Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby might have known each other from several possible encounters. Their first proper meeting happens during one of Gatsby’s parties, to which Nick was invited. They strike up a conversation that leads to them establishing a close friendship. But Nick does not realize who he is talking to at first.
The first time when Nick and Jay might have met was in France in 1918. Both of them served in the U.S. armed forces during the First World War. Gatsby thinks he remembers Nick’s face from those days. Years later, they end up as next-door neighbors in New York City. Nick sees a man he identifies as Gatsby standing outside his neighbor’s mansion but decides not to approach him.
Gatsby contacts Nick first by inviting him to his party via a handwritten note. Gatsby secretly hopes to use his help to rekindle a relationship with Nick’s cousin Daisy. As the party winds down, Nick unwittingly sits down to talk with the host. He only learns later in the conversation that he is talking to Gatsby. By then, they have already formed a strong rapport thanks to Gatsby’s charm.
Gatsby had an ulterior purpose in arranging that first meeting. However, the friendship between the two characters is genuine. Between their wartime experience and outsider perspective on society, there is much that they have in common. Nick thinks highly of Gatsby after meeting him, seeing him as an open-minded and warmhearted man. Their evident mutual sympathy gives rise to a mutually beneficial relationship.