay Gatsby wanted to believe that he never lived as a poor man and preferred his fantasy about his past to the truth.

Jay Gatsby tried so hard to erase his past, including any connection to his family. What’s tragic is that when Gatsby dies ( read what characters die in The Great Gatsby ), only his father and a handful of people are there to attend his funeral.

Who Is Henry C Gatz in The Great Gatsby?
Who Is Henry C Gatz in The Great Gatsby?
We meet one last character in the final chapter of The Great Gatsby—Henry Gatz. Who is he and why is he one of the few to attend Gatsby’s funeral? Find out here
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