This extract establishes both the physical and symbolic values of the setting in the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It also provides us with the traits of the characters in the novel in relation to the thematic focus. The setting is also symbolic of Fritzgerald’s satire of 1920s New York lifestyle , particularly emphasizing on the American dream , social class and money. Prior to the extract, Nick begins by commenting on himself, stating his qualities; tolerance and tendency to reserve judgments as one of them. In the summer of 1922, Nick Carraway has just arrived in New York and is living in a part of Long Island known as West Egg.
Fitzgerald establishes Nick Carraway as an impartial narrator but not a passive one. From the novel’s opening paragraph onward, this will continue create an internal conflict for Nick himself. Because despite the fact that Gatsby represents all that Nick despises, Nick cannot help but admire him. Geographically, the differences of the upper classes are symbolized by two residential areas of Long Island, New York “Twenty miles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in contour and separated by a courtesy bay, jut out into . . . Long Island Sound. . . n arresting phenomenon is their dissimilarity in every particular except shape and size. ” Fitzgerald continues to emphasize the social divisions between the two Eggs and their inhabitants with colorful imagery which develops symbolic significance. Nick lives in Long Island in what is known as the West Egg. The West Egg is located across the bay from the East Egg. Nick, after describing his area as the less fashionable of the two, continues to confess that “this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them. The relationship between geography and social values is an important motif in The Great Gatsby. Each setting in the novel corresponds to a particular thematic idea or character type. This extract introduces the two most important settings in the novel, East Egg and West Egg. Even though each is home to the wealthy they are separated as Nick says “by a courtesy bay”, the two regions are opposite in the values they uphold. East Egg represents taste, and aristocracy while West Egg represents ostentation and the flashy manners of the new rich.
East Egg is associated with the Buchanans and the monotony of their inherited social position, while West Egg is associated with Gatsby’s gaudy mansion. Nick is attracted to the fast-paced lifestyle of New York. But it is contradictory because he also finds that lifestyle grotesque and damaging. This inner conflict is symbolized throughout the book by Nick’s romantic affair with Jordan Baker. He is attracted to her vivacity and her sophistication just as he is repelled by her dishonesty and her lack of consideration for other people.
The second contrast is between the city scenes and the suburban ones. Like Nick Carraway, Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby commute into the city for their respective lines of work. The women are left behind. This geographical divide is also a gender borderline. But the city is important in other ways, too; Tom only interacts with his mistress in the city, and Gatsby only sees Meyer Wolfsheim there. They both use the city to hide their goings-on from the people they value on Long Island. The setting in the Great Gatsby is closely related to the Concept of the American Dream in the novel.
The American dream was originally about discovery, individualism, and the pursuit of happiness. In the 1920s depicted in the novel, however, easy money and relaxed social values have corrupted this dream, especially on the East Coast. One of the major topics explored in The Great Gatsby is the sociology of wealth, specifically, how the the new rich are segregated from the old aristocratic rich who live on the East Egg In the novel, West Egg and its denizens represent the newly rich, while East Egg and its denizens, especially Daisy and Tom, represent the old aristocracy.
Fitzgerald portrays the newly rich as being vulgar, gaudy, ostentatious, and lacking in social graces and taste. Gatsby, for example, lives in a monstrously ornate mansion, wears a pink suit, drives a Rolls-Royce, and does not pick up on subtle social signals, such as the insincerity of the Sloanes’ invitation to lunch. In contrast, the old aristocracy possesses grace, taste, subtlety, and elegance, epitomized by the Buchanans’ tasteful home and the flowing white dresses of Daisy and Jordan Baker.
What the old aristocracy possesses in taste, however, it seems to lack in heart, as the East Eggers prove themselves careless, inconsiderate bullies who are so used to money’s ability to ease their minds that they never worry about hurting others. The Buchanans exemplify this stereotype when, at the end of the novel, they simply move to a new house far away rather than condescend to attend Gatsby’s funeral. The setting in the Great Gatsby is closely related to the Concept of the American Dream in the novel.
Daisy is in love with money, ease, and material luxury. She is capable of affection (she seems genuinely fond of Nick and occasionally seems to love Gatsby sincerely), but not of sustained loyalty or care. She is indifferent even to her own infant daughter, never discussing her and treating her as an afterthought when she is introduced in Chapter 7. In Fitzgerald’s conception of America in the 1920s, Daisy represents the amoral values of the aristocratic East Egg set.