Though Gatsby is a fictional character, it’s hard to believe someone in the ’20s could afford such a lavish life. Some people speculate that he was a drug dealer, and some say that he was a tax cheater. But others say that he was selling cognac until he became rich and powerful.
Gatsby never says how he became wealthy in such uneasy times as the twenties. The readers could only imagine how he gets all his money. The author heavily hints throughout the book that all the money came from illegal practices. The characters suggest Gatsby is a spy, a gambler, and sells cognac over the counter. As a reader, one can only assume and never know for sure. For example, Gatsby has connections with Meyer Wolfsheim, who was involved in criminal activity.
As the reader gets to know, Gatsby comes from a poor background and goes rags-to-riches overnight. In the past, he was referred to as ‘a penniless young man.’ His money was non-existent at that time. So, the reader finds out that he sold illegal alcohol over the counter. Gatsby was doing it against the law because, back then, all the heavy drinks in the country were prohibited. According to some rough calculations, he had to build his fortune for two years. It is impossible, especially for a criminal.
Try to count the amount of money Gatsby had to spend on bribes, lawyers, workers, and transportation. It is evident that he could not have become a billionaire the reader knows and loves. Even the most successful illegal business built on selling alcohol could make around a million per year. That is why the theory about alcohol is flawed and can be dismissed. Gatsby could have earned a bit from such a business, but he could not have made a fortune.
For the reasons listed above, another source of his financial state has to be found. It is mentioned that Gatsby might have another illegal business. He gained a significant amount of money from it between 1920 and 1922. It could have been a bond business, as it was rather popular during those times. He might have earned a maximum of 1 million dollars, which is still far from that richness demonstrated by the book.
Gatsby’s spending exceeded the amount of money he could have earned by the two businesses combined. That is why he did something else, according to some suggestions. He could have had connections with the mafia or had some interaction with German people. In any way, his business was not legal. It is nearly impossible to get the amount that Gatsby had over two years through permitted practices. His business perhaps was connected to the darker deeds than selling alcohol. At this point, one can only imagine the atrocities Gatsby has done for the money.
Like all good novels, The Great Gatsby has much mystery behind it. The same could be said about Jay Gatsby, who spends his fortune on extravagant parties. The source can be anything illegal. It includes substance selling and human trafficking as his parties were quite popular and full of pretty girls. He could be a part of the mafia, or he could have had ties with gambling. You pick!