How does the setting of West Egg serve as both a symbol and help communicate the theme of The Great Gatsby? Please give examples! Thank you! 

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

West Egg, modeled after the established East Egg of the resort area of New York, is the new frontier of the nouveau riche of the 1920s. No aristocracy, these parvenus possess wealth gleaned from new industries and some ill-gotten means. Yet, although there is vulgarity to this area, there is a vigor to West Egg, just as the Wild West of America contained energy.  Thus, a certain freedom, optimism, and hope emanates from this green West.

In this area constructed of money and pleasure, many are the guests who seek an anonymity and hedonistic entertainment.  Jordan Baker, in Chapter Six for instance, enjoys Gatsby's large parties that she finds more "intimate" because she can let down her guard in the company of others than the New York aristocracy.  However, Daisy, a product of the old money of New York is "appalled by West Egg," as a place constructed from a Long Island fishing village:

...appalled by its raw vigor that chafed under the old euphemisms and the too obtrusive fate that herded its inhabitants along a short cut from nothing to nothing.  She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand.

Unlike Daisy's East Egg, West Egg--albeit raw and simply vigorous--does not harbor the decayed hearts that are frivolous and uncaring of their fellow man. Daisy remarks unconsciously on this simplicity to her husband,

"At least they're more interesting than the people we know."

Sadly, it is the cynicism and heartlessness of Daisy and Tom, the materialism of the East represented by them, that creates the tragedy of Gatsby's death.  No values exist in the East, but the West still holds the reflection of dreams, a reflection that calls Nick back to the Midwest. It is Daisy who ends the dream of the green light, the wonder of Gatsby "when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock" since no values exist in her environment.

Disappointed by his experiences and weary of the hypocrisy of the East, Nick returns to the West, "a fresh, geen breast of the new world," to reclaim himself and his values and the great potential of America.

Read the study guide:
The Great Gatsby

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question