The Great Gatsby Setting

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The Great Gatsby is a fascinating novel with the most intriguing people. This story took place in the 1920’s, which is known as The Roaring Twenties, in the fictional setting of West and East Egg on Long Island. This story took place during the prohibition era, which started forming a rise to illegal activity, such as drinking. This period of time it is known to be chaotic, which led to the wild atmosphere of a new society that the characters were living in. Throughout the novel, the setting of the story reveals conflict of the moral values and the changing roles in society from a culture that values privacy but also publicity.

The two prominent settings within the story are West and East Egg, which are separated by the non-wealthy area of the Valley of Ashes. The West Egg culture represents the new money. The new money represented the people that worked in order to gain their money. They brought themselves into the wonderous city of New York, and built their own status through hard work and talent. The East Egg, on the other hand, represented the old money which can be described as the established wealth. The people of East Egg inherit all of the money they have, and are very arrogant with it. But since birth they do not know any other way to live because they have been, and will always be, the upper class.

The last place that is very significant is the Valley of Ashes. The Valley of Ashes lies between the two Eggs and is shaped to be a place of repentance and suffering, which is owned by the lower class. Gatsby, who lives in West Egg, flaunts his money to make sure everyone knows he has it. He does not have any social grace with his money, and doesn’t seem to care. The West Egg shapes Gatsby to be a corrupt character throughout the novel. As said in the story, “His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people — his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all (Ch 6).” Gatsby’s family did not acquire a lot of money. When he was 17 he left his parents in order to find a greater life. Gatsby became a bootlegger, which is someone who transports and smuggles alcohol illegally to places and people.

Gatsby made a fortune because not only was it during the prohibition era, when people needed alcohol, but when speakeasies also needed the alcohol to distribute. As Gatsby worked he was able to achieve equal wealth to the Buchanan’s, because of the large parties that he threw and all the people that he invited. But as time went on, Gatsby was never really accepted into the East Egg culture. He seems to be shunned and isolated because he did not inherit his money like the other East Egg people, but he achieved his goals through working as a bootlegger. Gatsby never really achieved the American Dream that he desires, since he is never accepted into the rich and old money society. Gatsby’s character is also being corrupted by his ways of making money because bootlegging is a corrupt way to make money. Another example of Gatsby’s’ corruption would be when he tries to take away Daisy from Tom because of his failed love life.

Gatsby feels alone, and by trying to take daisy away it brings him comfort in knowing that he does have at least one person there for him. As Gatsby fights for Daisy, Daisy is surrounded by her comfortable home, help, and husband. The Buchanan’s live in a huge mansion in East Egg, the richer of the two Eggs, with their inherited money passed down since birth from their aristocratic families. To all of these family’s money is power. Living throughout the Eggs and you are able to do whatever you want, whenever you want, and your mess will always be cleaned up with the money and resources you have. From the story, Daisy and Tom are shaped through the East egg society to think they are better than everyone else. When Daisy and Tom attend one of Gatsby’s parties, they say that the people there are “tasteless.”

Most people there are dressed to impress, as Daisy is, but when Daisy shows up she is in her elegant white dress that seems to be one of a kind. Tom is dressed in a suit and bowtie, like most other men, but acts as though he is over everyone by not speaking to any others besides Daisy, Nick, and Gatsby. In the beginning of the story Nick describes Tom’s “cruel body”: Now he was sturdy straw haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining, arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward. Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body-- he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage. 

Tom is a very aggressive character. He is an intimidating character not only because he is strong and built in a very muscular way, but he is able to get anything that he wants done. For example, in the end of the story when he tells Wilson who killed Myrtle, Wilson then proceeds to kill Gatsby, and we all know Tom for sure wanted Gatsby dead. Not only is this an example of Toms’ aggressiveness, but it shows that the Buchanan’s also lack basic morals such as compassion that most people have. When Daisy kills Myrtle, she lets Gatsby take the blame for the whole accident. When this happens, the end result is Wilson killing Gatsby, and when the time came for his funeral, the Buchanan’s fled. The Buchanan’s didn’t have any sympathy for Gatsby’s death, resulting them to leave with all their money and forget about their past.

Daisy only cares for her glamourous and wealthy lifestyle with her husband, who keeps her safe and secure. When she didn’t attend Gatsby’s funeral it shows us she is shallow, and it seems as though she never really cared for Gatsby. Daisy and Tom are shaped by the East Egg white high-class society to be arrogant, and careless of others. As Tom and Daisy show off their expensive clothes and their big house, there are others that have to be worried about. In between these two beautiful places lies the Valley of Ashes. The Valley of Ashes is described as, “This is a valley of ashes — a fantastic farm where 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.”

This place is gruesome. Everything is dead there, just like ash. It is the dumping grounds for the lower-class people as it is also said to be, “unprosperous and bare.” The negativity throughout the valley shapes characters like Wilson to be spiritless and unfulfilled. Many tragic events happened in the Valley of ashes, such as Myrtles death. When Myrtle was killed it was said that, “Wilson standing on the raised threshold of his office, swaying back and forth and holding to the doorposts with both hands. Some man was talking to him in a low voice and attempting, from time to time, to lay a hand on his shoulder, but Wilson neither heard nor saw. His eyes would drop slowly from the swinging light to the laden table by the wall, and then jerk back to the light again, and he gave out incessantly his high, horrible call: Oh, my Ga-od! Oh, my Ga-od! (Ch 7). “

When Myrtle dies, Wilson and his life fall apart. He goes on a wild rampage to find the killer of Myrtle, and succeeds, but then kills himself after fulfilling his goal. The negativity on the Valley of ashes is able to show the corrupted materialistic society that lies between the Eggs. It shows that little good comes from this place while all of the characters involved are corrupted from this negative society. Throughout the Great Gatsby many of the different characters who come from different backgrounds experience conflict that reveals their personal morals. From Gatsby’s childhood to his luxurious life before he died, to the Buchanan’s and their glamourous lifestyles from the day they were born, and to Wilson who has been corrupted and poor his whole life, we see every character develop from the places they live in. Gatsby’s life was completely changed when he left his old life and decided to develop a new one.

Throughout the story the setting affects Gatsby to be a more corrupt character considering he was never accepted into the East Egg society causing him to never achieve the true American Dream he yearned for. As for the Buchanan’s, their East Egg culture has shaped them to develop the morals that money is power and when you are rich you get whatever whenever, and all your problems are able to disappear. They are rich and arrogant people who do not care for anyone but themselves and we are able to learn this throughout the novel as they reveal themselves. Lastly, Wilsons character is a key element to the story because it reveals the true poverty and struggle during this time. The setting affects Wilson because the Valley of Ashes shows the corrupted society that is in between the two wealthy eggs. The setting is able to shape the plot and reveal the corruption that is going on during this time period within every character’s lives. It is also able to show how each of the setting develops the characters morals in a good but also bad way.

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The Great Gatsby Setting. (2022, Jan 31). Retrieved April 23, 2024 , from

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