How Does Nick Meet Gatsby: An Unlikely Encounter or A Meeting of Fate?

Last Updated: October 25th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

F. Scott Fitzgerald probably put a great deal of thought into how two of the main characters of his novel—narrator Nick Carraway and American Dreamer Jay Gatsby—would meet.

Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby in the 2013 movie version of The Great Gatsby and how they met

Nick sees Gatsby on the dock of his mansion in Chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby, but it is in Chapter 3 that they finally meet when Nick attends one of Gatsby’s parties.

Fitzgerald could have introduced Gatsby anytime or had some chance encounter happen in New York City, but instead, he teases the reader by insinuating that Nick sees Gatsby right in the first chapter, but not really confirming this.

What where the events that led Nick to finally meeting his next-door neighbor, Jay Gatsby?

If You’re Short on Time – 

Key Points Nick Meets Gatsby

  • After hearing and seeing the extravagant parties at Gatsby’s house, Nick is surprised when Gatsby’s chauffeur brings him a handwritten invitation to attend a party Saturday night.
  • Nick is overwhelmed by the number of people, but he’s happy to see Jordan Baker there.
  • Nick overhears quite a few rumors about Gatsby.
  • After searching for his host, Nick decides to get roaring drunk.
  • Nick finally meets Gatsby, who invites him to ride in his hydroplane the next day.

 You can read The Great Gatsby Chapter 3 summary here.

When Did Nick First Meet Gatsby?

The truth is that Nick and Gatsby may have actually met one another during World War I. During the party, a man who also came from the army asks Nick where he had been stationed.

After talking about the various places in France and which company they had been assigned to, the stranger says that he was also in the same company and that while they didn’t know one another, they had fought together.

The man at the party later turns out to be Jay Gatsby, although at this point of the novel, Nick (and the reader) is unaware of him just yet.

Earlier in the story, Nick also sees Gatsby one foggy evening, although he isn’t 100 percent certain if that’s whom he saw.

green light man on dock

In the first chapter, Nick talks about seeing a man standing on the end of the boat dock. The fog is thick, but it appears that the man is stretching out his hand, trying to reach a green light on the end of a dock across the bay.

Suddenly the man disappears. Nick believes that this was his neighbor, Gatsby, but he isn’t sure.

Their First Meeting

The pair do finally meet after Nick receives an invitation from Gatsby to attend a party on Saturday night ( read more on was Nick Carraway gay ).

After hearing and seeing the parties of his next-door neighbor for a few weeks, he decides to accept the invitation.

At first, Nick simply feels lost. He doesn’t know anyone there, and no one seems to know where he can find his host.

Finally, Nick decides to just enjoy the party and get drunk. Wandering around the house, Nick meets up with Jordan Baker, and he’s really happy about it because he otherwise doesn’t know anyone.

Jordan says that she’s actually met Gatsby, and the pair start to search the house for him. While looking for the host, Nick overhears quite a few rumors about Gatsby, including that he was a German spy, that he had killed a man, and that he was related to a German Kaiser.

Nick and Jordan wander into Gatsby’s library where they see an unnamed man who Nick dubs “Owl Eyes” due to his enormous, owl-eyed spectacles. The man exclaims that the library actually has real, honest-to-goodness books, not just famous book titles with blank pages.

Finally, Nick stops to get a drink, and this is where he meets the stranger who asks him about the war. Nick explains that he received an invitation, but he wonders if Gatsby is a real person since he can’t seem to find him.

This is when the stranger identifies himself as Jay Gatsby and apologizes for being a “bad host”. Nick is thrilled to meet Gatsby at last, but their conversation is interrupted when Jay receives a phone call.

Gatsby later asks to speak to Jordan in private. At the end of the evening, as people are beginning to leave, Jordan reappears and tells Nick that Gatsby had “explained” everything to her but that she had promised not to tell anyone.

As Nick begins to head home, he can see how drunk everyone was. Fights are breaking out and even East Egg residents are acting badly. Owl Eyes wrecks his car and doesn’t seem to understand what happened.

Jordan asks Nick to call her so they can talk later. Gatsby asks Nick if he would like to go out on his hydroplane the next morning, and Nick says yes.

Nick returns home and sees Gatsby standing next to a window, talking on the phone. Gatsby waves at Nick, and Nick waves back.

The chapter ends with Nick returning to the present day. He is worried that the reader might misunderstand him. He explains that he is one of the “few honest people” that he knows, and it’s not that he was infatuated with Gatsby that summer, but rather, his fixation occurred after the events of the summer that he is describing.

After They Meet, What Is Nick’s First Impression of Gatsby?

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby

Before Nick meets Gatsby, his idea of Jay Gatsby was tainted by rumors and the shadowy figure he saw on the dock that night.

While meeting him at the party, Nick notices that Gatsby is not drinking, dancing, or flirting with anyone, but rather, he is watching and looking as if he was waiting for someone in particular.

Nick notes that Gatsby is merely looking from group to group, apparently content that everyone was having a good time.

Although Nick picks up on the fact that Gatsby is choosing his words carefully, Nick isn’t sure why this would be.

Despite the rumors and not knowing anything about Gatsby, Nick is surprised at how Gatsby’s warm smile makes him feel.

It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it.

Nick is curious about Gatsby, which is most likely why he accepted the invitation to ride in Gatsby’s hydroplane the next day.

Is Nick Obsessed with Gatsby?

No, not really.

To really understand an obsession, one only needs to look at Gatsby and his obsession for Daisy. Gatsby has spent 5 years planning on getting Daisy Buchanan back into his life.

Everything that Gatsby has done, bought, or thought of is about Daisy, what she would want, what she might like, and how he could get Daisy back into his life.

Nick is devastated about what will eventually happen to Gatsby, and since he tells his story after the summer ended, he can see things more clearly, including Gatsby himself.

As he tells the story, Nick begins by saying that Gatsby represented everything that he detested about the East Coast, but that Gatsby was immune from his disgust.

This is an interesting statement that the reader won’t understand until the end of the novel.

How Does Meeting Gatsby Change Everything for Nick?

Before Nick meets his neighbor Jay Gatsby, he is busy learning the bond business. He enjoys his time alone, watching people on the beach outside his house, seeing Gatsby’s parties on the weekends, and visiting with Jordan, Daisy, and Tom at their house in East Egg.

However, meeting Gatsby opens up Nick’s life to a world that he never imagined even existed. Although Daisy and Tom are extremely wealthy, the couple lead very quiet lives overall.

That isn’t true of Gatsby, who not only throws the most extravagant parties but also has a custom-made car, a hydroplane, and lots of business calls.

Gatsby will eventually introduce Nick to a wide range of people, and slowly, Nick will discover who Gatsby really is/was and what his connection to Daisy is all about.

If Nick had rented a house elsewhere, if he had never had the opportunity to meet Gatsby, if he had refused Gatsby’s request to invite Daisy to tea, then of course, there would be no novel.

How Did Jordan & Nick Meet Gatsby for the First Time in Chapter 3?

Nick is relieved to find at least one person that he knows at Gatsby’s party—and that’s Jordan.

At the party, Nick talks to Gatsby (who at that point remains unnamed). The stranger begins asking Nick about the war they both went to. Quite curiously, Jordan doesn’t tell Nick that the man he is speaking to is Gatsby.

Jordan Baker and Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby

Jordan claims to have met Gatsby before, so the reader must wonder if this is another one of her lies.

In this chapter, Nick does take some time out to explain how he sees Jordan. Nick describes her as feeling superior to others but at the same time, avoiding clever, shrewd men.

He also says that Jordan has no problem telling lies as often as needed in order to keep others off their balance.

Despite her flaws, Nick seems enchanted with Jordan. He goes into great detail describing Jordan’s looks and how she makes him feel.

Jordan Baker is also the author’s vehicle for giving the reader background information. Jordan has been Daisy’s closest friend since they were children, so she knows everything about Daisy and will tell Nick everything she knows about both Daisy and Gatsby in Chapter 4 (see The Great Gatsby Chapter 4 Quotes ).

You can read The Great Gatsby Chapter 4 summary here.

Best Quotes from When Nick Meets Gatsby

Best Quotes from When Nick Meets Gatsby

I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby’s house, I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited—they went there. They got into automobiles which bore them out to Long Island and somehow they ended up at Gatsby’s door.

Once there they were introduced by somebody who knew Gatsby and after that they conducted themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with amusement parks. Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby at all, came for the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission.

Nick is really surprised to be invited and even more surprised to find that no one else at the party received an invitation.

He 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.

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.

Precisely at that point it vanished—and I was looking at an elegant young rough-neck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd. Some time before he introduced himself, I’d got a strong impression that he was picking his words with care.

Nick likes the way Gatsby makes him feel, but he is surprised at his youth.

Best Quotes from When Nick Meets Gatsby 2

Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.

While Nick may believe that he is truly an honest person, he actually isn’t as honest (at least not with himself) as he would like to think.

Final Thoughts on How Nick Meets Gatsby

While the reader finally gets a glimpse into the life of the rich and famous, Gatsby’s life remains a mystery.

Although Nick has formally met Gatsby, all the rumors that he had heard remain just that—rumors. He can’t verify them nor can he deny them.

Well, not yet anyway.

For the reader, and perhaps for the narrator Nick Carraway as well, this chapter adds more questions and gives us few answers.

How did a young man earn such tremendous wealth? What story is it that Gatsby told Jordan that she can’t repeat? Are any of the rumors about Gatsby true?

The reader will need to continue to Chapter 4 to find out more.

How Does Nick Meet Gatsby: An Unlikely Encounter or A Meeting of Fate?
How Does Nick Meet Gatsby: An Unlikely Encounter or A Meeting of Fate?
Nick and Jay Gatsby will become great friends in the novel The Great Gatsby, but how did this unlikely pair first meet? Find out the details you must know here.
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