In The Great Gatsby, what is the difference betwen East Egg and West Egg?
Think of your question as a battle of the riches! East Egg and West Egg are areas of New York separated by a small bay. The residents of East Egg are considered "old money," which means that wealth has been in their families for generations and generations. Think of people like the Rockefellers or the Kennedys. The people living there have never known a life with out riches and comfort. Daisy lives here with her brutish husband, Tom.
Across the bay, the residents of West Egg are those that are considered of "new money." These people have made their money within their own lifetimes, and many have lived in poverty or less comfortable means before making it big. Think of people like Oprah Winfrey. Jay Gatsby lives in West Egg.
The East Eggers generall consider those in West Egg as being gaudy, flashy and of lower status. Examples are the types of people who come to Gatsby's wild parties in their flashy clothes and gaudy cars. As one might say, they are the "wannabes." They tend to look down their noses at parties like Gatsby throws.
This difference sets up the conflicts between Tom and Gatsby, and rich and less rich in the novel.
East Egg and West Egg are both enormously wealthy suburbs of New York City, located on Long Island where they face the ocean. East Egg is the home of those people who enjoy the highest social prestige, as well as their money. Their fortunes have been inherited and their roots run deep in American society. Theirs is "old money." The East Eggers place great value on tradition, family background, social convention, and manners, and they look with contempt upon others who were not born to their kind of wealth. The Buchanans live in East Egg. Tom and Daisy are example of the old money and social snobbery of East Egg.
Those who live in West Egg, like Gatsby, are also very wealthy, but they are the social newcomers who have made their money through commerce (legal or otherwise). They lack the sense of entitlement found among the East Eggers, and they are not "refined" or "polished" in their manners. Gatsby represents this social class. He owns a mansion and dresses well, but he lacks the background of an old and well established family. He is uneducated. He has a great deal of money, but he displays it very conspicuously--a sign of terrible taste to someone like Tom Buchanan.
By developing the social differences between East Egg and West Egg, Fitzgerald develops one the novel's themes. No matter how wealthy Gatsby might become, he would never belong to the Buchanans' upper social class because he was not born into it. He would always be an outsider.
Much of The Great Gatsby works to comment on and depict aspects of 1920's American society. Fitzgerald uses East Egg and West Egg to comment on changes in wealth and the distribution of such wealth.
East Egg represents the old aristocracy. These people have money, but they also know how to play the societal games, if you will. The people who live here are more refined and well-bred. The homes are classic in stlye and the society is more sedate. Tom and Daisy live here, showing their connection to the old aristocracy. Gatsby has always wanted to be a part of the wealthy society, and is enticed to East Egg by the green light shining towards him. Daisy, the woman Gatsby has always wanted, but never builds a relationship with also lives in East Egg.
West Egg represents the newly rich. It also represents immorality and social decay. West Egg is a playground for the young, wealthy Americans. West egg represents both money and pleasure for all who find themselves in the rapture of such a place. These people don't really have any social standing, even if they have money. Nick and Gatsby live here, representing ownership of wealth, but lack of connection to wealthy society. Gatsby's new mansion is here, but so is Nick's $80 per month shack. The people here lack the refined nature of the East Egg people.
However, many people from East Egg appear at Gatsby's parties. West Egg acts as a place where even the most refined can get away from it all and loose their inhibitions for a moment.
The river running between the two portions of society represent the barriers that keep people apart and away from that which they truly desire. The barriers between everyone aslo represent behavior as one of the many hypocrises in the novel.
The biggest difference is how the money was made. In the East Egg it is old family money, like Daisy. In the West Egg it is the folks who "earn" their money if you well, like Nick and Gatsby. Gatsby throws the lavish parties that he does in hopes of luring the East Eggs over to his West side so that in turn he will have a place where he is comfortable in confronting the East eggers. It also attributes to the working rich and the Leisure rich in a way that the West Egg have to work they do not choose to work. In the East Egg you can work if you choose to if you are a man, but you certainly do not have to.