What are the various functions of the setting in The Great Gatsby ?In Theory literature , There are 4 main functions of setting : Referential function,Verisimilitude function, Symbolic function,...

What are the various functions of the setting in The Great Gatsby ?

In Theory literature ,

There are 4 main functions of setting :

Referential function,Verisimilitude function, Symbolic function, and Analogical function. 


Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although he was not strong in plot development, Fitzgerald mastered the element of setting with his artistically developed novel, The Great Gatsby. 


Having aptly named the era of the 1920s the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald sets his satire of the American Dream in the materialistic and morally decadent Roaring Twenties. Much like his descriptions in his other narratives, The Great Gatsby is replete with fictional versions of Fitzgerald's own experiences of social rejections and search for wealth and success. Often, he, too, attended Long Island parties and rubbed shoulders with bootleggers, dissipated men, and amoral and materialistic socialites. Clearly, Daisy Buchanan's character is modeled upon his own socialite wife.  East Egg and West Egg, too, are fictional versions of Long Island, symbolic of the established upper class, whose secret lives were often corrupt and immoral. Gatsby's parties in which people arrive in chauffeured automobiles and madcap flappers abound are also representative of this environment.


The setting of Long Island and the city of New York are certainly realistic. In fact, Oheka Castle on the Gold Coast of Long Island is the model for Gatsby's mansion and estate.  West Egg is modeled after Great Neck where Fitzgerald and other parvenus resided while the established families lived across the bay in Cow Neck Peninsula or Manhasset Neck. 


With East Egg as the area where the socially prominent live, among them Daisy whose pier's green light offers Gatsby hope of social and romantic attainment, West Egg represents the site for the nouveau riche  whose money provides them the finances to purchase such property, but they lack the social status of the old New York families. That Gatsby resides on West Egg also symbolizes the restless and driving American society as well as his romantic and illusionary dream of attaining Daisy from East Egg who, in the end, clings to her social class in self-defense. This illusionary nature of the estate of Gatsby is symbolized in Nick's reference to him as  the mythological Trimalchio, a host of lavish parties. In addition, blue gardens and blue leaves of illusion form the surroundings of his estate.  The moral corruption is portrayed also in descriptions. For example, in Chapter Seven, Nick narrates,

On the green Sound, stagnant in the heat, one small sail crawled slowly toward the fresher sea.

Of course, the Valley of Ashes is highly symbolic, representing the materialism and waste of the 1920s as well as the moral decay. Fitzgerald satirically describes it as

...a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens, where ashes take the form of houses...and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.

After passing through this area where the ashen and tragic George Wilson believes the omniscient blue eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg watch everything, Tom Buchanan houses his mistress in an apartment, in New York, the site representative of much moral degeneration and materialism (the New York Stock Exchange).


The setting of The Great Gatsby provides an analogical framework for the ironic presentation in Fitzgerald's novel of the major themes of Social Class Conflict, the fated and illusionary American Dream, and Moral Degeneration of the 1920s, as well as the theme of "Appearances and Reality."

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The Great Gatsby

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