How does the setting of The Great Gatsby contribute to the theme of the novel?And are there any quotes that show this?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The themes of The Great Gatsby are quintessentially American: dreams, money, power, morality, love, greed, and gender.  All of these are connected to the geography of the novel and American itself.

  • East Egg, (Port Washington, Long Island NY) where Tom and Daisy live, stands for the "East Coast," the established rich, white collar, the early Puritan white settlers, the bourgeoisie who are, according to Nick careless, greedy, unfaithful, and immoral.
  • West Egg, (King's Point, Long Island NY) where Nick and Gatsby live, represents the "West Coast," the newly rich, where the "go West young man" settlers venture to stake out new bounds.  Though Gatsby is a criminal, Nick forgoes judgment and lives vicariously through Gatsby's American dream.
  • The Valley of Ashes, (Flushing Meadows, Queens NY) where George and Myrtle live, represent the "Middle West," where the proletariat (working class, blue collar) live, full of dust and death.  This is where the American dream goes to die (it's where Gatsby's dream dies, when Daisy hits Myrtle).  The Eyes of T. J. Eckleburg haunt the place, reminding us of a God who abandoned.  What used to be idyllic and charming about the Midwest (in the Louisville flashbacks) is now dust.  Eventually, Nick will return to the Midwest (Minnesota), where he narrates the novel two years after Gatsby's death.
  • New York City, (158th St. Manhattan, NY) where Tom keeps his mistress Myrtle, is a sordid place full of brutality (Tom's slap of Myrtle), decay (Meyer Wolfsheim's human molar cufflinks), murder (Meyer Wolfsheim's story of Rosie Rosenthal's murder), and oppressiveness (the heat).



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The Great Gatsby

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