The Most Memorable Quotes About Jay Gatsby

Last Updated: October 24th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

Jay Gatsby is the mystery man behind the novel The Great Gatsby. Quotes from the man tell the reader how he thinks and what he values, but what did people say about him?

Quotes About Jay Gatsby from the novel The Great Gatsby

As with everyone in life, there were people who admired Jay Gatsby. There were also those who were curious or charmed by his unknown past and those who detested him, if not for who he was, then for what he represented.

If you need to find the most memorable quotes about Jay Gatsby or what people said about the man, you’ve come to the right place.

Nick Carraway’s Quotes About Jay Gatsby

In this novel, narrator Nick Carraway is perhaps Gatsby’s closest and possibly only friend.

Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway in new york

While Nick claims that he doesn’t judge people, he seems quite torn when it comes to Gatsby. He admires Gatsby’s wonder, his love for Daisy and determination to make things happen, but he is also revolted by Gatsby’s illegal ways of earning money.

What Are Some Rumors and Quotes about Jay Gatsby’s Past

The reader isn’t introduced to Gatsby until the third chapter of the book, but the first two chapters are already replete with rumors and descriptions of him.

Nick is invited to one of Gatsby’s parties, and out of curiosity, Nick attends. He hears some crazy rumors about his host.

Two girls are talking about Jay Gatsby killing a man and being a German spy, while Jordan and several men listen intently. Nick narrates:

The two girls and Jordan leaned together confidentially.

“Somebody told me they thought he killed a man once.”

A thrill passed over all of us. The three Mr. Mumbles bent forward and listened eagerly.

“I don’t think it’s so much that,” argued Lucille skeptically; “it’s more that he was a German spy during the war.”

The men then actively chimed in, contributing to their versions of the story and quotes about Jay Gatsby.

One of the men nodded in confirmation.

“I heard that from a man who knew all about him, grew up with him in Germany,” he assured us positively.

“Oh, no,” said the first girl, “it couldn’t be that, because he was in the American army during the war.”

As our credulity switched back to her she leaned forward with enthusiasm. “You look at him sometimes when he thinks nobody’s looking at him. I’ll bet he killed a man.”

What Quotes Describe Jay Gatsby?

Nick Carraway's Quotes about Jay Gatsby

Hearing that your host may have killed a man would certainly make anyone’s blood run cold, but Nick reserves judgment until he meets him.

Searching the house, Nick is almost convinced that Gatsby doesn’t exist at all until he appears. Nick converses casually with a man at a table, sharing their common experiences in the war.

“It was on the tip of my tongue to ask his name when Jordan looked around and smiled.

Jordan comes back and asks if he (Nick) is enjoying the party.

“Much better.” I turned again to my new acquaintance. “This is an unusual party for me. I haven’t even seen the host. I live over there”—I waved my hand at the invisible hedge in the distance, “and this man Gatsby sent over his chauffeur with an invitation.”

The man seems puzzled and surprised at first, and then introduces himself as Jay Gatsby. Nick is equally surprised and apologizes for not recognizing the host.

Nick Describes Gatsby’s Understanding Smile

Nick's Description of Gatsby's Understanding Smile

Gatsby smiles, and this is how Nick describes it:

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 roughneck, 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 Is Disappointed with Gatsby

Nick seems charmed by Gatsby’s friendly smile but surprised by his youth. However, he seems disappointed in Chapter 4 that despite speaking with him several times, Gatsby didn’t appear to have much to say.

I had talked with him perhaps half a dozen times in the past month and found, to my disappointment, that he had little to say. So my first impression, that he was a person of some undefined consequence, had gradually faded and he had become simply the proprietor of an elaborate roadhouse next door.”

Nick Starts Believing Some of Gatsby’s Stories

Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway standing side by side

Gatsby tells Nick about his past and tries to dispel rumors Nick may have heard. Nick initially suspects that Gatsby was lying but later changed his mind.

“Little Montenegro! He lifted up the words and nodded at them—with his smile. The smile comprehended Montenegro’s troubled history and sympathized with the brave struggles of the Montenegrin people.

It appreciated fully the chain of national circumstances which had elicited this tribute from Montenegro’s warm little heart. My incredulity was submerged in fascination now; it was like skimming hastily through a dozen magazines.”

Gatsby then proceeds to tell Nick about his half-lie, half-truth of a life story because, in his words, he doesn’t want Nick to think that he is “just some nobody” before he makes his big request.

What Quote Best Represents Gatsby?

The two words that come to mind when speaking of Jay Gatsby would be ambitious and idealistic.

The quote that best represents those words would come from an observation that Nick makes in Chapter 5-

He wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was.

Gatsby knows that he has given everything to try to obtain Daisy and recapture the past. While he is aware that he has done this, he is still convinced that he can force things to happen if he simply wills it to manifest.

What Did Gatsby Believe In?

Jay Gatsby may be a bootlegger ( read more on famous 1920s bootleggers ), and he may even be a criminal, but he is a hopeful dreamer who believes in his own ability to achieve anything, even recreating the past.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.

Gatsby believed in the green light on Daisy’s dock in Long Island ( read Great Gatsby Quotes About the Green Light ) and everything that the light represented to him. This belief was what fired up Gatsby to become what he became. What’s tragic is that it was the same fire that consumed him in the end.

Quotes about Jay Gatsby’s Love for Daisy

Nick's quotes about Daisy and Gatsby

Regardless of what Nick may believe about Gatsby’s past, one thing was clear, Gatsby was hopelessly in love with Daisy Buchanan. Nick could clearly see that in Chapter 5.

They were sitting at either end of the couch looking at each other as if some question had been asked or was in the air, and every vestige of embarrassment was gone.

Daisy’s face was smeared with tears, and when I came in she jumped up and began wiping at it with her handkerchief before a mirror.

But there was a change in Gatsby that was simply confounding. He literally glowed; without a word or a gesture of exultation, a new well-being radiated from him and filled the little room.”

It’s hard to tell what Nick truly feels about Gatsby, but he can see that Gatsby and Daisy are in love. Or at least Gatsby is.

How Did Jay and Daisy Fall in Love?

Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan dancing at one of Gatsby's parties

By now, the reader must already be familiar with how the story alternates the past and the present events. In Chapter 6, for instance, Gatsby tells Nick about the night he and Daisy fell in love five year ago.

His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God.

So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete.”

How Does Gatsby Try to Win Back Daisy’s Love?

After they got over the initial awkwardness of their first meeting in Chapter 5, Gatsby wants to show Daisy his mansion.

He makes mental notes of everything Daisy likes and, presumably, things she doesn’t respond to so that Gatsby can make changes later.

He hadn’t once ceased looking at Daisy, and I think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes.

Sometimes, too, he stared around at his possessions in a dazed way as though in her actual and astounding presence none of it was any longer real. Once he nearly toppled down a flight of stairs.

How Gatsby Talks about Daisy and Shows His Love for Her

Great Gatsby Quotes about Daisy

There’s no doubt about Gatsby’s plan to repeat the past, and he’s becoming more impatient as days go by.

In Chapter 7, Gatsby lets the cat out of the bag by telling Tom that he and Daisy are in love and have been for years.

“Your wife doesn’t love you,” said Gatsby. “She’s never loved you. She loves me.”

Also from Chapter 7, Gatsby shows his love by taking the blame for Daisy’s driving that killed Myrtle Wilson.

Daisy Buchanan: The Flapper, the Socialite, and Gatsby’s Beloved

Nick asks if it was Daisy driving the car when Myrtle was hit, and Gatsby replies:

“Yes,” he said after a moment, “but of course I’ll say I was. You see, when we left New York she was very nervous and she thought it would steady her to drive—and this woman rushed out at us just as we were passing a car coming the other way.

Later in Chapter 8, Gatsby talks more about the moment when he realized that he was in love-

“I can’t describe to you how surprised I was to find out I loved her, old sport. I even hoped for a while that she’d throw me over, but she didn’t, because she was in love with me too. She thought I knew a lot because I knew different things from her…

Well, there I was, way off my ambitions, getting deeper in love every minute, and all of a sudden I didn’t care. What was the use of doing great things if I could have a better time telling her what I was going to do?”

There is never any doubt for the reader that from the moment we learn about Gatsby’s desire to recreate the past, his love (one might call it an obsession) for Daisy was pure and all-consuming.

Quotes about Jay Gatsby’s Wealth

Leonardo DiCaprio as jay gatsby in The Great Gatsby 2013 movie version

We learn almost immediately in the novel that Gatsby is best known for throwing luxurious, outrageous, over-the-top parties every weekend.

How Opulent Are Gatsby’s Parties?

In Chapter 3, Nick describes the lengths Gatsby goes to when preparing for his weekend parties. The description alone gives one an idea of how much money he must spend every week:

There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.

At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motor-boats slit the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam.

On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city, between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains.

And on Mondays eight servants including an extra gardener toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before.

He also goes on at length about the party itself:

By seven o’clock the orchestra has arrived—no thin five-piece affair but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums.

The last swimmers have come in from the beach now and are dressing upstairs; the cars from New York are parked five deep in the drive, and already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors and hair shorn in strange new ways and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile.

The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside until the air is alive with chatter and laughter and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.

Description of Gatsby’s House on the Weekends

Nick Describes Gatsby's House on the Weekends

Nick tries to describe the grandeur of the house in Chapter 5, the reader can easily picture everything:

And inside, as we wandered through Marie Antoinette music rooms and Restoration salons, I felt that there were guests concealed behind every couch and table, under orders to be breathlessly silent until we had passed through.

As Gatsby closed the door of “the Merton College Library” I could have sworn I heard the owl-eyed man break into ghostly laughter.

We went upstairs, through period bedrooms swathed in rose and lavender silk and vivid with new flowers, through dressing rooms and poolrooms, and bathrooms with sunken baths…

Finally we came to Gatsby’s own apartment, a bedroom and a bath and an Adam study, where we sat down and drank a glass of some Chartreuse he took from a cupboard in the wall.

Gatsby appears to have wealth equal to Tom Buchanan’s, but there is one thing Gatsby cannot buy and that is the social status of “old money”.

Quotes about Jay Gatsby’s Loneliness

While author F. Scott Fitzgerald does not refer to Gatsby’s “loneliness” in the novel, it’s fairly clear that Gatsby, despite the hundreds of people who enjoy his hospitality and parties, doesn’t have a single true friend (other than Nick).

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby and Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway

Gatsby always seems to be asking Nick to go places or do things with him.

In Chapter 3, Gatsby asks Nick to accompany him on his first hydroplane ride.

We talked for a moment about some wet, grey little villages in France. Evidently he lived in this vicinity for he told me that he had just bought a hydroplane and was going to try it out in the morning.

In Chapter 5, Gatsby tries to persuade Nick to go to Coney Island or go swimming with him-

“Let’s go to Coney Island, old sport. In my car.”

“Well, suppose we take a plunge in the swimming-pool? I haven’t made use of it all summer.’

He is endlessly asking Nick’s company. Being alone, however, is not loneliness in itself. It’s Nick who sees through Gatsby’s solitude and who puts things into words.

Nick Talks about Jay Gatsby’s Solitude

In Chapter 9, Nick feels the solitude that must have accompanied Gatsby his entire life and that which continues even in death.

Next morning I sent the butler to New York with a letter to Wolfsheim, asking for information and urging him to come out on the next train. That request seemed superfluous when I wrote it.

I was sure he’d start when he saw the newspapers, just as I was sure there’d be a wire from Daisy before noon – but neither a wire nor Mr. Wolfsheim arrived; no one arrived except more police and photographers and newspaper men.

When the butler brought back Wolfsheim’s answer I began to have a feeling of defiance, of scornful solidarity between Gatsby and me against them all.

Gatsby’s only friend appears to be his love for Daisy. No one else mattered and Gatsby paid the price for that friendship.

Quotes about Jay Gatsby not knowing that the past was already behind him

The last few quotes about Jay Gatsby evoke some of the saddest and most profound thoughts in the novel, including this third to the last paragraph:

He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

It speaks of the unattainability of a dream, for which Gatsby paid the ultimate price.

Final Thoughts on Quotes About Gatsby

Jay Gatsby is a deeply flawed human who makes mistakes as all humans do. His whole life – his struggles, failures, successes, and dreams – is the embodiment of the American Dream ( see quotes about the American Dream ).

F. Scott Fitzgerald was skeptical of the American Dream and believed that it was more of a sham than a fact. His character Jay Gatsby displays the author’s belief in possibly achieving the “American dream” but losing everything in the end.

Nick Carraway is fascinated with the optimism and love Gatsby feels but disgusted by his dishonesty and vulgarity.

So who was Jay Gatsby? A bootlegger? A rags-to-riches character? The eternal optimist? The tragic victim of a three-way love triangle? A wealthy businessman? He is all of the above and more.

The reader will see Gatsby in a different light depending on their world view.

The Most Memorable Quotes About Jay Gatsby
The Most Memorable Quotes About Jay Gatsby
Everyone has something to say about Jay Gatsby. Who admired him? Who hated him? Find the most memorable quotes in The Great Gatsby here.
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