The Great Gatsby – Setting

West Egg

West Egg represents the wealthiest of the working class, it’s referred to as ‘new money’ as people made their wealth through work (often illegally). People who live in West Egg are living The American Dream, they have started without money and have earned their way up the social class to be successful and wealthy. The American Dream is an illusion that it is all a dream, people in West Egg will never reach the social position and class of East Egg, they will never completely fit in with the upper class, it will always be just a dream. West Egg isn’t considered as classy and isn’t as respected as East Egg. “I live at West Egg, the – well, the less fashionable of the two, through this is the most superficial tag” – Nick Carraway, referring to the judgment of West Egg being “the less fashionable of the two” as being superficial, shows that East and West Egg are almost the same. West and East Egg is the division of old and new money but other than that they are the same yet one is more ‘classy’ than the other. A superficial tag is something that appears true but in reality isn’t true at all. East Egg is considered more classy and respected as they never had to work for their wealth and hold that power over others. Everyone in East Egg looks down on people from West Egg to enforce their superiority. “Who is this Gatsby anyhow?” demanded Tom suddenly. “Some big bootlegger?… I didn’t hear it. I imagined it. A lot of these newly rich people are just big bootleggers, you know.” – Tom Buchanan, this quote demonstrates how people of ‘new money’ are labelled, without even knowing Gatsby, Tom labels him as a bootlegger purely based off that he made his wealth recently. Gatsby is very visibly successful, he displays his wealth tremendously in his parties. Tom distrusts anyone who can make their wealth so fast and have so much money without inheriting any of it, this is why Tom labels Gatsby and a lot of West Egg as bootleggers. Tom can’t comprehend how somebody can make so much money through working. This shows how despite both Eggs being very similar, they are treated and labelled very differently, East Egg is labelled classy, wealthy whereas West Egg is labelled bootleggers and aren’t respected.

East Egg

East Egg represents the wealthiest of the upper class. People who live in East Egg have ‘old money’, gaining their wealth through inheritance. They’re more close minded and materialistic than those who live in West Egg, as they have been surrounded by money their entire lives. People in East Egg skipped The American Dream, they didn’t have to work for their wealth, they were just born wealthy, they are what people who believe in The American Dream strive to have. They know no different than the extravagant lifestyle they live. The mansions in East Egg are much nicer that those in West Egg showing how much richer people from East Egg are. “…the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water.” – Nick Carraway, describing the houses from East Egg as palaces give an indication of how rich they are. When people hear the word palace, they think royal, grand and very wealthy. People who live in East Egg are some of the richest in New York which is why they live in ‘places’ rather than just nice houses. As the houses are glittering along the water, you understand that East Egg is full of rich, fancy and classy people as their houses are literally glittering along the water. They put their wealth into materialistic things making their houses so grand and fancy. “… a cheerful red-and-white Georgian Colonial mansion… The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens — finally when it reached the house… a line of French windows, glowing now with reflected gold” – Nick Carraway, referring to Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s house as a cheerful mansion gives the impression that because their house is happy, they’re happy as well which is opposite to how they feel in their marriage. Nick details the exterior of their house supporting that these people put so much money into their house that their windows reflect gold and the lawn runs for a quarter of a mile. Detailing East Egg as vividly as Nick does takes the attention away from emotions of the people that live in East Egg, a lot of them are unhappy, they are rich in wealth but not rich in happiness. Detailing East Egg so much is an illusion, it’s hiding how unhappy East Egg is, they are surrounded by affairs and are alone, their friendships and relationships are built on social positions and wealth.

Valley of Ashes

The Valley of Ashes is the industrial area that lies in between the Eggs and Manhattan. Valley of Ashes represents the lowest of the lower class. George and Myrtle Wilson are two that live in the Valley of Ashes, they live among the ‘ashes’ of their dreams dying, in a result losing sight of The American Dream. The industrial factories lay out a layer of soot and ashes, smothering the hopes and dreams of those who live there. “…a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens… ash-grey men, who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air… ash-grey men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud” – Nick Carraway, the ashes cover the land, forming and creating mountains of dead dreams. The Valley of Ashes name is an illusion, it alludes that it’s a valley of the dead dreams of those that live there. They all want to leave the Valley of Ashes as they dream and desire so much more in life but as they stay in the valley longer, they lose sight of their dreams forming another “grotesque garden” of dead dreams, they no longer have any drive or determination to leave as they have nothing left. The ‘ashes’ have created a wall – impenetrable cloud, that they can’t past, Myrtle dies trying to leave the Valley of Ashes. The Valley of Ashes is a sad place that those who live there, hope to one day escape. “So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight” – Nick Carraway, the quote foreshadows Myrtle’s death but it reinforces the sad, depressing, cold atmosphere of the Valley of Ashes. There hasn’t been a quote that associates the valley with happiness, there is no mention of colour just grey and black showing the depression and the death of the dreams. The Valley of Ashes illustrates the impossibility of The American Dream, the more they work the poorer they get and The American Dream can never be more than just a dream. 

New York Apartment

The New York Apartment is where Tom and his mistress Myrtle meetup. It is clear despite all his wealth, Tom hasn’t spent much money on the apartment, yet Myrtle is very proud of the apartment as it’s her closest insight into the upper-class lifestyle that she desires. It is clear that Tom only thinks of the relationship as an affair due to the lack of money he has spent on it. The apartment is an illusion and represents the impossibility of their relationship working as it’s a getaway but won’t progress. The apartment contains “a small living-room, a small dining-room, a small bedroom and bath…furniture entirely too large for it…some of the small scandal magazines of Broadway” – Nick Carraway, the repetition of ‘small’ shows how little money Tom spent into the apartment despite all of his wealth. The apartment in on the top floor showing how egotistic and self-centered Tom and Myrtle are, the furniture being too large for the room refers to Tom’s big personality and how he wants and desires more than what’s possible. The scandal magazines show how scandalous the relationship is as they are both married but it doesn’t affect their actions. Myrtle longs for an extravagant lifestyle but her dream is too large for reality – too large for the room. The apartment is an illusion that life can be any way they want it to be inside of the apartment, making it have “dream-like” qualities but outside of the apartment reality sets in and they awake from their ‘dream’ and they go on living their lives according to the social class system – upper class only associate with upper class and lower class only associate with lower class.



One Comment

  1. You make a lot of comments about “it is clear that…” which is awesome- just make sure you can illustrate HOW something has been made clear to you- what is it that has happened in the novel to make you believe this?

    Think about what Nick says in the apartment that strengthens its “dream like” quality when he looks out of the window.


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