What is the difference between West Egg and East Egg? What sets these two areas apart?

What is the difference between West Egg and East Egg? What sets these two areas apart? 

Quick Answer

East Egg is largely populated by those from "old money" backgrounds, meaning they come from families who have been wealthy for a long time, so that these people don't know any other way of life. This is where Tom and Daisy Buchanan live. On the other hand, those who live in West Egg are newly rich, like Gatsby. This means that they have lived and acquired wealth differently from East Egg residents, which means they embody a different culture and set of values than the old-money rich.

Expert Answers info

Rich Carriero eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseProfessional Writer, Professional Tutor

bookB.A. from Thomas Edison State College

calendarEducator since 2020

write35 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Science

Gatsby's mansion is located on West Egg, a fictional town modeled on Great Neck. Author F. Scott Fitzgerald rented a house in Great Neck for his wife and daughter and observed it as a working-class area dotted with mansions of the newly-wealthy who, during the 1920s, often threw lavish parties. East Egg, the home of Tom and Daisy Buchanan, is based on Sands Point, a town along Long Island's "Gold Coast" where some of the most opulent estates of the American elite could be found. East Egg is more exclusive than West Egg—it takes more than money to have a house there. One must have the right social connections and background to be accepted by East Egg society.

The bay separating East Egg and West Egg is analogous to the social gulf that separates Gatsby from the Buchanans. While the bay is narrow, allowing him to see the green light on the Buchanan dock, it is essentially unbridgeable. Gatsby has the money, the home, the cars, the clothes, and even the speech patterns and affectations of a man in Tom Buchanan's class—but he was not born into wealth.

In many ways, this makes Gatsby the better man. Nick Carraway expresses as much the last time he sees Gatsby. Fitzgerald's tragic hero, after all, is a man of ideals and vision who has overcome so much and definitely achieved more on merit than Tom Buchanan. The fact that Tom Buchanan was born rich, however, gives him an in-borne sense of superiority. He looks down his nose at Gatsby's parties as "circuses," which he could throw if wanted to—after all, he gave Daisy a necklace worth over $350,000 (in 1920s money) as an engagement present.

Tom's smug sense of superiority is the weapon he uses to defeat Gatsby. When Tom points out at the Plaza Hotel that Gatsby is a bootlegger, Daisy withdraws her love and abandons him. She does this not because of any moral outrage but because Gatsby is no longer able to maintain the illusion of himself as Old Money anymore than he can uproot his mansion and move it to East Egg. Tom has pointed out not that Gatsby is a criminal but that he's nouveau riche—he's a West Egger, a trespasser trying to swim across the bay.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Sarah Miles eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2014

write500 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

In The Great Gatsby , there are two cities that are separated by the Valley of Ashes. These two cities are knows as East Egg...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 821 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

lisalevy10 | Student

In The Great Gatsby, when the narrator, Nick Carraway, is looking for a place to live, he ends up in a Long Island suburb called West Egg. West Egg is named for its shape: it's a bump on the top of the north shore of Long Island, a peninsula which is overshadowed by a bigger—and grander—peninsula called East Egg. Though both are affluent towns, East Egg is the home of older and more established wealth, while West Egg is full of the nouveau riche, people whose money is as new as their sharp suits and slinky dresses.

The easiest way to understand the relations between the two towns is to listen to Nick, a scion of old money who chooses to live in the small house in West Egg next to the textbook new money Jay Gatsby. His money is so new that speculation as to where it came from is rampant in the book: some align him with the Jewish mob; some say he was (and perhaps still is) a successful bootlegger; others claim he helped fix the 1919 World Series. Yet Nick says:

"The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God—a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that—and he must be about His Father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end."

Thus no one knew or was willing to spill, the answer to the pressing question of Gatsby's wealth and his origins. Gatsby must live in West Egg because he is a newcomer to this flashy world of champagne and orchestras, of beautiful women and dangerous men.

When Nick goes to East Egg it's to visit his cousin, Daisy Buchanan, who has married the buffoon Tom Buchanan. Nick's (and Fitzgerald's) attitude toward Tom is evident even his introduction:

"He had changed since his New Haven years. Now he was a sturdy, straw haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining, arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward. Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body—he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage—a cruel body."

Tom is a man not to be trifled with: sturdy, arrogant, with hard eyes and a body that telegraphs his power. Tom and Daisy's marriage, however, is far from perfect. Tom is having an affair with a mechanic's wife, a silly and insecure woman who causes the tragedy that ends the book.

Meanwhile, Tom does know that Gatsby and Daisy knew each other years before when he was in the army and she was the most popular debutante in Louisville, Kentucky. They had a passionate affair, and Daisy promised to wait for Gatsby. But in 1919, right after the war, she married the more appropriate Tom and settled for a conventional life with a conventional man, with all of the trappings of wealth she required.

Thus the difference between West Egg and East Egg is in the way the residents of each town acquired the means to live there and in the subtle class difference implied by whether someone is old money or new money. East Egg is populated by Toms and Daisys, people who grew up wealthy and plan to stay that way. West Egg is wilder and more raucous, the perfect place for Gatsby's over-the-top parties, a place where you don't need a lineage, you just need money--and lots of it.

ssandhu05 | Student

East Egg is where all the rich and wealthy people lived within their riches. Big houses, lots of parties, lots of spending of enormous amounts of wealth. It is also seen as the idea of the American dream, a dream that everyone wishes to achieve in their lifetime. To be able to live such a luxurious life.

West Egg is the complete opposite of East Egg. It is where the poor people live, mind Gatsby himself. It is the side that has less to be proud of for it lacks the grandness and luxury that is in West Egg. West Egg is seen to be a symbolic representation of the reality that one faces. The cold hard truth vs. the dream the one wishes to acquire.

This explains why Gatsby is living in West Egg, since the dream that he wishes to acquire is in East Egg (Daisy) and he is striving to achieve it. 

West and East Egg can also be representative of the country as a whole. The Western part of American versus the Eastern.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial