Setting: Great Gatsby Essay, Research Paper
Setting: As it Prevails in The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby is a novel of the 1920 s, a time of flamboyance, excessiveness,
and ambiguity. To fully capture and document this atmosphere, Fitzgerald spent many a
page concerned with detail. Such descriptions become a stimulus for the story, setting the
mood and pace, the tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses. The characters are directly
linked to their location. Indeed in The Great Gatsby, setting dominates the novel.
Foremost, Fitzgerald chose to set the novel on the East Coast slightly outside New
York City in two contrasting rich suburban areas, West Egg and East Egg. As New York
City was the place to be and make money in the 1920 s, Fitzgerald intently placed his
story around the heart of the era. Additionally, the anxiety that is supposedly predominant
in East Coast cities is also evident. Whenever the characters are in the city, tensions run
high and arguments are frequent.
In turn, the excitement, hype, and activity of the city is countered by the relaxed,
lavish countryside where the characters reside. As one gets further away from the city
geographically, the comforts of the surroundings increase linearly. By using physical
separation, Fitzgerald shows class differences.
In accordance, Fitzgerald sets wealthy characters on one of two eggs. Both hold
an air of fantasy in the illusory concept that money can buy happiness. However, the
dreamlands are different in the means of pecuniary profusion and the level of
responsibility incumbent in their attitudes. Referring to the eggs impending differences
Nick observed, To the wingless a more arresting phenomenon is their dissimilarity in
every particular except shape and size.
Furthest from the city is the East Egg. Being the more fashionable of the two, it is
where those with old money reside. Here Tom and Daisy Buchanon live in a house
Nick chronicled as More elaborate than I expected, a cheerful red and white Georgian
Colonial mansion overlooking the bay. Those dwelling on the eastern egg tend to look
down upon the West Egg, feeling superior having always had money. Their houses are
nice, but not showy, grand, but not excessive.
Closer to the city yet is West Egg, a still highly comfortable environment for those
with new money. West Eggers are apt to show off their newly found fortune in all the
frills. Gatsby s excessively elaborate, gaudy house is on this egg, as is Nick s shack.
Though Nick s meager dwelling is not of par to the other mansions, he retorted, It was a
small eye-sore, and it had been overlooked.
Moreover, the larger contrast is that between the Eggs and the Valley of Ashes.
The contrast is no longer that of the sort of money, but that of the absence of money.
This valley, located between the city and the Eggs, is extremely impoverished. The
picture Fitzgerald paints of this region is a grim and desolate one. It is written that, This
is a valley of ashes- a fantastic farm were ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and
grotesque gardens, where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke
and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling
through the powdery air.
In the Valley of Ashes live the Wilson s, a poor garage owner and his wife. Their
assets exemplify the opposite end of the spectrum. Describing their home above the
garage Nick recounted, The interior was unprosperous and bare: the only car visible was
the dust-covered wreck of a Ford which crouched in a dim corner. The indigence of Mr.
Wilson s surroundings is truly a stark contrast to that of Gatsby s, which Nick claimed
was a colossal affair by any standard.
Furthermore, it is the Valley of Ashes that serves as the mid-way point between
the city and the country. Where the road and the railroad intersect, the fine line is drawn.
From the dreamland of the Eggs, a peaceful escape from the hubbub of the city where
responsibilities are inconsequential, one finds the antithesis of harsh reality. In effect, the
Valley of Ashes is where the major downfall of the story occurs, the point of no return
when Daisy hits Mrs. Wilson.
In turn, as Daisy resides on an Egg, she is able to drift away from liability and
repercussions for her actions. Of this ability Nick said, They were careless people, Tom
and Daisy- they smashed up thing and creatures and then retreated back into their money
or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people
clean up the mess they have made.
In conclusion, Fitzgerald uses setting dominantly to capture the times and reflect
the natures, responsibilities, and classes of the characters in The Great Gatsby. As Nick
recapped, 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.