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Setting: The Great Gatsby's Greatest Motif

Updated on July 24, 2014
F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald | Source

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby, setting is one of the biggest motifs. Especially in this book, it allows Fitzgerald to show the characteristics of certain characters by explaining where they are from. The three main settings in this book are East Egg, West Egg, and New York City. Although, the book has other places, these three places are the ones where the most action takes place, and the majority of the book is developed.

East Egg is the city of the old rich families. It is where all the people who were rich from birth live. It also gives them a rich and we-are-more-mature-than-you characteristic. This gives them respect in society and also allows them to do whatever they want. For example, towards the end of the book, Nick finds out that Tom was the one who leaked the information of Gatsby driving the car which killed Myrtle to Wilson. And after Tom did that, he and Daisy went away, not to be found, until Nick does two years later after the event. It shows that they can get away with whatever they want and hide behind their money. This shows the “arrogance” possibly, that people of the East Egg community have in that, they have all the money they need to protect themselves from anything.

West Egg is the city of the newly rich people. It represents how morals that people should have, have gone down, and everyone is just happy, adventurous, and thrill-seeking now that they have money. All they want to do is get pleasure that is equivalent to that of East Egg since now they are rich too. This represents Gatsby’s initially portrayed character that Fitzgerald shows before he brings out Gatsby’s true objective of finding Daisy. It shows how extravagantly he wasted his money and the great time everybody had at his party. Also, Nick lives in the West Egg, but this is mainly because he found a cheap place to live, rather than being newly rich, as he could have lived in the East Egg if he really wanted to, since he also has generational wealth. But, as a whole, when people are characterized as being part of the West Egg, it tells the reader that they are newly rich, and are getting used to how the rich live.

New York is a mess. Whenever our narrator, Nick Carraway, takes us there, there is always some trouble associated with it. New York is where everyone spends their money and lives their life to its fullest. For example, when everyone is gathered at Tom and Daisy’s house and they get bored, they decide to go to New York. When a character is associated with New York, the reader can assume that he is going there to enjoy or relieve stress or something of that sort. It is cultural center in the East, and people go there to do all sorts of things, such as drink, attend parties, go to the bar, etcetera.

Through the settings in the book, Fitzgerald adds to the character’s descriptions indirectly. People who live the the West Egg are the newly rich, people who live the the East Egg are rich by birth, and people who go to New York are there to have fun. But, in this book, New York is the center of destruction and chaos. It is where the story begins to fall apart. These three settings are like a three-layered cake, with the bottom layer being East Egg to represent that they are born rich, the top layer being West Egg to represent that they are newly rich, and New York is the center layer, representing where both societies meet and enjoy.

The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby | Source

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