In The Great Gatsby, why is the setting important?

Expert Answers info

Jennings Williamson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)


calendarEducator since 2016

write6,722 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

The setting of the novel is important, in part, because it provides a great cover for Gatsby and Daisy's affair. It also symbolizes the social strata in this society. It is also important to the plot of the novel; Nick came "East" because he returned from the Great War a bit disillusioned with his home and in need of some place new.  

Daisy can go to West Egg, the less fashionable of the two Eggs, to conduct her affair with Gatsby because it seems so far away from any place that her husband would willingly go himself.  In considering its residents beneath his notice, Tom makes it a relative safe...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 785 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

cheriew eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2006

write4 answers

starTop subject is Literature

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

gbeatty eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2007

write2,654 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Science

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

podunc eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2007

write284 answers

starTop subject is Literature

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial


estarr2 | Student

The setting in a book has immense effects on the narrative as a whole. Establishing a setting has the ability to affect the plot, the characters, and the atmosphere of a story. Within the novel The Great Gatsby, there are various settings present which directly influence the literary themes associated with them.

In the novel, the majority of the book is focused on a passage stretching from New York City to the suburbs, referred to as West Egg and East Egg. The stretch of civilization between the Eggs and the city is called “the valley of ashes”, an impoverished area characterized by industrial fumes and burning flames. The distressing environment of the valley reflects the suffering of the characters who live in the area. The relationship between Myrtle and Geroge is volatile, and plagued by high tempers and domestic violence. The workers are subject to sub-standard conditions, slaving away in the angst-ridden valley, while being forced to acknowledge the close proximity of the bustling and thriving city, which is constantly out of their grasp.

The wealth and prosperity of the city is a direct juxtaposition to the poverty of the valley of ashes. The despair and helplessness felt within the valley is contradicted by the hopefulness of those traveling to the city. Nick, a poor man struggling to find his place in society, balancing precariously between the prosperous elite and the valley workers, recognizes the potential promise the city has to offer. As he travels to the metropolis, he notes how the city gives its “first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world” (p. 68). The city gives a symbol of hope to those attempting to succeed, and a way to forego the drudgery of a life condemned to manual labor in the valley of ashes.


-Emma Starr





brosseliterature | Student

Setting is important in any novel as it generally creates conflict which develops the characters through their interaction and responses to the conflicts they experience. In the Great Gatsby the time period is as important as the actual cities and areas the characters inhabit. The Great Gatsby, takes place during the roaring twenties a time known as much for prohibition(a ban placed on alcohol) as peoples disdain for prohibition and tradition. Prohibition and peoples refusal to abstain from drinking alcohol created a black market which Gatsby takes advantage of as prominent bootlegger aka buyer and seller of alcohol. Thus, prohibition plays a huge role in the novel not only in creating a backdrop for the parties which pervade the novel but by developing Gatsby's character through the creation of internal and external conflicts that create tension(who is the real Gatsby) and drive the narrative(are Gatsby's illegal dealings going to catch up with him?)

Another significant aspect of the setting is the different cities and neighborhoods inhabited throughout the novel. As mentioned above, the setting's develop the characters and initiate conflict. The differences between west egg(where the narrator and Gatsby live) and east egg(where Tom and Daisy live) develops the characters by coloring Gatsby and Nick,the narrator, as new money, naive and lacking the traditional class Tom is descendant from. If the west egg is defined by new money, a place where people can embrace the new fashionable aspects of culture like jazz and alcohol, east egg is defined by old money and the valley of the ashed is typified by people with no money existing as the backdrop for some of the most pivotal conflicts within the novel.