In The Great Gatsby, describe Gatsby the first time Nick sees him.

When Nick first sees Gatsby in The Great Gatsby, he is standing outside in the darkness, stretching his arms toward the green light across the water.

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When Nick Carraway sees Jay Gatsby for the first time at the end of chapter 1, Gatsby’s demeanor is much different than Nick’s. Nick is feeling down and disillusioned after his dinner with Daisy, her husband, Tom Buchanan, and Daisy’s friend Jordan Baker. Nick has just found out that Tom is having an affair and that Daisy is aware of it but is still putting up with him. Nick notes that he felt “confused and a little disgusted” as he drove away (20).

Meanwhile, Gatsby embodies the opposite of disillusionment when Nick sees him. After Nick arrives back at his place in West Egg, he sits in the yard for a bit, observing the summer night. He turns to watch the silhouette of a moving cat when he sees a figure—Gatsby—outside the mansion next to his place. Gatsby stares up at the stars, contemplating the great vastness of the universe and the many possibilities that life holds. He then stretches his arms out towards the green light that is “minute and faraway,” and he appears to be trembling (22). Here, Gatsby comes across as an ambitious, hopeful, determined man. Although the light is far in the distance, he reaches his arm out as if it is right in front of him. He is so focused that he is trembling, which shows just how desperate and determined he is to reach for his dreams.

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Nick, who has rented a small "eyesore" next to Gatsby's colossal French style mansion, knows of Gatsby but has not yet met him as the novel opens. As Nick returns from dinner at Tom and Daisy's, he sees Gatsby for the first time. It is night, which is fitting, as Gatsby for a long time will be mysterious to Nick.

Nick is sitting outside of his house in the darkness when he turns to watch a cat. He then sees a figure standing planted in the darkness next door. Because the figure stands in such a secure and leisurely way, Nick assumes it must be Gatsby.

Nick wants to call out to Gatsby and introduce himself, but then Gatsby stretches both his arms out towards the green light across the water. Gatsby seems to be trembling, and Nick realizes that he wants to be left alone. Nick says nothing, and when he looks again, Gatsby has disappeared.

Ironically, Nick has just been dining with the woman Gatsby wants to see more than anybody else in the universe—the woman he is stretching his arms towards. Nick is outside processing what has been an unhappy event, marred by Tom's affair and Daisy's knowledge of it.

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Nick actually sees Gatsby for the first time at the end of Chapter I, but he doesn't speak to him. It is nighttime. Nick sees his neighbor standing in front of his imposing mansion in the moonlight..

I was not alone--fifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my neighbor's mansion and was standing with his hands in his pockets regarding the silver pepper of the stars. Something in his leisurely movements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn suggested that it was Mr. Gatsby himself, come out to determine what share was his of our local heavens.

Nick thinks of introducing himself and then decides against it.

. . . for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone . . .

Nick sees Gatsby do something rather strange. He stretches his arms out toward the water and appears to be trembling. Nick can see nothing out seaward except a single green light. This light is mentioned several times throughout the novel. It is a light on the dock at Daisy's home in the upper-class section of Long Island. For Gatsby it symbolizes everything he aspires to have, including high social status, good breeding, and, of course, Daisy herself, who represents all the other things.

Nick doesn't meet Gatsby until Chapter III, when he is invited to one of Gatsby's big parties. He finds himself talking to Gatsby without realizing who he is. Nick's impression of his host is a mixed one. Gatsby appears to be friendly and exceptionally understanding. He has an unusually warm smile. But then Nick sees a different Gatsby.

Precisely at that point it vanished--and I was looking at an elegant young roughneck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd.

Nick will continue to think of Gatsby as "an elegant young roughneck" who is trying to become an aristocratic gentleman, both in order to win Daisy and to realize his lifelong ambitions to achieve financial and social success. Gatsby has had to be a roughneck because of the way he makes his money. He is involved in a lot of criminal enterprises and has to deal with tough competitors. His friend Meyer Wolfsheim symbolizes the other world that Gatsby belongs to. He is a complex character, with one foot in society and one foot in the underworld. On the one hand, he is hard-headed and realistic, while on the other hand, he is an idealist and a dreamer.

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