Can you suggest some special text passages in regards to the setting of The Great Gatsby?In dealing with the setting of the novel, where in the text does Fitzgerald exemplify the difference between...

Can you suggest some special text passages in regards to the setting of The Great Gatsby?

In dealing with the setting of the novel, where in the text does Fitzgerald exemplify the difference between East Egg and West Egg?  Also, where does Fitzgerald highlight the moral value systems, lifestyles, and social relationships in regards to East Egg, West Egg, and the Valley of the Ashes.

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Fitzgerald does a wonderfully succinct job in describing the moral value systems, lifestyles, and social relationships of East Egg, West Egg, and the Valley of the Ashes in just a few short (but very pertinent) paragraphs.  For example, the absolute best place to find the most information about East Egg and West Egg is right at the beginning of the novel when Nick (the narrator) first speaks of the subject:

Twenty miles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in contour and separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out onto the most domesticate body of salt water in the Western hemisphere, the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound.  They are not perfect ovals--like the egg in the Columbus story, they are both crushed and flat at the contact end--but their physical resemblance must be a source of perpetual confusion to the gulls that fly overhead.  To the wingless  a more arresting phenomenon is their dissimilarity in every particular except shape and size.

Nick then goes on to describe how the two aren't similar in regards to setting and character:

I lived at West Egg, the--well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them. . . . Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water, and the history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there.

In other words, the filthy rich live in the two Eggs.  However, there is a big difference between them:  East Egg holds the "old rich" who have always known money while West Egg holds the "new rich" who have only recently acquired wealth.

In regards to the Valley of the Ashes, the best place to look for that description is in the Chapter 2 (which serves as a nice foil to Chapter 1).  The Valley of the Ashes is in direct contrast with the Eggs, and is described as such:

About half way between West Egg and New York the motor road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile, so as to shrink away from a certain desolate area of land.  This is a valley of ashes--a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.

Further, the setting highlights the morality of the place and is followed up nicely by the description of a sort of morbid "god" that is Doctor T. J. Eckleburg who watches over the immorality with disgust.

I adore how Fitzgerald masters the art of pinpointing the value systems here by highlighting the spendthrift ways of the filthy rich and the morbidity of the dirt poor, . . . and he does it only through setting.  What a genius!

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