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Chapter 3

We learn from Nick's detailed descriptions that Gatsby throws lavish parties every weekend during the summertime. For the pleasure of his guests, who come to his parties by the hundreds, Gatsby orders full orchestras, crates of fruit, and baskets of food - there seems to be no limit to Gatsby's spending power. Gatsby sends Nick a personal invitation to one of his parties, and Nick runs into Jordan when he arrives. They listen to others speculate about Gatsby's background, for even though everyone comes to his parties, no one really knows anything about him. One says that he was a German spy during the war, and another guesses that he had killed a man. Nick meets an incredibly drunk man in the library who is wearing huge owl-eyed glasses, and he tells him that he is amazed that the books in Gatsby's library are real. Although this weird episode may make you scratch your head in confusion because it seems to have no significance in the novel, Fitzgerald may have been using the owl-eyed man and his amazement at Gatsby's library to prove that the hundreds of people who ended up attending his parties were completely random people who didn't know him at all.
Nick and Jordan leave the library and resume their search for Gatsby, and Nick finally begins talking to a rather nondescript man with a dazzling, charming smile, who asks him if he served in the war. He tells Nick that he had also served as an infantryman during the war and offers to take him to go hydroplaning with him one day. The stranger, of course, turns out to be Jay Gatsby, and Nick is completely surprised that this nondescript man is the same one that he has been looking for all night and who has been the root of so much speculation during the night. Gatsby asks to see Jordan privately, and Nick is left alone for almost two hours while they speak behind closed doors. When she and Gatsby finally finish their secretive conversation, she tells Nick that she is absolutely amazed by their conversation but is reluctant to reveal to him what they had discussed.
The night ends on an eerie note. As the guests are leaving Gatsby's party at a very late hour, there is a car accident involving the owl-eyed man in Gatsby's library, who is obviously drunk. He doesn't know how he got in the car accident, and the man who is driving the other car, who is also drunk, doesn't even realize that his car is damaged. Even though the incident seems rather random, it is the first in a set of significant car accidents that form the structure of the book. Their driving is reckless, conscience-less, and Fitzgerald wants us to realize the general air of carelessness and moral abandon that underlined the 1920's.
After he describes his first experience at one of Gatsby's parties, Nick tells us a little bit more about himself and his summer in the East. He works at the Probity Trust and spends much of his time living the "normal" life of a young businessman in New York City. He enjoys the excitement and raciness of the city and the young, mysterious people who give it that enigmatic air. Nick begins to date Jordan Baker, even though he has heard rumors that during a golf tournament, she had moved her ball from a bad lie to a better one. He realizes that she is ambitious, cold-hearted, and competitive, but it seems that he wants to date her because he is almost morbidly fascinated by the lifestyle of the East Eggers. He kisses Jordan because she is real to him, not an imaginary girl that a man dreams about but can never attain.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9


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