Initially, Fitzgerald presents Jay Gatsby as an enigmatic, mysterious figure, who is the subject of many rumors. People believe that he is related to Kaiser Wilhelm, and there are rumors that he may be a spy or a murderer. Before Nick meets Gatsby, he does not know what to think of his wealthy, extravagant neighbor. As the story progresses, Fitzgerald portrays Jay Gatsby in a positive light and depicts him as a hopeless romantic, who achieves the American Dream but cannot attain the object of his affection. Jay Gatsby is portrayed as a self-made man, who compromised his morals in order to amass a fortune and achieve the American Dream. Gatsby fabricates his identity and purchases a magnificent mansion located in the West Egg directly across the bay from Daisy's estate, with the hope of winning her heart.
Nick Carraway becomes Gatsby's neighbor and develops a meaningful friendship with him. Nick has an affinity for Gatsby and describes his magnetic, charismatic personality by saying:
He [Gatsby] smiled understandingly—much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced—or seemed to face—the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. (Fitzgerald, 53)
As a resident of the West Egg, Gatsby portrays himself as a gracious, benevolent host, who welcomes strangers to his home to participate in his ostentatious parties. Despite Gatsby's positive character traits, he lives a questionable life as a notorious bootlegger and refuses to acknowledge that it is impossible to recreate the past. Gatsby believes that Daisy never loved Tom, and holds onto the hope that she will leave him. Sadly, Daisy is a shallow, materialistic woman, who is only concerned with financial stability and wealth. She uses Gatsby, and her husband blames Myrtle Wilson's death on him. Nick Carraway summarizes his perception of Gatsby by saying:
It was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again. No—Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and shortwinded elations of men. (Fitzgerald, 4)
Overall, Fitzgerald presents Jay Gatsby as a mysterious dreamer, whose genuine love for Daisy significantly influenced the trajectory of his life and led to his tragic death.