How is Gatsby introduced into the novel, The Great Gatsby?  

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gatsby is introduced by degrees. First he is prefaced, as a character and as an idea, in Nick's introduction to the story. In this moment, Gatsby's complexities are implied and he is associated with things for which Nick held "unaffected scorn", while also being exempted from this scorn. 

In the following pages, Nick begins his story and Gatsby becomes part of a conversation when Nick goes to dinner with Daisy, Tom and Jordan. Gatsby is mentioned in gossip and oblique hints. His stature is made to seem quite significant, though his background (and his actual person/personality) remains mysterious. 

In this way, Gatsby is presented as a larger than life figure, not just a man but a myth. This mystery and mythic aura remain attached to  Gatsby, even as he is revealed as a real person, with flaws, strengths, and odd habits of speech. 

Jay Gatsby is first mentioned in Chapter 1, when Nick says, "When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction..." Nick has already stated that his quiet nature causes people to think of him as non-judgmental, and inspires people to open up to him about often personal matters. By the time he returns from "the East," however, Nick is tired of people and "privileged glimpses" into their natures. Gatsby, though, represents an exception to this reaction. Nick goes on to explain why: "...there was something gorgeous about was an extraodinary 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."

Gatsby is mentioned in the middle of the chapter, briefly, by Jordan Baker, when responding to Nick's claim that he doesn't know anyone in East Egg: "You must know Gatsby." This moment, followed by Daisy's questioning, "What Gatsby?" places him directly in Nick's sphere and creates a sense of fame--and possibly infamy--around him.

Finally, Gatsby makes his first appearance at the end of Chapter 1, when Nick is sitting in the yard of his small bungalow enjoying the summer night. He sees that Gatsby "had emerged from the shadow of [his] mansion and was standing with his hands in his pockets regarding the silver pepper of the stars." He stands there, a figure of Romanticism in Nick's eyes, and Nick decides against approaching him for an introduction, stating that "he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone--he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling." Nick is left to wonder what Gatsby is reaching toward, and sees nothing but a green light across the bay.

Each of these moments serve to introduce us to the mysterious Gatsby and instill in the reader some early desire to understand why and how he is so "great."

Read the study guide:
The Great Gatsby

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