What do we learn about Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby in Chapter three?

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susan3smith eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 3, Gatsby and Nick Carraway first meet.  We are first, though, shown the extravagance of one of Gatsby's parties through the description of food deliveries, the preparations of the servants and gardeners, and the arrival of the caterers and orchestra members.  Nick speaks to Gatsby without even knowing that Gatsby is the host of the party.

We learn through their conversation that both had served in the war.  In spite of this common ground, the meeting between the two of them is quite uneasy as Nick is apologetic that he did not recognize his host and Gatsby apologizes that he is not a good host because he does not know his guests.  In fact, we learn that none of Gatsby's guests really know him and that rumors abound about his shady background.  And, even though Gatsby is a very generous host, his guests are quite suspicious of his generosity.  We learn that Gatsby does not drink at his own party and that he stands alone amidst all the festivities.  We also learn that Gatsby continues to conduct business throughout the party, taking phone calls from such places as Philadelphia.

Nick is fascinated by Gatsby.  His description of Gatsby's smile is often quoted:

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 understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.

We learn a little more about Nick apart from Gatsby, however.  We learn that he is also fascinated--"curious," he says,-- and maybe partly in love with Jordan Baker, that he does not expect women to be honest while he himself is "one of the few honest people he knows, and that he is still entangled in a relationship with a girl back home.  We learn that he is also fascinated by New York and that after work he enjoys strolling down Fifth Avenue and dreaming about romances with women he passes by.  Despite all this activity, though, he feels a little lonely.


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The Great Gatsby

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