The Great Gatsby Chapter 3 Summary & Annotations: In Simple Terms

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

If you need to know what happens in The Great Gatsby but don’t have time to read the entire book, this summary of Chapter 3 will help get you up to speed.

We’ve heard a few rumors about Gatsby in earlier chapters. We also are introduced to several of the main characters, but what happens in Chapter 3?

The Great Gatsby Chapter 3 Summary and Annotations

Are we finally going to meet the mysterious Gatsby himself?

Keep reading for a full summary and annotation or if you are short on time read my summary of The Great Gatsby.

What Happens in Chapter 3 of The Great Gatsby?

Nick actually receives a written invitation to one of the parties at Gatsby’s house.

While he’s heard the other lavish parties that are thrown at Gatsby’s mansion every weekend, Nick hasn’t actually attended since he hasn’t met the man.

A formal invitation is sent to Nick, and he seems quite surprised. He doesn’t know the host, only some rumors, so he wonders why he is the only person who received a written invitation.

Nick Carraway in front of Gatsby's mansion

Nick attends the party and is shocked by what he sees. In addition to Gatsby’s mansion, there is live music, dancing girls, a huge swimming pool, not to mention a lavish buffet and drinks.

The place is packed with all sorts of people. Nick gives a rundown on the rich and famous (from the 1920s) that he recognizes. It’s a wild mix of guests with Old Money people, New Money people, East Eggers mixing with West Eggers, and some unknown guests who may have wandered there by mistake.

Nick is happy to see that Jordan Baker is there (read Jordan Baker Quotes here). She’s with an undergrad student, whom she immediately ditches for Nick. As they walk through Gatsby’s mansion, they end up in the library, where they meet a man called Owl Eyes. Both Owl Eyes and Nick are surprised that the floor-to-ceiling library shelves are filled with real books, not fake book bindings.

Owl Eyes explains his reason for being there:

“I’ve been drunk for about a week now, and I thought it might sober me up to sit in a library.”

This is where Nick hears even more rumors about his host Gatsby. Someone mentions hearing that Gatsby killed a man in cold blood. Others are repeating the rumor that he is related to a German Kaiser. Still, others claim that he’s just a German spy hiding out after the war.

Jordan Baker and Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby

Jordan and Nick wander into the garden and start drinking champagne. Nick strikes up a conversation with a young man and discovers that they were actually in the same division in the war.

Nick is surprised to find that the man he is talking to is Gatsby himself. Gatsby takes a phone call, then asks the butler to find Jordan and see if she will speak to him privately.

Gatsby leaves Nick to speak to Jordan, who later tells Nick that she has some fascinating news for him, and she will tell him about it later.

Nick decides to leave the party at about 2 AM. As he is leaving, he sees a very drunken Owl Eyes crash his car into a ditch, proclaiming that he is “finished with the whole thing.” It’s not clear who or what he is talking about.

As the narrator, Nick also tells the reader that, in addition to the parties, he is working in New York City, a town he has mixed feelings about but that he finds exciting. Almost as exciting as he finds Jordan Baker that he considers breaking things off with the girl he’s been seeing back home.

What Do We Learn about Nick in Chapter 3?

In the first chapter, Nick tells the reader that he is “the only truly honest person he has ever known.” Perhaps Nick isn’t as honest as he thinks he is because he’s just admitted that he’s cheating (or thinking of doing so) on his girlfriend (possibly fiancée) back home and dating Jordan Baker.

We also discover that Nick might be a bit of a hypocrite. While he says that he’s fairly certain that Jordan cheated during a golf tournament, he doesn’t seem to mind cheating on his girlfriend.

By talking about his work, Nick wants us to believe that he’s more of a workaholic than a party-goer, but he seems to have plenty of time to attend dinners at Daisy’s house, dinner in New York with Gatsby, drinks with Jordan, and a party in New York with Tom and Myrtle.

Nick tries to paint himself as a reserved, moral, well-mannered young man, and perhaps this is the very reason he is attracted to Gatsby. Jay Gatsby has a passion for life and seems to be talking to dozens of people, unlike Nick who really only speaks to Jordan at the party.

We still don’t know much about Jay Gatsby, but we do learn more about who Nick says he is and what he doesn’t say.

What Is the Most Important Quote in Chapter 3 of The Great Gatsby?

Most Important Quote in Chapter 3 by Nick Carraway

There are several terrific quotes in The Great Gatsby, but possibly the one most quoted comes from Nick.

‘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.’

As mentioned in the paragraph above, this quote is obviously something Nick wants the reader to believe. However, his behavior sometimes is quite the opposite.

It could be that Nick truly believes this about himself, but he does seem to be quite self-aware so he must realize that he isn’t always honest.

Another great quote comes from the unnamed gentleman that Nick dubs Owl Eyes:

“I’ve been drunk for about a week now, and I thought it might sober me up to sit in a library.”

This line is almost comical, especially considering that in a few hours, Owl Eyes will drive his car right into a ditch.

What Are Some Facts about Jay Gatsby in Chapter 3?

Like the party Nick attends in Chapter 2 ( see Chapter 2 Quotes here ), the party is meant to introduce us to Jay Gatsby.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in the 2013 movie version of The Great Gatsby

Nick is surprised to discover that he is the only person who actually received a written invitation. This must have told Nick that Gatsby wanted him at the party for some reason. No one would invite a person they don’t know unless they had a good reason for doing so.

It isn’t clear whether Nick realizes this, but he does seem to know on some level that Gatsby had some interest in him. Maybe Nick believes he was invited simply because he was Gatsby’s neighbor?

Despite the awful rumors about him, we discover that Gatsby is generous to a fault. Not only do people enjoy his lavish parties, they are also helping themselves to his cars, boat, pool, and mansion.

The reader can assume that Gatsby has so much wealth that he doesn’t mind sharing his good fortune, or one might assume that Gatsby isn’t very bright and is letting people take advantage of him.

Although Jordan had helped to spread some of the rumors about Gatsby, it seems that she had met him before or had at least attended one of his parties before. This not only tells the reader that Gatsby had a plan (although the reader may not fully realize this just yet) and that Jordan is a flapper who loves to party.

As Nick meets Gatsby (read more on how did Daisy & Gatsby meet ), he describes his smile and the fact that, although he is among a throng of people, he seems detached from them somehow.

Nick Carraway Lines from Chapter 3 of The Great Gatsby

Through Nick’s description, we get a glimpse of the mysterious Gatsby. Nick states that Gatsby possesses “a quality of eternal reassurance… that you may come across four or five times in life.”

His smile, Nick tells the reader, “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.”

Who wouldn’t want to be in the presence of someone as charismatic as that?

What Does Gatsby Say about Himself in Chapter 3?

After Nick has a few glasses of champagne, he starts to loosen up and enjoy the party. He talks with a young man and discovers that not only did they fight in the same war, but they were also in the same division.

When Nick mentions that he hasn’t met his host, Gatsby introduces himself saying, “I thought you knew, old sport. I’m afraid I’m not a very good host.”

What Does Gatsby Say about Himself in Chapter 3

Whether Gatsby feels that a “good host” should introduce themselves to everyone or whether he thinks that he is so well known that an introduction isn’t necessary isn’t clear, but Gatsby at least has the good manners to apologize for assuming Nick knew who he was.

Gatsby receives a phone call from Chicago and excuses himself from the group, “If you want anything just ask for it, old sport. Excuse me, I will rejoin you later.”

Nick apologizes for not recognizing his host when they were in the garden, and again, as gracious as can be, Gatsby tells Nick not to give it another thought. Then he invites Nick for a ride on his hydroplane in the morning.

While we hear rumors during the party, the small glimpse we get of Gatsby is that he’s refined, well-educated, not a phony, generous, and above all, a very polite and gracious host.

What Does Gatsby Always Say in Chapter 3?

At Gatsby’s party, we don’t hear much from Gatsby himself until about three-quarters of the way through the chapter.

It’s obvious to anyone who has read the book that Gatsby has picked up a line that he uses frequently (with men anyway), and he calls them Old Sport.

Jay Gatsby's favorite line

This is a polite referral to men, much like the way people today might call you Son or even Dude. “Old Sport” doesn’t literally mean that the person is old, but it’s a nice reference that you’re an old friend, even if you’re not.

Gatsby most likely picked up this phrase from Dan Cody, whom the reader will find out more about in Chapter 6.

What Are the 3 Notable Things That Happened in Chapter 3 of The Great Gatsby?

The top 3 most notable things you must know about Chapter 3 are:
      1. After watching Gatsby’s parties for several weeks but never going, Nick receives a formal invitation to a party at Gatsby’s mansion next door.

      2. Nick meets his host and finds him charming but mysterious.

      3. At the party, Gatsby tells Jordan a secret that she can’t wait to share with Nick but tells Nick that it will have to wait until later.
Of course, a lot more goes on during these extravagant parties that Gatsby throws, but these are the three main things the reader must take away from Chapter 3.

Who Crashed in Chapter 3?

Nick is leaving the party and sees a car accident where a car went into a ditch. Owl Eyes, drunk as ever, is wondering what happened. He realizes the car crashed but can’t seem to understand why.

Vintage car on a dark background

Then the driver of the car emerges. He is even drunker than Owl Eyes (if that’s ever possible), so drunk that he believes the car is out of gas, even when Owl Eyes tells him that the wheel had come off the car.

It may appear at first that Owl Eyes was driving, but we realize that Owl Eyes had a driver or hired a driver, who was just as incapacitated and intoxicated as he was.

Final Thoughts

F. Scott Fitzgerald deliberately delays the introduction of Gatsby until the third chapter (and even here he doesn’t give away too much information) to keep the mystery going.

This chapter also shows the reader the gap between perception and reality. Gatsby is throwing huge, lavish parties that put the extent of Gatsby’s wealth on full display, however, Gatsby himself doesn’t seem to be all that involved with the party.

Nick also seems a bit overwhelmed by the staggering amount of people and money that would be required to hold parties like these frequently, and he wonders who Gatsby is trying to impress and why he would do this.

For a full understanding of this chapter, you must read the first two chapters. If time is short, you can read more about The Great Gatsby Chapter 1 summary and The Great Gatsby Chapter 2 summary here or check out our Great Gatsby Book Summary.


The Great Gatsby Chapter 3 Summary & Annotations: In Simple Terms
The Great Gatsby Chapter 3 Summary & Annotations: In Simple Terms
What happens in Chapter 3 of The Great Gatsby? Does the reader finally meet Gatsby? Find a complete summary of everything you need to know in this article.
Gatsby Flapper Girl