Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis
Summer in West Egg is a series of parties for Nick, and perhaps the best of all is one Gatsby invites him to at the beginning of this chapter. Nick has been observing the parties for weeks by this time and knows something of what happens there: the driveway begins to fill with cars, invited and uninvited guests come and go and stay to all hours of the night, listening to music from the orchestra, drinking cocktails mixed with the juice of hundreds of lemons and oranges supplied by a fruiterer on a weekly basis; fights break out; relationships begin and end; guests swim and fall into the pool; these parties are, in short, raucous, and Nick is happy to receive a personal invitation from Gatsby himself, who sends a chauffeur to invite him one Saturday.
Nick arrives to find that none of the guests know where Gatsby is and furthermore that they’re affronted that he would ask. It’s immediately apparent that none of these people are there for Gatsby and that none of them can be considered his friends. Jordan Baker, who appears just as Nick moves toward the bar, has no clue as to Gatsby’s true whereabouts, but doesn’t seem to mind gossiping about him beside the pool with two girls dressed in yellow. One of them tells Nick and Jordan that Gatsby sent her a brand new dress after she tore her old one at another of his parties. No one has any idea who the man really is. Some say he was a German spy in the war. Others think he killed a man. Nick doesn’t know what to think about Gatsby, and this fuels the mystery that Fitzgerald has been building about Gatsby from the start.
After the first supper (there’s a second after midnight), Nick and Jordan attempt to find Gatsby and spend some time exploring his large stately mansion, meeting a man described simply as wearing owl-eyed spectacles and having been drunk for a full week. Owl Eyes points out with some surprise that the books in Gatsby’s library are real. He was expecting them to be fake, which is to say, he thinks Gatsby’s fake and this is all an elaborate façade constructed to hide his true self. Naturally, Nick and Jordan find this all rather absurd and, after shaking Owl Eyes’ hand, leave him to dry out in the library while they continue their search. Downstairs, dancing has started up again, and Nick sits at one of the tables to watch. He strikes up a conversation with another man at the table, bonding with him about fighting in World War I, before the man finally reveals that he’s Gatsby. Their exchange is awkward and unexpected and quickly gets interrupted by an important business call from Chicago. After Gatsby’s sudden departure, the orchestra begins to play a popular (fictional) jazz composition.
Not long after Gatsby leaves, his butler comes to say that he’d like to speak with Jordan. Nick, alone now, heads up to a ballroom above the terrace, where one of the girls in yellow is crying and playing the piano, devastated by a fight she had with her husband. Indeed, every woman there seems to be having a fight with her husband. Nick thinks it’s probably time to leave, and while he’s waiting for a servant to fetch his hat he sees Gatsby and Jordan, who are returning from their private conversation. Jordan refuses to tell Nick what they talked about, at least for the moment, and together they spend some time trying to extricate themselves from the party, which has resulted in a car accident that has trapped many cars in the driveway. It seems old Owl Eyes was in the car when it veered into a ditch, and the driver, too wasted to understand what’s happened, doesn’t realize that the steering wheel has broken off. It’s a strange end to an already over the top party.
Nick then makes a point of saying that life in West Egg isn’t just about parties. He also works and studies investments during the week, eats dinner at the Yale Club, and for a while can be seen around town with Jordan Baker. Unfortunately, Nick sours a little on Jordan because of a story he...
(The entire section is 1,691 words.)