The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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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? 

The difference between East Egg and West Egg is that East Egg is largely populated by those from "old money," while West Egg is populated by those with "new money." Tom and Daisy Buchanan are from old money because their families have been wealthy for generations. Those who live in West Egg, like Jay Gatsby, are newly rich and embody a different culture and set of values than the old-money rich.

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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.

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In The Great Gatsby, there are two cities that are separated by the Valley of Ashes. These two cities are knows as East Egg and West Egg and there are two different classes of wealth in these cities. They are new wealth against old wealth.

East Egg has people living in it that are from old money. They are born into money and have never known anything different. Their parents and grandparents have all come from money. Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom are from old money and live in East Egg. The people in East Egg are known for being well educated usually at ivy league colleges, such as Yale and Harvard. 

The people that live in West Egg are from new money. These are people who have worked hard and earned their own money. They haven't depended on inheriting money and just worked hard. They  have not had ivy league educations and some of them didn't even go to college. They just went to work. The people in East Egg are seen as corrupt and mean spirited because they have always had money and never had to work for anything. They are more concerned about material things. The people in West Egg are seen as less sophisticated and more innocent about how the elite live their lives. Nick Carraway comes from old money, but decides to live in West Egg.

"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 to have dinner with the Tom Buchanan's. Daisy was my second cousin once removed, and I'd known Tom in college. And just after the war I spent two days with them in Chicago."

The contrast between these two cities is great. In East Egg, the people are seen as the wealthy and the elite. In West Egg, they are looked down upon, only because their money is new money and not old money passed down from generation to generation. Jay Gatsby lives in West Egg. He is from new money and his house looks straight across the water to Daisy's. He has always tried to prove that he is worthy of Daisy and he thinks that having this money will show her that. 

The two cities represent the vastly different lifestyles of Daisy and Jay and sets up the tragic events of the story.

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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.