Nick notes that newspaper reporters soon started to appear at Gatsby's home to try to interview him. He then gives Gatsby's biographical details, the truth behind both the public rumors and Gatsby's own claims: born James Gatz on a farm in North Dakota around 1900; changed his name to Jay Gatsby at age seventeen; spends more than a year on the south shore of Lake Superior clamming and fishing; attends and drops out of St. Olaf College in southern Minnesota after two weeks; meets Dan Cody, a fifty year-old multimillionaire expert in mining and precious metals, and ends up as his assistant for five years aboard the Tuolomee, Cody's boat; Cody dies and leaves Gatsby $25,000, which he never receives due to a legal technicality; Gatsby dedicates himself to becoming rich and successful.
Like so many who sought and achieved the American Dream during the Roaring Twenties, Gatsby is a self-made man. He literally created himself, even changing his name in order to become a "success." Gatsby's story is not as unique as all the rumors about him suggest. Instead, he represents a typical member of the rags-to-riches "new money" class.
For a few weeks, Nick doesn't see Gatsby. Then, one afternoon, Gatsby turns up at his house. A few moments later, Tom Buchanan also shows up unexpectedly with some friends, the Sloanes. Gatsby tells Tom that he knows his wife, and invites Tom and his friends to stay for dinner. They say they can't stay, but invite Gatsby to dinner. Gatsby doesn't realize that the invitation was just to be polite, and accepts.
The conflict between Gatsby and Tom, new money and old money, continues to build. Here, Gatsby fails to understand the "old money" behavior of insincere politeness; he mistakes it for actual politeness. "Old Money" hides its cruelty, and calls it good manners.
The next Saturday night, Tom and Daisy come to a party at Gatsby's. The party strikes Nick as particularly unpleasant. Tom is disdainful of the party, and though Daisy and Gatsby dance together she also seems to have a bad time. As Tom and Daisy are leaving, Tom says he suspects Gatsby's fortune comes from bootlegging, which Nick denies. Daisy says Gatsby made his money from drug stores that he built up himself.
Nick has clearly come to sympathize with Gatsby against Tom. Tom's disdain for the party is to be expected. But that Daisy has a bad time suggests that Gatsby might not so easily be able to recreate their love. There may be too many obstacles.
After the party, Gatsby is depressed. He suspects that Daisy neither enjoyed the party nor understands the depth of his feelings for her. Nick reminds him that the past is impossible to repeat, but Gatsby disagrees. He says he will return everything to the way it was before.
Nick recalls a memory that Gatsby once shared with him about the first time Gatsby kissed Daisy. Nick calls Gatsby's sentimentality about history "appalling" and reflects that in that kiss Gatsby's dreams of success focused solely on Daisy. She became an idealized dream for Gatsby and the center of his life.
Nick calls Gatsby's sentimentality appalling because it has made Daisy into a symbol of perfection, an idealized vision to which Gatsby has sacrificed his identity.