In The Great Gatsby, what are the values of the people who reside in the Valley of Ashes, East Egg, and West Egg?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The people of East Egg and West Egg are wealthy and obviously value material possessions, but there is a significant difference between them. Those of East Egg value their heritage and take an arrogant pride in being "old families." They value their sense of superiority. Their inherited wealth is accompanied by certain social traditions, which they also value and pass on, one generation after another. Wealth is to be enjoyed, but not displayed in a crude way. Marital affairs are not condemned, but flaunting them is frowned upon. Appearances are valued more than substance. The people of West Egg are just as materialistic, but they do not value staid behavior, family connections, or social conventions. Their earned, rather than inherited, income is to be flaunted.

The only people who reside in the Valley of Ashes are George and Myrtle Wilson. Although they are married, their values are quite different. George values hard work, honesty, and faithfulness. Myrtle, in contrast, values wealth and excitement. Faithfulness means nothing to her; when she sees a way out of her dull, stifling life with George Wilson, she takes it, deceiving her husband. In his wealth and sophistication, Tom Buchanan represents everything Myrtle values.


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