“They’re a rotten crowd,” I shouted across the lawn. “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”
Nick, who is “inclined to reserve all judgments,” finally makes a strong judgment here, calling Daisy, Tom, Jordan, and all the upper class morally rotten. He knows and feels that Gatsby is worth more than them all and tells him so.
Probably no one has ever complimented Gatsby in this way before, even if he secretly agrees with Nick (see “ecstatic cahoots” below), which is why Gatsby breaks out into a radiant smile.
It is noteworthy that Gatsby’s real history, however tainted by criminal enterprise, makes him more admirable by classic moral standards than the initial impression he gives Nick. Whilst Gatsby (still) believes that coming from Old Money and travelling the world as a man of leisure will give people the best impression of him, it is his private, sentimental side—his heroism in the war, his determination in the pursuit of his dreams, and his dogged devotion to the love of Daisy- that forms Nick’s final opinion of him here.
To help improve the meaning of these lyrics, visit “The Great Gatsby (Chapter VIII)” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and leave a comment on the lyrics box