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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Bond Business

What is Bond Business?

Nick Carraway moves to New York to learn about the Bond Business.

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Walter Fischer | Certified Educator

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In F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway, the novel's narrator, is bored with the notion of spending his life in the Midwest, where he was born and raised.  He sets his sights instead on the 'glitz and glamour' of New York City and, specifically, with the intense but potentially lucrative financial services industry.  As Fitzgerald's protagonist notes in Chapter One:

"Instead of being the warm center of the world the middle-west now seemed like
the ragged edge of the universe—so I decided to go east and learn the bond business. Everybody I knew was in the bond business so I supposed it could support one more single man."

"Bonds" are financial instruments issued by governments and corporations -- but mainly by governments -- as a way of raising money.  In effect, they are loans taken out by the issuing government or institution with the promise of repaying the loan with interest.  Savings bonds, for example, are purchased by individuals as a low-risk way of saving money with a low but guaranteed rate of return.  The person who purchases the bond will know with absolute certainty that he or she will recoup that investment with interest.  The profits to be made by the purchase of bonds, though, are very low relative to the profits that can be made through trading in corporate stocks.  The limitations in profits, however, are balanced out by the security bonds provide.  They will not lose money like stocks, although their relative value may decline depending upon rates of inflation.  

The bond industry simply refers to divisions of financial services corporations that are established to buy and sell -- or trade -- in bonds on a major scale.  While individuals or families purchase savings bonds for long-term investments, for example, to save for their children's college funds, governments that sell bonds do so with the intent of raising millions or even billions of dollars to finance large-scale projects, like construction of bridges, schools, or other essential components of a city's infrastructure.

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cneukam1379 | Certified Educator

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The "bond business" is a reference to Wall Street and the boom of the economy during the Roaring '20s.  Nick says at the beginning of the text,

"Instead of being the warm centre of the world, the Middle West now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe — so I decided to go East and learn the bond business. Everybody I knew was in the bond business, so I supposed it could support one more single man."  

Nick doesn't know anything about Wall Street or trading stocks and bonds; he just knows a lot of people in the business, and he needs a reason to get out of bed in the morning since he returned from World War I.  In fact, he mentions later in Chapter 1 that

"I bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment securities, and they stood on my shelf in red and gold like new money from the mint, promising to unfold the shining secrets that only Midas and Morgan and Maecenas knew."  

Nick intends to read about trading in order to learn about it instead of really having a passion for it.  Actually, he has more of a passion for reading and writing than he does for trading, as the books stand there shiny and untouched.  

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William Delaney | Certified Educator

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Nick Carraway trades in various types of bonds, including corporate bonds and government bonds. Evidently he also does some trading in stocks. He is undoubtedly to trade in both types of securities. Bonds are issued to raise money. They pay interest, and the interest is usually determined by the strength and reliability of the issuer. The values of bonds fluctuate, depending on such factors as the demand for money and the business prospects of the issuing company, but they are less volatile than stocks. People who invest in bonds are usually more interested in security than quick profitss. The bond business is appropriate for Nick, since he is a conservative and thoroughly respectable man. Although he isn't making much money, his line of work brings him into contact with wealthy and important people.

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kittmanch | Student

Hi, The "bond business" is, I suspect, referring to the trading of bonds, which are certificates of monetary value traded on international markets. Looking up "bond" gives various options including "bon", "titre" etc. So somehting like "le commerce des bons/titres"...

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