The Great Gatsby

Jay Gatsby Character Analysis

Nick's wealthy neighbor in West Egg. Gatsby owns a gigantic mansion and has become well known for hosting large parties every Saturday night. Gatsby's lust for wealth stems from his desire to win back the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan, whom he met and fell in love with while in military training in Louisville, Kentucky before WW I. Gatsby is a self-made man (his birth name was Jay Gatz) who achieved the American Dream of rising up from the lower classes to the top of society. But to Gatsby, the desire for love proves more powerful than the lust for money. Fitzgerald uses Gatsby's downfall as a critique of the reckless indulgence of Roaring Twenties America.

Jay Gatsby Quotes in The Great Gatsby

The The Great Gatsby quotes below are all either spoken by Jay Gatsby or refer to Jay Gatsby. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of The Great Gatsby published in 2004.
Chapter 1 Quotes
He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby
Related Symbols: The Green Light and the Color Green
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes
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 as 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.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes
"It makes me sad because I've never seen such — such beautiful shirts before."
Related Characters: Daisy Buchanan (speaker), Jay Gatsby
Related Symbols: Gatsby's Mansion
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes
The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God—a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that—and he must be about His Father's business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

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"I wouldn't ask too much of her," I ventured. "You can't repeat the past."
"Can't repeat the past?" he cried incredulously. "Why of course you can!"
He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.
Related Characters: Jay Gatsby (speaker), Nick Carraway (speaker), Daisy Buchanan
Related Symbols: Gatsby's Mansion
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes
"Her voice is full of money," he said suddenly.
That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money—that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it.
Related Characters: Jay Gatsby (speaker), Nick Carraway (speaker), Daisy Buchanan
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8 Quotes
"They're a rotten crowd," I shouted across the lawn. "You're worth the whole damn bunch put together."
I've always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end. First he nodded politely, and then his face broke into that radiant and understanding smile, as if we'd been in ecstatic cahoots on that fact all the time.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 9 Quotes
That's my Middle West . . . the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark. . . . I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all—Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan, Jordan Baker
Related Symbols: East and West
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:

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And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world.... And as I sat there, brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out Daisy's light at the end of his dock. He had come such a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it. But what he did not know was that it was already behind him, somewhere in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan
Related Symbols: The Green Light and the Color Green
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:

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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—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And then one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby
Related Symbols: The Green Light and the Color Green
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:

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Jay Gatsby Character Timeline in The Great Gatsby

The timeline below shows where the character Jay Gatsby appears in The Great Gatsby. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
For instance, Nick says that though he scorns everything Gatsby stood for, he withholds judgment entirely regarding him. Nick says Gatsby was a man of... (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
...For instance, Nick's small house sits next to an "eyesore" of a mansion owned by Gatsby, a man Nick knows only by name. Gatsby's mansion is a gigantic reproduction of a... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Upon returning from dinner, Nick sees Jay Gatsby standing on his lawn and gazing out across Long Island sound. Nick considers calling out... (full context)
Chapter 2
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
The topic of conversation eventually turns to Nick's neighbor Gatsby. Catherine says she's afraid of Gatsby because she's heard that he's a relative of the... (full context)
Chapter 3
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Every Saturday night, Gatsby throws incredibly luxurious parties at his mansion. Nick eventually receives an invitation. At the party,... (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
Past and Future Theme Icon
...they may have crossed paths during World War I. The man introduces himself: he's Jay Gatsby. Gatsby has a dazzling smile, and refers to everyone as "old sport." (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Gatsby also interests Nick because he remains apart from the party, as if his pleasure derives... (full context)
Past and Future Theme Icon
...two in the morning, a butler approaches Jordan and asks her to come meet with Gatsby. She returns a while later from this meeting and tells Nick that she has just... (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
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After saying goodbye to Gatsby (who has to run off to receive a phone call from Philadelphia), Nick leaves the... (full context)
Chapter 4
The American Dream Theme Icon
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Past and Future Theme Icon
Nick then describes accompanying Gatsby on a trip into the city for lunch. They ride to the city in Gatsby's... (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Gatsby pays little attention to the speed limit, and a policeman pulls him over. Gatsby shows... (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
For lunch they meet a business partner of Gatsby's named Meyer Wolfsheim. Wolfsheim tells Nick that Gatsby is a man of "fine breeding" who... (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
On the way out of the restaurant, Nick sees Tom Buchanan and introduces him to Gatsby. Gatsby appears embarrassed and leaves the scene without saying goodbye. (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Past and Future Theme Icon
Jordan finishes the story later in Central Park. She says Gatsby never fell out of love with Daisy and bought his giant mansion in West Egg... (full context)
Chapter 5
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
After returning from the city, Nick encounters Gatsby late at night on his front lawn. Gatsby seems nervous, and asks if Nick would... (full context)
Past and Future Theme Icon
Gatsby is nervous on the day of the meeting. Though it's raining he sends a man... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Gatsby and Daisy treat each other formally at first, and Gatsby's nerves threaten to overwhelm him.... (full context)
Past and Future Theme Icon
Nick, meanwhile, privately wonders how Daisy can possibly fulfill Gatsby's idealized vision of her. Nick reflects that over the years Gatsby has remained faithful to... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
They move from the house to Gatsby's well-manicured grounds. Gatsby remarks that mist on the bay blocks his view of Daisy's house... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
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Next, Gatsby gets one of his hangers-on, Ewing Klipspringer, to play the piano for the three of... (full context)
Chapter 6
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Past and Future Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
For a few weeks, Nick doesn't see Gatsby. Then, one afternoon, Gatsby turns up at his house. A few moments later, Tom Buchanan... (full context)
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Past and Future Theme Icon
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... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Past and Future Theme Icon
After the party, Gatsby is depressed. He suspects that Daisy neither enjoyed the party nor understands the depth of... (full context)
Past and Future Theme Icon
Nick recalls a memory that Gatsby once shared with him about the first time Gatsby kissed Daisy. Nick calls Gatsby's sentimentality... (full context)
Chapter 7
The American Dream Theme Icon
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Past and Future Theme Icon
Gatsby's house becomes much quieter, and his party's come to an end. Nick visits, and learns... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
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On the hottest day of the summer, Daisy invites Nick and Gatsby to lunch with her, Tom, and Jordan. At one point, while Tom is out of... (full context)
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When Tom and Gatsby take a tour around the house, Gatsby points out that his house is directly across... (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
...She cries out that she wants them all to go to the city. Daisy and Gatsby lock eyes, and Daisy comments that Gatsby always looks like an advertisement. Tom can see... (full context)
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Past and Future Theme Icon
Before they leave for the city, Nick and Gatsby have a moment alone, in which they agree that Daisy is indiscreet. Gatsby comments that... (full context)
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Tom insists on driving Gatsby's big yellow car. Gatsby and Daisy travel alone in Tom's coupe, while Tom drives Nick... (full context)
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
...takes a suite at the Plaza Hotel near Central Park. Soon after arriving, Tom challenges Gatsby's history as an "Oxford man." When Gatsby successfully answers the question, Tom then asks what... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Gatsby says Daisy never loved Tom and has only ever loved him. Tom protests, but Daisy... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Past and Future Theme Icon
...history together, Daisy admits that she did love Tom in the past, she just loved Gatsby too. Gatsby is stunned. (full context)
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Tom pushes his advantage: he reveals that Gatsby really is involved with organized crime, such as bootlegging. All this terrifies Daisy, who begs... (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
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...a "menacing" new decade stretched before him. In Tom's car heading back toward Long Island (Gatsby and Daisy took Gatsby's car), Nick observes that unlike Daisy, people like Jordan Baker know... (full context)
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
...Tom and Wilson are overwhelmed by grief at Myrtle's death. Tom suspects that it was Gatsby who hit Myrtle. (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
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...house. Tom calls a taxi for Nick. As Nick waits for it outside, he sees Gatsby hiding in the bushes. Gatsby tells him that Daisy was driving the car and that... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Nick tells Gatsby everything is quiet, but Gatsby still refuses to leave. Nick leaves him "watching over nothing." (full context)
Chapter 8
The American Dream Theme Icon
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Nick visits Gatsby for breakfast the next morning. Gatsby tells Nick that Daisy never came outside the previous... (full context)
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Gatsby and Nick finish breakfast. As they walk together, the gardener tells Gatsby he's going to... (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
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At two, Gatsby went for a swim, leaving word that he was to be alerted if any phone... (full context)
Chapter 9
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
...now two years later and Nick is recounting his memories of the days shortly after Gatsby's death. Wild rumors about Gatsby's relationship with Myrtle and Wilson swirl, and reporters and other... (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Nick finds himself the primary contact for all matters relating to Gatsby because nobody else wanted to be. Daisy and Tom disappear with no forwarding address, and... (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
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Past and Future Theme Icon
Three days after Gatsby's death, a telegram arrives from his father, Henry C. Gatz. Mr. Gatz arrives in person... (full context)
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Gatsby's funeral takes place the next day. In an effort to assemble more people to attend... (full context)
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Nick returns to Gatsby's house for the funeral. Only, Nick, Henry Gatz, and, to Nick's surprise, Owl Eyes show... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Nick now describes The Great Gatsby as a story of the West since many of the key characters (Daisy, Tom, Nick,... (full context)
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
...shake Tom's hand, and learns that Tom was the one who told George Wilson that Gatsby ran over Myrtle. Tom adds also that he cried when he gave up the apartment... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
...last night in West Egg before moving back home to Minnesota, Nick walks down to Gatsby's beach and looks out over Long Island sound. He wonders how the first settlers to... (full context)
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Nick describes Gatsby as a believer in the future, a man of promise and faith. He compares everyone... (full context)